Who is John D. Adams/John D. Henion?

John D. Adams married Mary Willis in 1857, in Sussex County, NJ. He lists his father as Samuel Adams. But before that (and for about 10 years after that), he uses the name Henion. Why?

Betty Mann’s Devore genealogy book says that John’s father is William Adams and that William and Phebe Devore were married in 1830. However, there are no records for that marriage, either in the Sussex County Marriages book by Howard Case, nor online.

When John marries a second time, to Mary Elizabeth Mann in 1898, he uses the name John W. D. Adams.

So, the mystery to solve is: Who is John Adams and who are his parents? But there are some deeper mysteries to solve, too.

Some background notes to remember:

It’s important to know all these families intermarry: Chamberlain, Henion, Parliament, Black, Turner, Willis, Davenport, Pittenger.

Naturally, this means DNA lines are crossed repeatedly, and DNA matches may appear closer than they really are. Also, it’s easy to mis-identify a “DNA match” because the family names are the same, only to discover the “match” is through a marriage line not a blood line and is, therefore, not a match at all.

Many people in this family are part of the Presbyterian church, specifically the Presbyterian churches in Sparta (formerly called Hardyston) and Hamburg, New Jersey. Many are buried in the Sparta Cemetery.



Samuel T. Henion is in the 1840 census in Hardyston, Sussex, NJ. He’s 30-39, and has one son under 5, and a wife 20-29.


1850 – John D. Henion first appears in the 1850 West Milford, Passaic, NJ census with Samuel and Phebe Devore Henion. He appears to have been born around 1838 in New Jersey. (Later census records indicate he’s born closer to 1836.)

HOWEVER, now on the 1850 census, Samuel has TWO sons born between 1835-1840 (Henry Henion is born 1839), so somehow he has acquired another son that’s not mentioned on the 1840. It might seem like a simple census clerical error, but read on…

In 1850, Samuel, Phebe and their family are living in West Milford, Passaic, NJ. Not to be confused with the “other” Samuel Johannes Hennion who is also living in West Milford in 1850, but is about 11 years older than Samuel T. Henion.

For Samuel T Henion’s 1850 census record: The wife and children ages all align with the Samuel from 1840 Hardyston, NJ census and 1860 Sparta, NJ census.


Rachel Whitehead Wade writes a will in Hardyston, Sussex, New Jersey. In it, she leaves her farm to Phebe Ann Henion, wife of Samuel.

She specifically leaves the farm ONLY to Phebe (not to Samuel).  In her will, the farm is to be shared equally among Phebe’s children after Phebe’s death. At this time, Phebe has the following children: John, Henry, Peter, Rachel, Louisa, Joseph, Isaac, and Sarah.

HOWEVER, Rachel Whitehead Wade dictates that two children will be treated differently: John and Rachel will NOT inherit a portion of the farm, but instead be given $100. This is a lot of money in those days to give to a child (John is 17 or 18, Rachel is 10.)

Since Rachel Whitehead Wade’s husband’s death, she has purchase nearly 60 acres of land for $1,022 in 1852. If the six remaining children are to share the land, they’d get the land valued at approximately $170 each, but after Phebe Devore Henion dies, so sometime in the future.

(Incidentally, Peter Henion sells this same farm in 1867 for $150. Why so little? Rachel Wade bought this land for $1,022, and Samuel and Phebe have not sold any of it between 1859 when Rachel dies and 1867 when Peter Henion sells it. It’s possible he’s only selling his 1/6 portion of the inheritance, but that’s not clearly spelled out in the property sale deed. A mystery!)

WHY does Rachel single these two children out?

And, WHY does she leave her farm to Phebe Ann Henion in the first place?

