Research on DOWNING, VALENTINE and Related Families of Chester and Centre Counties, Pennsylvania
I am researching the Downing, Valentine and related families among my wife's ancestors, who resided principally in Chester and Centre Counties, PA during the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries. This research is following two tracks:
1. Genealogy - Relying principally on tax and census listings, land transactions and related materials in the colonial and pre-Civil War years.
2. History - Examining the history of the Quakers (including these families) who settled in Chester Co. and their interactions with African Americans (principally freed or escaped slaves) who lived with and among them.
I have created this section of my website as a proto-blog to share the progress and results of my research. I urge anyone who is interested in my research focus to feel free to contact me if they want to discuss, challenge or add to the research and any findings. I can be reached by email at gregv.ma "AT" rcn.com (by deleting "AT" and inserting @).
These Downing and Valentine families are the paternal ancestors of my wife, Ellen Downing (Meek) Vaut, who originally settled in Chester Co. in the early 1700s. The two families intermarried on several occasions over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As a result, Ellen has three lines of descent from Thomas and Thomazine (Beer) Downing (from two of their sons and one of their daughters), and one from Thomas and Mary (Parke) Valentine. The other families that married into these lines (Bond, Drinker, Edge, Miller, Mount, and Reese) are also all documented as having been Quakers. I have tended to extend the research to the level of first cousins from these main Downing and Valentine lines.
Early in the 1800s a Downing family member moved from Chester Co. to Half-Moon Twp., Centre Co., along with a group of other Chester Co. Quaker families. In 1815, several Valentine brothers of Chester Co., with their Downing wives and their widowed mother also moved to Centre Co., PA and became involved in the iron business. One of the brothers, Jacob D. Valentine, already a Downing descendant, married Deborah Elizabeth Downing (of Chester Co.), again uniting these two families with Chester Co. roots.
The Gateway Ancestors of this Downing family, Thomas and Thomazine (Beer) Downing, immigrated to Concord Township, Chester Co., PA from Bradnich, Devonshire, England by 1718 when he first appeared in the Concord Township tax list in that year.
 Smedley, Samuel Lightfoot. Genealogy of the Smedley Family Descended from George and Sarah Smedley, Settlers of Chester County, Penna. Lancaster: Wickersham Printing Co., 1901, p. 96.
- Thomas Downing Thomas Downing (1691-1772) 5th Great Grandfather of Ellen Downing Meek
- Thomazine Beer Thomazine Beer (1692-1754) 5th great Grandmother of Ellen Downing Meek
The Gateway Ancestors for this Valentine family, Thomas and Mary (Parke) Valentine, immigrated to Pennsylvania from Bally Brumhill, Ireland, just prior to 27 April 1728 (2, 27, 1728 - Quaker old style date) when they “produced a certificate from Carlow [Monthly Meeting, Carlow Co., Ireland] to the New Garden Monthly Meeting” in Chester Co. Pennsylvania.
 Futhey, J. Smith and Gilbert Cope. History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, with Genealogical and Biographical Sketches. Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts 1881, p. 750.
- Thomas Valentine Thomas Valentine (1689-1747) 5th Great Grandfather of Ellen Downing Meek
- Mary Parke Mary Parke (1693-unk) 5th Great Grandmother of Ellen Downing Meek
I started my research reviewing tax and census listings, land transactions and related materials for Chester Co. principally over the period 1700-1860. Members of the Valentine and Downing families setttled in Chester Co. in the early 1700s and some moved on to Centre Co. between 1800 and 1815. My first step has been cataloguing all of the federal census listings I for the various families (1790-1940). A tabular summary of these census listings found is attached below (ncluding a few listings from Lancaster and Philadelphia counties). I will continue to update that table as the research progresses. I will add additional information on my results in researching other types of documents as that work progresses.
