This amateur genealogist has spent many frustrating years trying to trace his Boyce line back to Hardy County, West Virginia, and its beginnings in North America. This dogged pursuit took me to the home of the genealogical society in Logan County, Kentucky, where my third great-grandfather, J.R. Boyce, was born. When I showed the eminently helpful staff there the letter that J.R. had left behind for his children and grandchildren, all hell broke loose.
Well, I’m exaggerating again. But suffice it to say the letter thoroughly complicated the research project. It was easy to find documents pertaining to J.R. and his wife, Maria Louisa Wright. The records show they were married on December 8, 1863, by the Reverend H. W. Hunt of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Unfortunately, no parents were listed on the marriage record. But that’s OK — J.R. left behind a pretty detailed letter.
J. R. wrote that his father, Richard Boyce, was a prominent plantation owner who served as a sheriff and judge in Logan County. “My father traded in cattle and slaves between New Orleans and Virginia,” he wrote. “He was trading in Baltimore at the time of Aaron Burr’s conspiracy.“
The genealogical society produced hundreds of references to Richard Boyce as a magistrate, close to a judge. But his name was missing from the list of persons who had held the sheriff position through the years.
No biggie — it was pretty clear I had found my Richard Boyce. But there were no hints as to his parents. Once again, my only hope was the letter J.R. left behind.
“The Boyces,” J.R. wrote, “were general traders in Hardy County, Romney City, Va. Three generations were born in Virginia. My grandfather, Aaron Boyce, fought in the Revolution for American Independence. He was born in about 1735 and had roughly ten children, including my father, Richard, and his brothers, Robert and Nicholas. The Boyces were some of the earliest settlers of Virginia. I believe they came from Wales.”
There’s no reason to doubt that J.R.’s grandfather was an Aaron Boyce from Hardy County, Virginia. The problem is that I haven’t found a record of him. Nearly everyone on Ancestry has decided J.R.’s grandfather is another Richard Boyce. They all reference a widely available probate record for a Richard Boyce (1735-1791) of Hardy County. He certainly looks like he may have been the father of the Richard Boyce, who lived in Kentucky. In his will, Richard leaves Kentucky property to his son, Richard, and he also lists a Robert and Nicholas as sons.
My current working theory is that there may have been two Richard Boyce cousins, in Logan County, Kentucky, during the early 1800s. There’s some evidence that this may be the case. Maybe a search of property records on a subsequent visit will show two Richard Boyces were living in Logan County in the early part of the 19th Century. And maybe a more thorough search of the Hardy County archives will turn up an Aaron Boyce.