Once a Knight is Enough

Knight Genealogy

Article by Robert D. Barwick
Parrish, Florida
2014 Dec 6


The Ancestry of Moses Keen

Family tradition as recorded in numerous places shows Moses Keen, born in 1759, as the father of Theophilus Keen born in 1792 and/or the son of John Keen born in 1718.   While the links between generations before and after Moses have support, the link between Moses and John is tenuous.  

The author, Robert D. (Dan) Barwick has been engaged in genealogical research for the family for over 20 years and has become skeptical of family trees past the point of present memory presented without support. The author pleads guilty of the same action of copying previous family trees or research without support to build his own tree. However, as time has progressed, it has become obvious that the copying of older trees without support is perilous.   

A large number of trees can be produced with extant errors that are perpetuated.   An example of this tendency is the matter of John Barwick, D.D. included in this tree.  He is consistently reported in error to be the father of John Barwick who entered Maryland from England in 1664.  

Recorded sources are less prevalent and available in pioneer areas than in developed societies.  In the Americas, migration moved people from points of entry to other locations in the continent.  Recorded lines were obscured and the cycle of bad record-keeping was begun again or perpetuated.  Institutions from which records could be extracted were not yet fully developed and people had less proclivity and ability  to write things down.  

The existence of Moses Keen, the husband of Martha Elizabeth (Griffin?) Keen and the father of at least nine children is likely.  His existence is attested in numerous documents in North Carolina and Florida.   His posterity is also well-understood.  A challenge is presented regarding the ancestry of Moses.  It is widely reported in family trees that Moses was the son of John and Rachel Chandler Keen.   No “hard” evidence exists for this assertion and some evidence exists to the contrary.  

John and Rachel Chandler Keen did in fact have a son named Moses.  He is reported to have been born in August 1759 and to have died September 17, 1759 (see “The Descendants of Joran Kyn of New Sweden”, page 69).  

It must be noted that while ancestry.com and its affiliates have moved genealogical research forward on a massive scale, some efforts to legitimize unsupported records are suspect.   The fact that something is reported numerous times is not evidence of truth, especially in our era of public availability of information which is simply copied.  In addition, information from death records (e.g. “Find a Grave”) that most likely did not come from a gravestone or similar record mixes authoritative and non-authoritative information.   One must be skeptical.  

In the case in point, the search for Moses in the line of succession has eluded any sort of record which can be termed reliable. One is left with a plethora of family trees as primary support. The entire matter is complicated by the fact that the term "Moses" was applied to older people as a matter of respect.   A further maddening complication is the matter of the Keen name which was originally transliterated or later spelled as Kyn, Kijn, Kuhn, Kun, Keane, Keen,  Kean, Keene,  Chun, Kuehn, Kene or in other ways.  Moreover, the sheer popularity of a name can present extreme challenges to research.  In this case, Keens or those with variant spellings, came to America in very large numbers.   New immigrants bearing the name(s) could pop up at almost anytime in all sorts of places.  

As evidence of the use of the name “Moses” as a nickname, consider the 1790 census in which   the name Moses Keen is applied to a head of household in Bertie County, NC with the name of “Thomas Kun” included parenthetically on the transcription record.  We will discuss this man below.   A further use of the name “Moses” as a nickname is its application to Mons/Mans/Mounce Keen (born October, 1664 in Chester, PA).  (See Page 38 of “The Descendants of Joran Keen of New Sweden”.)  

It is also instructive to consider the succession of men named Moses Keen or Kean in the Census records from 1790 to 1830.  In 1790 the name appears in Massachusetts  and North Carolina.  In 1800 and 1810 we see North Carolina, South Carolina and Massachusetts.  In 1820 men of the name are found in Massachusetts and Mississippi.  In 1830, we see them only in New Jersey.  The southward movement is not unusual. Consider the documented migration of the John Barwick line in this tree from the point of entry in Maryland in 1664 to North Carolina and South Carolina in the 1700's to Georgia, Alabama and Indiana in the 1800's to Florida in the 1900's.  

A review of the book “The Descendants of Joran Kyn of New Sweden”, included on ancestry.com as a reference, shows at least three potential candidates for men named Moses Keen who appear on the North Carolina and South Carolina census records  in 1790, 1800 and 1810.   They are:

Moses Keen, the son of John Keen discussed above, born in August 1759 and reported to have died one month later. 

Moses Keen, the son of Mounce Keen, born March 21, 1740.  The book cited above states on page 68 that this Moses “probably died young or  s.p.”. 

Thomas Keen, the son of Matthias Keen, born March 1, 1759.  See page 115 of the book cited above.   The inclusion of this person is based on the assertion that the name “Moses” was applied to a man also known as “Thomas Kun” on the 1790 census.   Note that this person is also reported as  “thought to have died young”.   No support for that assertion is provided and it may relate to simply not knowing anything of the person if he left the area.   

The above information is stranger than fiction, if in fact it is not fiction.   We have two close cousins named or later called Moses Keen, born in 1759, both of whom are reported to have died in infancy or early childhood.   Another person, born in 1740 with the same name is said to have died young.  While infant and child mortality was commonplace, the death of so many related children bearing the same name is of interest. 