Most recently (as of March 26, 2017), I have worked on tying together the various inter-marriages of the main Chester Co. Quaker families, most of who settled in the area in the late 1600's and many of who were original grantees from William Penn. Much of this work was made possible by the two volume work First Families of Chester County, by John Pitts Launey (Westminster, MD:Heritabe Books, 2007). I also drew on several family studies published earlier inthe 20th century, all of which are noted as source citations. Over the more than 200 years from their first settlement in the county to the early 1900s, there were a number of marriages between the families, including with the DOWNING and VALENTINE families who have been the main focus of my Chester and Centre Cos. research.
Both of the couples who were the Gateway Ancestors of these two families were Quakers and their descendants remained active in the Quaker Monthly Meetings in Chester and Centre Counties until well into the Twentieth Century. The other families that married into these lines (Bond, Drinker, Edge, Miller, Mount, Parke, Reese, Sharpless, Thomas, Whelan, etc.) are also all documented as being Quakers. Quaker records are an important source of genealogical information in the Colonial period because of their propensity to maintain records of births, deaths and marriages, as well as certain community events, such as “warnings” and arrivals and departures from/to other Quaker communities. Thus, much of my research will use these records to both document the lives and histories of these families as well as to explore their own interactions with African Americans (free and slave).
- Summary of Census Evidence of Downings, Valentines and Related Families in Centre and Chester Counties 1790-1940 [Click Here]
This table reflects the current status of research to identify all Downing, Valentine and related families in the U. S. censuses 1790-1940 for Chester Co., PA.
[This is ongoing research and this table is updated frequently]
My original historical research focused on the settlement of Quakers in Chester Co., Penn. and their interactions with African Americans, including escaped and freed slaves, starting with considerable reading on the history of slavery in the American colonies and the United States; background on the Quaker religion and their settlement in the colonies; and the interactions between Quakers, slavery and abolition that occurred throughout the 18th and early 19th century (see the reading list below). In recording the census listings for the families, I am able to trace from 1830 onward the number of "free colored" members enumerated in each household and some interesting facts, including when young "Black" or "Mulatto" household members are recorded as "attended school."
Now I have turned to identifying land transactions for the Downing, Valentin and collateral families, principally prior to 1830. I have started with Centre Co. (because there are likely to be fewer transactions there). This research is important in terms of more closely identifying the movements of individuals, such as the Downings and Valentines who first moved from Chester Co. to Centre Co. I will build a table show the results of my land related research that will eventually be posted on this site, similar to the table of census research result available through the link above.
Centre Co. was not formed until 1800 and was created from portions of Lycoming, Mifflin, Northumberland and Huntingdon counties. Thus, it is important to examine land records for those counties to identify records for land transactions that would be within Centre Co. today. One example is Half Moon Twp. where Thomas Downing, likely the first Downing to settle in Centre Co. and who appears in Half Moon at least by 1801.
Pennsylvania offer some extremely useful resources for tracking early land records. For my present research, the most important of the these are the records of the Pennsylvania State Archives (Record Group 17 - RG-17), many of which are available online at http://www.phmc.pa.gov/Archives/Pages/default.aspx#.VstZnpwrKUk. These are also produced on a series of CDs from AncestorTracks.com. Some warrants are also available through Ancestry.com (Pennsylvania Archives, Warrant Applications, 1733-1952. Online http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2350).
The following (from the Penn. State Archives website at http://www.phmc.pa.gov/Archives/Research-Online/Pages/Land-Records-Overview.aspx) explains the basic steps in acquiring, surveying and patenting land in colonial and early 19th century Pennsylvania:
My general reading list includes the materials listed below. For those who are also interested in the relationship between Pennsylvania Quakers and free African-Americans and freed African-American slaves, I strongly recommend reading the book by McDaniels and Julye, Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice. For some interesting details on the interaction of Chester Co. Quakers and African-Americans, the article by Christoper Densmore, “Aim for a Free State and Settle among Quakers: African-American and Quaker Parallel Communities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey,” is particularly interesting.
Benezet, Anthony. Some Historical Account of Guinea, Its Situation, Produce, and the General Disposition of Its Inhabitants with An Inquiry into the Rise and Progress of the Slave Trade, Its Nature, and Lamentable Effects. London: J. Phillips, 1788.