It’s clear she’s treating these two children differently. You can conclude two possible interpretations from Rachel Wade’s will in relation to these two children:

  1. The two children who get $100 in cash are more important to Rachel Wade, but the other children are important, too. This would indicate that the relationship is between Rachel Wade and Phebe Devore Henion, and not a relationship between Rachel Wade and Phebe’s first husband, otherwise she wouldn’t have left the other children any inheritance.
  2. The two children who get $100 in cash are not as important to Rachel Wade as the other six, since the value of $100 cash is less than the value of $170 land.
  3. She wants these two children to have cash now, rather than wait to get land after Phebe Henion dies. Phebe at this time is in her 40s, so it could be several decades for Phebe’s children to inherit the land. John Henion/Adams is nearly 18, so might be considering getting married in the next few years and cash would come in handy. (But Henry Henion is nearly the same age as John, and he gets land not cash, so this theory might not pan out.)

It was most common during this time period for people to leave land/property to family members. If children didn’t exist, people often left property to nieces and nephews, or cousins.

Phebe’s daughter, Eliza, has an obituary that lists her mother as Phebe Devore Henion. This is the ONLY place where Phebe’s maiden name is given, and it’s naturally suspect as it’s a third party person, 2 generations away, giving the maiden name. It’s just as likely that Phebe’s maiden name is Wade or Whitehead. (She names her daughter Rachel W. Henion, but I can’t find what the “W” stands for. Does Phebe name her daughter Rachel in homage to Rachel Whitehead Wade?)

DNA seems to indicate Phebe’s maiden name is Devore. Her death record does not indicate a maiden name. Whitehead or Wade could be Phebe’s mother’s maiden name.

There is no marriage record for Phebe and Samuel, and since NJ has fairly thorough marriage records for this time period, it’s likely they marry in NY where marriage records for this time period are scarce.

There is no logical family connection that I can see so far, and I doubt Rachel Wade is leaving it to Phebe just because they are friends.

Rachel Wade’s husband, Samuel Wade, was previously married, and his daughter, Martha Wade Cory, is living at the time Rachel writes her will. In Samuel’s will, he leave Martha $10, and leaves the farm to Rachel. But he’s not writing Martha Wade Cory out of his will: in 1833, he sells about 167 acres to David Cory, Martha Wade’s husband, for $1,600, about 2/3 the price David would have paid on the open market. I’m assuming that’s considered Martha’s inheritance, so she’s bypassed in Samuel Wade’s will except for a token amount.

Samuel Wade dies in 1845.

Rachel Whitehead Wade dies in 1859 in Hardyston, Sussex, NJ. She is born 1784 and Phebe is born 1813, so it’s possible they are mother-daughter, or aunt-niece. I can’t find an earlier marriage for Rachel other than the 1809 one to Samuel Wade, when Rachel is 25.

Samuel and Rachel Wade are members of the Sparta Presbyterian Church, and they are both buried in the Sparta Cemetery. Many of Phebe’s children are buried in the same cemetery, and married by the Sparta Presbyterian ministers. Samuel and Rachel Wade are buried in the “old” section of Sparta Cemetery, directly behind the Presbyterian Church, not in the newer section where the Henions are buried.


John D. Adams marries Mary Willis married Oct 1857.  Both are from Hardyston. They’re married in the Lafeyette Presbyterian Church by Joel Campbell. Rev. Campbell had just moved to the Lafeyette Church in October 1856. Previous to that, he was the minister at the North Hardyston Presbyterian Church for 18 years, so he knew the Henion and Wade families, and may have been John’s minister when he was growing up. On the marriage record, John names his father as “Samuel Adams” on the marriage license. Mary’s father is listed as Jacob Willis. There is no Samuel Adams alive or dead at this time who could be a match for John’s father. It’s possible he means Samuel Henion. Or he means Samuel Adams of Wantage, who might have been John’s grandfather. This one is a mystery. Joel Campbell would have known these families having served in the area for 18 years, so unlikely to have made a mistake. (Note: a new minister, Rev. Meeker, had been installed at the North Hardyston Church in May 1856 after Rev. Campbell left to start the Lafayette Church. So John and Mary chose to be married by Joel Campbell in Lafayette, even though the Hardyston Church would have been closer. They chose to be married by Joel Campbell, likely because he was John’s minister or because Mary’s family was living in Hardyston, temporarily, in 1857.)


