Marchant Thomas vs Abraham Thomas

An error that has become widespread and continues to circulate is that Marchant Thomas is connected to the Abraham Thomas line. Although there are various reasons for this, the most influential one, I believe, is the book, Thomas Family History 1385-1995 from Wales to Eastern Kentucky, Vol. I, by Charles Thomas (of the Abraham Thomas line). I first saw his information at the Clay County Historical Society in the publication Family Histories of Letcher County. I have written to him more than once to get his answer to what he based his connecting of the two Thomas families on, but have been unable to get a response. It may be that he based it on nothing more than that the two men ended up in Owsley County by 1844. *  Abraham, b.1770, VA, came to Kentucky from VA whereas Marchant, b.1771, SC, came to Kentucky from SC via Georgia. Marchant showed up on the Clay County KY Tax List in 1808 (as Marchant Thompason). Abraham was already in KY by then, but he was in Madison County, 1807 (From Madison County Tax Books 1802-1814, Kentucky Historical Society, Reel # 73-0258, researched by Jim Cox). Abraham Thomas was never on the Clay County KY Tax Lists. Togin Cassell, an avid researcher and direct descendant of Abraham Thomas, had her family history handed down to her in a Family Bible and Abraham's son, Isaac Franklin Thomas, was said to be born 1806, in Owsley Co. (in 1806 that would be Madison County). The rest of the children were born in Virginia or in Estill, Lee or Owsley County KY (before Lee was formed in 1870 it was part of Owsley County. Prior to Owsley's formation (1843), it was part of Estill County). So the picture we get here is that Abraham's family lived in the area of what is known today as Lee or Estill County. Marchant's children were born in NC/SC, GA, and Clay County, KY. Marchant owned property on Cow Creek in what is now Owsley County in 1821 and his son Joseph owned property on White Oak Creek in the south central part of Owsley since about 1835 (see map). As we look at this, we can see that the two men never lived in the same area together. It was not until 1850 that we even see their descendants living in the same county. So any conclusions based on their living close to one another do not stand up.

Another discrepancy in Charles Thomas' book that contributed to the belief that Marchant and Abraham's families were connected was to list James Edward Siasee Thomas as a son of Marchant. However, Marchant's son James is living next door to him on the 1830 Clay County KY Census and appears on the Clay County Tax Lists from 1820-1842, while James Siasee Thomas is in Ashe Co. NC having children born from 1821 to 1836 - all in Ashe County.

There are other things that can contribute to the confusion if a researcher has not been thorough. On the 1850 Owsley County census, there is a Joseph Thomas household with Abraham's widow living with them, but this is NOT Marchant's son, Joseph. He is in Household number 587, probably on White Oak Creek. Whereas Abraham's son Joseph is in HH number 151, probably in the section that became Lee County since, in 1870 when Lee was formed, he is on the Lee County census. (See map below showing location of property owned by each Joseph in 1847).

Here's another snag: Someone might see Isaac Thomas on the 1850 Owsley County census and conclude that he is Marchant's son, BUT Marchant's son Isaac is in BREATHITT County, KY in 1850 and Marchant and Jemima are living with him. The Isaac in Owsley County is in HH 141 which is only 10 dwellings away from the Joseph mentioned above in HH 151. There are other Thomases in that area as well, but you might notice that some of the older ones are born in Virginia. It is my experience that anytime we see Virginia as a birth place (on the Kentucky censuses), these are not the Marchant Thomas family.

Now someone might point to the similar names of the two Thomas families as an indication that they are related, but these names were very common names in ALL families of that time. What IS noteworthy is that NONE of Marchant's children are named Abraham nor are any of THEIR children. In fact the name, Abraham, is not found anywhere among the descendants of Marchant Thomas until, perhaps, our current generation.

We must realize that Thomas is a very common English surname and conclude that there were simply OTHER Thomas families living in Southeastern Kentucky at the same time. In fact, there were MANY different Thomas families that ended up in Kentucky, and some of them came very early.


Since the writing of this article early in 2003, an Abraham Thomas descendant had DNA testing done and the results confirm that the two Thomas families are not related. The haplogroups are also very different indicating that they are from different parts of Europe. Unless testing of another Abraham Thomas descendant shows otherwise, this is further proof that the Marchant Thomas family and the Abraham Thomas family have no connection.

*In 1840 Abraham was on the ESTILL County Census, then when Owsley was formed from part of Estill, he was on the Owsley Co. tax list (in 1844).

Owsley Co map