This amateur genealogist has spent many frustrating years trying to trace his Boyce line back to Hardy County, West Virginia. This dogged pursuit recently took me to the genealogical society of Logan County, Kentucky, where my third great-grandfather, J.R. Boyce, was born. Unfortunately, all hell broke loose when I showed the eminently helpful staff there the letter that J.R. had left behind for his children and grandchildren.
Well, I’m exaggerating again. But suffice it to say the letter thoroughly complicated the research effort. It was easy to locate documents about J.R. (James Richard) 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 the aforementioned letter with detailed information about his parents.
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, a position close to a judge. We need to give J.R. some room to stretch the facts — you know how it is when recalling relatives’ accomplishments; time adds grandeur to their occupations and actions. But his name was missing from a long list of persons who had held the sheriff position through the years. So, J.R. may have gotten that part wrong.
No biggie — it was pretty clear I had found my Richard Boyce (1775-1853). The problem that stumped me throughout my search is that there was no reference to Richard Boyce’s parents, and the only information I have to go by is the damned letter J.R. left behind. And that conflicts with the lineage that most Ancestry.com users assume is correct.
“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 Aaron Boyce from Hardy County, Virginia. The problem is that no record of him seems to exist. Nearly everyone on Ancestry has decided J.R.’s grandfather is another Richard Boyce. They all reference a widely available probate record for Richard Boyce (1735-1791) of Hardy County. He certainly looks like he may have been the father of my Richard Boyce. In his will, the elder Richard leaves Kentucky property to his son, Richard, and lists Robert and Nicholas as sons.
My current working theory is that two Richard Boyce cousins may have lived in Logan County, Kentucky, during the early 1800s. Some evidence suggests this may be the case, and a thorough search of property records on a subsequent visit may confirm my suspicion. And perhaps a more detailed examination of the Hardy County archives will turn up an Aaron Boyce.