Note that “The Descendants of Joran Kyn of New Sweden” was published in 1913,  long after most of the people who are the subject of the book were gone.  The book, a monumental work, was based on a series of articles published in 1878 through 1883.  As is generally the case of such work, information that is supported by precise dates and names is more likely to have veracity than conjecture of what is thought to have happened.  Thus, other things being equal, the death of Moses, the son of John is more likely true as to the date provided than a general conjecture concerning the early death of Thomas.   

In addition to the above possibilities, the census records in South Carolina and North Carolina include evidence of more than one man named “Moses Keen” or “Moses Kean” alive simultaneously.   The 1800 census includes two men of the name, one in Orangeburg District, SC and one in Bertie County, NC.  An additional point of confusion is that the records don’t seem to track the ages of one man in the environs of Bertie County, NC, thus leading to the possibility of a third.  

A review of ancestry.com trees and other sources regarding Moses Keen revealed nothing more authoritative as of December 6, 2014.   Dates of death of the Moses in question are given as either 1715 in North Carolina, 17 Septemper 1827 in Columbia County, FL or 1729 with no location.   None of these dates is supported by an authoritative document.   The ABGI includes a record which states that Moses was born in 1750 based on the 1790 census information--a false conclusion if drawn from that source.   The name of Moses' wife is repeated.  

As happens so often in genealogical research, a line of succession can be complete with some reliability on both sides of a “loose” link.   Succession of the line of Joran Keen prior to the time of our Moses is very clear as set forth in the aforementioned book “The Descendants of Joran Kyn of New Sweden”.  We must remain open to the possibility that this line of Joran Keen may be unrelated. 

The ancestry of Moses Keen at this date in December, 2014 must include at least the following possibilities:

1.      Moses Keen, the son of John, born in August, 1759

2.      Moses Keen, the son of Mounce, born March 21, 1740

3.      Thomas Keen (AKA Moses), born March 1, 1759

4.      Another man named Moses Keen who may have been present in North and South Carolina in 1800.  The census records included two men who may overlap the above descendants of Joran Keen.

5.      Another descendant of Joran Keen

6.      An unrelated family.  Numerous people bearing the name of Keen or one of its variant spellings were coming to America in the 18th century.  

The line of succession after Moses is more clear from known family history (with more recent history, people alive remember things) and particularly in this case from an article concerning the parents of Jesse Keen gleaned from his obituary and family history and reproduced as a story attachment to the record of Jesse Keen.  The death record of Theophilus Keen, included in the “findagrave” index,  further names the father of Theophilus as Moses Keen, although some skepticism must be attached to the ultimate source of such information.  

The puzzle of pieces regarding succession after Moses begins to fit nicely when we consider that the 1910 census record provides the locations of birth of the father (Theophilus Keen) and mother (Elizabeth Raulerson)  of Jesse Keen as North Carolina and Georgia respectively.  Theophilus Keen appears on both the 1830 and 1840 census tabulations in Georgia. Theophilus was born in North Carolina where his father Moses (perhaps AKA Thomas) resided as evidenced by the 1790 census record.  He then married Elizabeth Raulerson in Georgia in 1820 and resided in that state.  Jesse, my great-great grandfather, was then born in Wayne County, Georgia and made his way to Polk County, Florida to father 14 children and become a stalwart member of the community.   

In sum the recorded evidence for Moses Keen in the line of succession is not as solid as one would wish.   This condition is not unusual as described above.  The author is of the opinion that the most likely ancestry of Moses is via the Joran Keen line and that the man included on the Bertie County NC 1790 census is our Moses, also named Thomas.   The author is of the further opinion that this Thomas is the son of Matthias Keen four generations from Joran Keen.   


Note by site owner:

My own descent is from Jesse Collins (1759-1843) m. Sarah Keen (1775-1845), Sarah being an alleged daughter of the above-discussed Moses (Thomas?) Keen and Martha E. Griffin which would make Thomas "Moses" Keen my 5th great-grandfather.

In any event, Jesse and Sarah were the parents of Enoch Collins who married serially 1) Fatima Knight (1811-1846); 2) Elizabeth Guthrie (1819-1855); 3) Temperance Starling Hay (1840-1908). By his three wives, Enoch was father of at least 16 children.

As a point of interest, Fatima Knight was the daughter of Rev. Samuel Knight (1793-1879) and Mary Nancy Roberts (1793-1875). That is to say, she was also my 2nd great-aunt as well as my 3rd great-grandmother!

Enoch and Fatima were parents of John Collins (1831-1900) m. Sarah Grantham (1830-1900) who were my 2nd great-grandparents, being the parents of my great-grandmother, Martha Ann Collins (1852-1950).

Martha Ann Collins m. William Samual Knight (1849-1938), who was the son of Jesse Knight (1817-1911) and Rebecca Caroline Varn (1825-1901). Jesse Knight was the brother of Fatima Knight, and also a son of Rev. Samuel and Mary Nancy Roberts Knight.


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