On this federal census record, John Adams is in Hardyston with Mary and son Theodore (age 2). It looks like the census taker started to write “He___” then crossed it out and wrote “Adams.”


June 1, 1865 – NJ Census – Sparta, NJ  – John, Mary, Theodore, Sarah, and John Jr Henion, appears to be living with widow Phebe Devore Henion, Samuel’s wife, and all her other children.

August 1, 1865 – son Samuel or William Adams is born and dies shortly thereafter. The death record says Samuel Adams. He’s buried in Sparta Cemetery in family plot, on the same stone as his mother and brother. The death record has him listed as Samuel Adams, but the gravestone says “William Adams.” However, the grave plot wasn’t purchased until 1892, so nearly 30 years after he dies, the gravestone is carved. (But his parents are still alive and should know the name they gave him! So, for some reason, they wanted “William” on his gravestone and not “Samuel.”)


John D. Adams “of Sparta Township” buys land/house from John D. Lanterman, in Ogdensburg NJ. This is the same land he later sells in 1897.


In the 1870 federal census – John Adams in Sparta with Mary, Theodore, Sarah, John Jr. All the names and ages align with the John Henion in the 1865 NJ census. Ogdensburg is part of Sparta township at this time.

31 July 1870

Jacob Henion born to John and Mary Henion in Ogdensburg.

19 June 1875

“Fraser” Henyon born to John and Mary Henyon in Ogdensburg. It’s a transcript, not an original document. I’m not sure if this is a birth date, or the date the birth was registered with the State. It may be a typo and should be “Jan” not “Jun” and probably should be “Francis” not “Fraser” … see below 1875 and 1880 census.

7 July 1875

In the 1875 New Jersey Census – John Henyan in Sparta with Mary, Theodore, Sarah, John, Jacob, and Frank (6 months old) Henyan. All names and ages align with 1870 census and 1875 birth of Frank. John Henyan indicates he was born in Sussex County, NJ.


Federal census – John D. Adams living in Ogdensburg with Mary, Theodore, Sarah, John, Jacob, Francis D. (Frank), and Mary. All names and ages align.


Jacob W Adams dies. Buried in family plot in Sparta Cemetery on the same gravestone as his mother and his little brother. Per gravestone, died January, 17, 1890 aged 19 years, 5 months, 17 days. That would make his birth date July 31, 1870, the exact same date “Jacob Henion” is born.

11 June 1892

John Adams buys a burial plot in the Sparta Cemetery, L/20. This is where Mary, Jacob and William are buried today.

On the same exact day, June 11, Joseph Henion (son of Samuel and Phebe) buys the plot adjacent to the John Adam’s plot, L/18.

So, in 1892, the Adams family and Henion family are still close to each other. They buy cemetery plots together.


NJ census – John D. Adams Sr and Mary Adams in Sparta, with Frank D. Adams and Mary “Mame” Adams. With them is granddaughter Anna K. Adams (daughter of John D.
Adams, Jr. and Phebe Kinney Adams).

The remaining records, including his probate, are in the name of Adams.

1840 Census Analysis

John D Adams is born about 1836. If his parents are dead, he would be living with relatives in 1840. He might be in NJ, or in NY or PA. His parents might have moved even further away and then he came back to NJ. 

John Henion/Adams says he was born in Sussex County, NJ and that his parents were also born in NJ. I have analyzed all the Adams census records in Sussex and Morris NJ, and Orange NY. I’ve looked at all Adams men across the USA who were born in NJ during the time period when John Adams/Henion’s father was likely born. I can account for most of the Adams men as either not having a son under 5, or having known sons under 5.

