Two William Neales: Nancy Bryan and Anne “Nancy” Davis

There’s been a big mystery and some mistakes about the two William Neale’s who marry in Bourbon County, Kentucky in 1799 and 1800.

Originally, people combined these two men into one man, assuming his first wife died early in their marriage and then he remarried.

But looking at the tax and probate records in Bourbon County from about 1795 to the 1820s, we discover that one William Neale died about 1813 in Bourbon County, while the other William Neal (no “e” on the end) moves to Boone County, Kentucky and dies in Boone County in 1861.

Let’s unravel these men.

William Neale who marries Nancy Bryan.

William Neale is born about 1779, assuming he’s at least 21 when he marries Nancy Bryan in Bourbon County, Kentucky on November 28, 1800. Richard Thomas is the minister (Baptist).

He dies before July 20, 1813, because there is a receipt in his Bourbon County, Kentucky estate settlement with that date for coffin nails. He must have been sick and died of an illness, because there is also a receipt for the doctor.

William Neale estate settlement, Bourbon County, Kentucky page 1
William Neale estate settlement, Bourbon County, Kentucky page 2

On June 25, 1814, Alexander Bryan advertises in the Western Citizen newspaper indicating that he is the administrator of the estate of William Neal (no “e”).

Alexander Bryan must be a relative of Nancy’s, and judging by their ages, they are probably brother and sister. (If that’s true, then Nancy’s father is James Bryan and her mother is Eleanor Crawford.)

Therefore, Alexander has taken on the estate work for his brother-in-law, William Neale. However, it’s over a year since William died, so it’s possible that Nancy was alive and administering the estate that first year, then she died, and Alexander took over.


On July 5, 1815, Alexander Bryan is named guardian of William Neale’s underage “orphan” children: Nancy, Polly, Eleanor, Elizabeth, and James. Since these are “orphan” children, it’s assumed Nancy Bryan Neale has died as well. There is a receipt for the two coffins is dated July 10, 1815 in William Neale’s estate settlement. I don’t know if these are the coffins for Nancy and William, or for Nancy and a child, but the receipt is on William’s estate settlement, so I’m guessing these are the coffins for William and Nancy.

Note that James Crawford Bryan and Andrew Bryan are acting as bondsmen for this guardianship. They are the brothers of Alexander, sons of James and Eleanor Crawford Bryan.

What happens to their children?

They all marry in Bourbon County, Kentucky:

  • Nancy marries William M. Jacks on June 8, 1819. Alexander Bryan is the bondsman.
  • Polly (probably “Mary”) marries David Henry on January 28, 1828. Since she’s underage, Alexander Bryan gives his consent as her guardian.
  • Eleanor marries Jacob Henry on February 8, 1820. Eleanor dies about 1828.
  • Elizabeth “Betsy” Neale marries Jacob Henry on July 5, 1829. He is the widow of Elizabeth’s sister, Eleanor.
  • I’m not sure who James marries. He’s on the 1829 Bourbon Tax List under Alexander’s guardianship, so he’s not 21 yet. There’s some mix up between this James Neale and James Harrison Neal who is born the same year to William Jackson Neal (the “other” William…his story below).

Who are this William’s parents? 

I’m not sure. There are several Neale families in the Bourbon area at this time, most of them are from the Fauquier County, Viriginia Neale families. This needs more research.

For those of you on Ancestry.com, here is William Neale’s profile and all his records:

https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/110854964/person/142118769561/facts

Both Williams are in Bourbon County, Kentucky in 1800

Here is the 1800 Bourbon County, Kentucky tax list. As you can see, there are two Williams listed. I know who some of the other Neale men are, and I’m still trying to figure out the others, like Jacob Neal Sr and Jr. Sounds like another blog post!

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS3J-249N?i=551

William Neale who marries Anne “Nancy” Davis

William Neale (with an “e” on the marriage record) married Anne Davis on February 11, 1799 in Bourbon County, Kentucky. The bondsman was John Davis, possibly Anne’s father, brother or uncle. John Whitaker is the minister (Methodist). 

By 1810 they’re living in Boone County, Kentucky near William’s parents, John and Agnes Neal. And after 1810, William is using the name Neal, with no “e”. His children use Neal as well.

It’s important to note that “Nancy” is a diminutive or nickname for Anne, much like Maggie for Margaret, or Polly for Mary. Anne uses “Nancy” on all her records after she’s married.

Other genealogists say his middle name is Jackson, but I haven’t come across any records for him that use his middle name or middle initial.

William Jackson Neal dies in Boone County in 1861, and Anne “Nancy” Davis Neal dies in Boone County in 1863. There are graves and gravestones for both of them on FindAGrave.com.

FindAGrave.com has her maiden name incorrectly as Bryan. It should be Davis. (I’ve written to the owner of the profile and explained why I wanted to edit Nancy Neal’s maiden name.)

Their children are:

  • Matthew Harrison Neal, marries Helena Collier.
  • Thomas Neal, marries Eliza Vankirk.
  • Martha “Patsy” Neal, marries George Perry Ruddell.
  • James Harrison Neal, marries Catherine Celena Bondurant, Hester Jane McKenzie, and Ann Elizabeth “Liza” Mathews. Much research needs to be done on this James to make sure he’s not being confused with James, son of William Neale and Nancy Bryan.
  • Davis Neal, marries, Elizabeth “Eliza” Wilson. 
  • William Neal, Jr, marries Elizabeth A. Stephenson. I’m testing this one: In a 1831 land deal, his father is referred to ask “William Neal Sr.” so there’s a “Jr.” around at that time. In 1838, James Benham gets guardianship of Rebecca J Neal and John S Neal. These two children show up with James Benham in 1850 Hancock, Illinois. There is also a Tabitha Neal b. 1838/39 with them, but she is not listed in the guardianship record with Rebecca and John (unless the transcriptionist missed it). James Benham married Martha A. W. Stephenson, and I’m assuming Elizabeth (born 1809) and Martha (born 1807) are probably sisters.
  • Sarah “Sally” Neal, marries David Conrad.
  • Elijah Neal, marries Agnes Griffin. This is my family line through Elijah and Agnes’ daughter, Lucy Ann “Kate” Neal who marries Charles Brownfield (her first husband is Arthur Piatt).
  • Joseph Neal, marries Mary E Ryle, and Louisa Merrick. He also has a daughter from an unknown marriage/partner, as the Mary Neal buried in 1849 has as her gravestone inscription, “Daughter of Joseph.” She’s born 1833, so he would have been around 17 when she was born.
  • Wesley Neal, marries Elizabeth Merrick, Lucinda Shafer, and Lavina Griffith.
  • Delilah Neal, marries William Clarence Sharp.

I have DNA matches with most of these children, as well as the other children of John and Agnes Neal, William’s parents.

For those of you on Ancestry.com, here’s William Jackson Neal’s profile and all his records:

https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/110854964/person/142008225254/facts

So that’s the story of the two William Neale’s. They’re two separate men, with two separate wives.

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