Who is John D. Adams/John D. Henion?

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

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, Hardyston and Hamburg, New Jersey. Many are buried in the Sparta Presbyterian Methodist 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.

HOWEVER, now 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: The wife, children (except Isaac and Sarah, who haven’t been born yet), ages all align with the Samuel from 1840 Hardyston and 1860 Sparta.


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 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. Since Rachel’s husband’s death, she has purchase nearly 60 acres of land for $1,022 in 1852. If six children are to share the land, they’d get the value of approximately $170 each.

(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 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 not as important to Rachel Wade as the other six
  2. 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 that Rachel is leaving them.

Are Phebe and Rachel related?

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.

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?)

There is no marriage record for Phebe and Samuel, and since NJ has fairly thorough marriage records for this time period, it’s possible 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 she’s leaving it to Phebe just because they are friends.

Rachel Wade’s husband, Samuel Wade, was previously married, and had a daughter, Martha Wade Cory, who is living at the time Rachel writes her will. In Samuel’s will, he leave Martha $10, and leaves the farm to Rachel. But 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.

Rachel 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. I’ve written to the Sparta Cemetery Association to see if Samuel and Rachel Wade are buried near the Henions or Adams plots.


John D. Adams marries Mary Willis.  Both are from Hardyston. They’re married by the Sparta Presbyterian Church minister, Joel Campbell. He names his father as “Samuel” on the marriage license (no surname given for Samuel.) 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.


John Adams in Hardyston with Mary and son Theodore (age 2). It looks like the census taker started to write “Hen___” then crossed it out.


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 William Adams is born and dies shortly thereafter. Buried in Sparta Cemetery in family plot. 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 William dies, the gravestone is carved.


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.


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”

7 July 1875

NJ 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. 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 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. 

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.)


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). 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. 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?
  3. 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. I don’t. Perhaps other people from this line do?
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. John is the illegitimate child of Samuel Henion, Phebe Devore Henion, Samuel Wade, or Rachel Whitehead Wade, or one of their siblings/cousins.

What does the DNA say?

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. 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.

I’d love to hear from other descendants of Samuel and Phebe to see if they have DNA connections to this John and Mary Willis Adams family. I’ll update this blog post as I get more information.

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’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.

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