There’s a few Adams men I’m still working on, but my best guess is Insley Adams, son of Samuel Adams and Mary Cuddeback, could be the father of John Adams/Henion. He dies in April 1844 in Hardyston per the Sussex Register newspaper, but he’s not living with his wife, Ada Hall Adams, in the 1840 census. His eldest daughter is born in 1832, so it’s possible that he and Ada have not been living together for over 10 years when he dies. Because he was in the right place at the right time, it’s possible he had an illegitimate son/children.

However, I have very few DNA connections to the Adams family of Wantage, Sussex, NJ. It’s a huge, sprawling family…I should have many DNA connections if John D. Adams is the son of one of these Wantage Adams men. (Insley dies in April 1844. In May 1844, his father re-writes his will, naming Insley’s two daughters, but no other children of Insley.)

So the next step is look for 1840 Adams men in further counties, like Sullivan and Ulster, NY.


John’s legal name appears to be Adams. He marries under this name, buys land under this name, and his probate is in this name. All federal census records use Adams after 1850. It’s only in the 1865 and 1875 NJ census he uses Henion, and when his son Jacob is born.

Whether is was always legally “Adams” or not, who knows?

There are several possibilities I’m looking into, all based on whether John and Rachel are the natural children of one of these four adults, the illegitimate children, or the adopted children.

I’m focusing on both John and Rachel because of the way Rachel Whitehead Wade’s will is written. Here are some possibilities of the connections among these people:

  1. John and Rachel are the natural children of Samuel by a first wife, and Phebe and Samuel don’t marry until much later than we supposed (after Rachel is born in 1844). DNA does NOT point in this direction, see below. We know they’re married by 1854 because Rachel Wade’s will names them as “Phebe wife of Samuel Henion.” Samuel Henion is 14 years older than Phebe, and this is commonly caused by a man marrying, his first wife dying, and then marrying a younger second wife. But if John and Rachel are children of Samuel, this poses two questions: Why does John change his name to Adams? and Why do Peter and Henry use the surname of Henion if they are Phebe’s children by an earlier marriage (unless she was married to another Henion first)? Perhaps Peter and Henry are the sons from the first wife?
  2. John and Rachel are the natural children of Phebe Devore Henion by a first husband. One researcher told me that marriage of Samuel Devore says his wife is Phebe Adams, but I haven’t seen proof yet. If true, this would mean Phebe Devore was married to an Adams first, then to Samuel Henion second.
  3. Rachel Whitehead Wade can’t be Samuel Henion’s first wife as she marries Samuel Wade in 1809. But she could be Phebe’s mother; Phebe is born in 1813 and Rachel is born in 1783. Also, Rachel marries when she’s 25. What if Whitehead is her married name, not her maiden name?
  4. John is a natural child of Phebe, and his father was Adams. If this is true, I should have a lot of DNA connections to the Adams families in the region, and I don’t. Perhaps other descendants from this line do, and my line didn’t get much Adams DNA? Unlikely, but possible.
  5. John is an adopted child, and his father or mother was Adams. If his mother is Adams, he’s either illegitimate, or changed his name to inherit under his mother’s family’s estate. I don’t see him mentioned in any existing probate records for Sussex County, and DNA does point to a Devore connection.
  6. John is the illegitimate child of Phebe Devore Henion, Samuel Wade, or Rachel Whitehead Wade, or one of their siblings/cousins. DNA should help prove/disprove this theory.
  7. John and Rachel are adopted children of unknown parentage (perhaps a sibling or cousin of one of the adults), and he chooses Adams out of thin air. Stranger things have happened! But DNA seems to indicate a strong Devore connection, so this theory might not pan out.

What does the DNA say?

If Samuel Henion is the father of John Henion/Adams, then I should find shared matches when I look at John’s siblings. I do see shared matches on the Devore side. I DO NOT see matches on the Henion/Hennion side. I’m still trying to prove/disprove this, but so far, there are no shared Henion matches between my John and his siblings. This leads me to believe John (and perhaps Rachel) is not the son of Samuel Henion. If not, then who is his father?