Brody, Susannah Wilson. A History of Uwchlan Township 1682-1782. Uwchlan (Pennsylvania): The Uwchlan Township Historical Commission, 1983.
Brody, Susannah Wilson. 300 Years above the Valley. Uwchlan (Pennsylvania): The Uwchlan Township Historical Commission, 2011.
Brown, Francis G. Downingtown Friends Meeting: An Early History of Quakers in the Great Valley. Glenmoore (Pennsylvania): Glenmoore Corporation, 1999.
Carey, Brycchan. From Peace to Freedom: Quaker Rhetoric and the Birth of American Antislavery, 1657-1761. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012.
Carey, Brycchan and Geoffrey Plank, editors. Quakers and Abolition. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014.
Crane, Elaine Forman (editor). The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker: The Life Cycle of an Eighteenth-Century Woman. Abridged Edition. Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010 (revised edition).
Davidson, Jane L. S. A History of Downingtown. Downingtown (Pennsylvania): Borough of Downingtown, 1982.
Davis, David Brion. Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Densmore, Christopher. “Aim for a Free State and Settle among Quakers: African-American and Quaker Parallel Communities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.” Carey, Brycchan and Geoffrey Plank, editors. Quakers and Abolition. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014. Chap. 8, pp. 120-134.
Egle, William Henry (editor). Provincial Papers: Proprietary and other Tax Lists of the County of Chester for the Years 1765, 1766, 1767, 1769, 1771. Pennsylvania Archives, Third Series, Vol. XI. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Printer, 1897.
Egle, William Henry (editor). Provincial Papers: Proprietary and other Tax Lists of the County of Chester for the Years 1774, 1779, 1780, 1781, 1785. Pennsylvania Archives, Third Series, Vol. XII. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Printer, 1897.
Frost, J. William. “Why Quakers and Slavery? Why Not More Quakers?” Carey, Brycchan and Geoffrey Plank, editors. Quakers and Abolition. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014. Chap. 2, pp. 27-42.
Futhey, J. Smith and Gilbert Cope. History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, with Genealogical and Biographical Sketches. Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts 1881.
Gara, Larry. The Liberty Line: The Legend of the Underground Railroad. Lexington: The University of Kentucky Press, 1961.
Gigantino, James J., II. The Ragged Road to Abolition: Slavery and Freedom in New Jersey 1775-1865. Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.
Happersett, Constance, Patricia Gaines and Susannah Brody. Dear Sister: A Collection of Civil War Letter Written by Joseph and William Downing to Their Sister Sarah of Lionville, Pennsylvania. Uwchlan (Pennsylvania): The Uwchlan Township Historical Commission, 2004.
McDaniel, Donna and Vanessa Julye. Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice. Philadelphia: Quaker Press of Friends General Conference, 2009.
McLaurin, Melton A. Celia A Slave. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1991.
Myers, Albert Cook. Immigration of the Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania 1682-1750 with Their Early History in Ireland. Swarthmore: Albert Cook Myers, 1902.
Palmer, Lewis (compiler). A Genealogical Record of the Descendants of John and Mary Palmer of Concord, Chester (now Delaware) Co., PA: New Edition. 2 volumes. West Chester: Chester Times, 1910.
Sinhad, Manisha. The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.
Smedley, Robert Clemens. History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and the Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania. Lancaster: Office of the Journal, 1883.
Smedley, Samuel Lightfoot. Genealogy of the Smedley Family Descended from George and Sarah Smedley, Settlers of Chester County, Penna. Lancaster: Wickersham Printing Co., 1901.
Soderlund, Jean R. Quakers and Slavery: A Divided Spirit. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.
Soderlund, Jean R. Lenape Country: Delaware Valley Society Before William Penn. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.
Whitfield, Harvey Amani. The Problem of Slavery in Early Vermont, 1777-1810. Barre and Montpelier: Vermont Historical Society, 2014.