I don’t have a lot of DNA connections to the Adams families in the region. I’ll keep searching for possible DNA matches.

I do have a lot of DNA connections to this Henion family…but some of it might come from my other DNA connections to the Willis and Chamberlain families, so I’ll have to match up the DNA trees to see what makes sense.

I have a lot of DNA connections to other Henion and Hennion families scattered around northern NJ (Passaic, Essex, Bergen) and NY State (especially Orange County, NY) which don’t fit into my known tree. This could mean that I have Henion DNA, but much further back in my tree. I don’t know who Samuel Henion’s father is, and without that information, it’s hard to know where these extra Henion/Hennion DNA matches come from.

I’d love to hear from other descendants of Samuel and Phebe to see if they have DNA connections to this John Henion/Adams family. If Samuel and Phebe’s other children have clear Henion DNA matches, that might prove that John is not the son of Samuel. I’ll update this blog post as I get more information.

I’ll have to look at Devore DNA connections, too. If Phebe’s maiden name is truly Devore, then I might have connections to her side of the family. (While I’m at it, I’ll look for Wade and Whitehead DNA matches. You never know what you’ll uncover!)

Family Connections

These families intermarry often, so it’s helpful to see how they’re related. This can affect your DNA matches.

  • John and Mary Willis Adams’ children:
    • daughter, Sarah Adams, marries Mark Turner. Mark’s mother is Nancy Sheldon, and Nancy’s mother is Sarah Willis, the aunt of Mary Willis Adams. Essentially, Sarah Adams and Mark Turner are second cousins.
    • son, Frank Adams, marries Irene Brown. Her parents are Darius and Hilia Catherine Davenport Brown. Hilia’s sister, Phebe Davenport, marries David A Keefe. David and Phebe Davenport Keefe’s daughter Mary, marries Theodore Adams, son of John and Mary Willis Adams. David and Phebe’s daughter, Carrie, marries James Willis. So, the Adams (or Henion), Davenport, and Willis families intermarry.
    • son, Theodore Adams, marries Mary Keefe, daughter of  David and Phebe Davenport Keefe (see above)
    • daughter, Mary Adams (called “Mame”) married Frank Lewis Chamberlain. Samuel and Phebe Henion’s daughter, Rachel, marries Richard Chamberlain, likely from the same family line out of New England. Richard Chamberlain Sr’s son, Halsey, is living with Charles Wade in 1850. Charles Wade is related to Samuel Wade (Charles Wades’ father, Simon, was Samuel’s cousin).
    • son, John D Adams, Jr, marries Phebe Kinney and Martha Maxwell. Martha’s sister, Lydia Maxwell, marries Arthur Chamberlain.
    • Nearly all of these people are buried in Sparta Cemetery.
  • Samuel and Phebe Devore Henion’s children:
    • Henry Henion marries Levina Malvenia Turner. I don’t know if she’s related to the Mark Turner who marries Sarah Henion.
    • Peter Henion marries Alice “Anna” Castimore. (The Castimores and the Chamberlains intermarry often.)
    • Rachel Henion marries Richard Chamberlain Jr. Richard Chamberlain Sr lived in Hardyston, and was probably from the Benjamin Chamberlain line.
    • Louisa Henion marries Horace VanOrden. I’m not sure who his parents were.
    • Joseph Henion marries Elizabeth Taylor.
    • Isaac Henion marries Mary Devore. Mary is the daughter of Uzal Devore and Eveline Twitchell. Isaac and Mary’s daughter, Margaret, marries James R Hubbard. James Hubbard’s mother is Mary Elizabeh Devore, daughter of Uzal. They are first cousins.
    • Sarah Henion marries Charles Babcock
    • Eliza “Lydia” Henion marries Britten Decker and after Britten dies, an unknown man named Clark. In her obituary, it says her mother’s maiden name was Devore. It’s possible that Phebe Devore Henion is the sister of Uzal Devore, but I can’t prove it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s