Message Boards > Surnames > Milam


Subject: Who is Celia Milam (update)?
Author: Eric_Rodenburg
Date: Friday, August 3, 2018
Classification: Biography
Surnames: Milam, Brandon, Irvine

Edit: August 3, 2018

Celia Milam's mother is almost certainly the granddaughter of William and Elisabeth (Irvine) Brandon and is most probably the daughter of their son David and his wife Cathrine Irvine. Celia Milam's father is almost certainly the grandson of Adam Milam and is most probably the son of Adam's son Lewis Milam (of Halifax, not the Lewis Milam out west in Tazewell County). This latest finding is corroborated by documentation, but depends on the results of cousin analysis through Ancestry DNA. I have modified the essay "Who is Celia Milam" to reflect this new information.

Celia Milam

Celia Milam

Celia Milam was likely the daughter of David Brandon and Cathrine Irvine and her father was likely the son of a previously forgotten Lewis Milam. Teasing out these relationships has required an understanding of many families, including the Brandons, Irvines, Lawsons, Milams, Sneads, and Cralles. Geographically it has ranged from Southside Virginia to the Shenandoah Valley west to Tennessee and Kentucky, and south to North Carolina and northern South Carolina. It has required an understanding of the different Irvine Brandons and Lewis Milams. Along the way I think I have also connected some previously singleton Milams to the greater Milam family. While this conclusion is one I am comfortable with, I welcome evidence that leads a different way and would be happy to scrap it all if there is something better.

Celia Milam’s ancestry is obscured by the fog of time, the burning of U.S. Federal Census documents by the British during the War of 1812, and even by the failure of Census workers to enumerate numerous communities in Halifax County, VA during the Census of 1820.

Starting Facts

1.Celia (b. abt 1805) married James Madderson Wiles, 28 Dec. 1826 in Halifax County, VA. Irvine Brandon (b. 1791 in Halifax Co., VA) stood surety.

2. Celia and James Madderson Wiles moved to Trigg County, Kentucky soon after their marriage.

3. Irvine Brandon moved to Trigg County, Kentucky in the spring of 1827 with family, slaves, and his newly married niece and her husband.

4.Irvine Brandon's father, Irvine Sr., had died just before his birth. Then Judith Fanning Irvine, the widow, married younger neighbor Micahjah Sneed. Irvine Sr.'s brother David was made legal guardian for Irvine Jr. and his sister Nancy to ensure their inheritance was secured.

5. In 1832 Celia’s daughter Frances Jane Wiles was born in Trigg County.

6. Celia was dead by 1845 when James Madderson Wiles married Mary W. Milam (b. 1816) daughter of Harris Milam back in Halifax, Co., VA.

7. Celia’s father’s surname was Milam.

8. Celia’s mother must have been born about 1785.

9. In 1813 in nearby Person County NC, Seelia Milam (b. 1784) married James Long, a widower. Given her ripe old age of 29, it is very likely that Seelia was also a widow. Seelia is often corrected in genealogies and in the census to read “Celia.”

Celia’s Mother

Irvine Brandon apparently described Celia as his niece in Trigg County. He stood up for her at her wedding. There was clearly a family relationship between them, but what was that relationship exactly?

1. The first possibility is that she was the daughter of a sister, half-sister, or step-sister.

According to the will of his father, Irvine had only one sibling, a sister Nancy (b. 1790), daughter of Judith Fanning and Irvine Brandon. Nancy married Thomas Cralle (Crawley) abt 1803, and so she could not be the mother of Celia Milam.

Irvine Brandon the husband of Judith Fanning, died a few months before his son, Irvine Brandon who went to Trigg County, was born. His widow Judith Fanning Brandon then married Micajah Snead (a 20 year old neighbor) in 1792 (Caswell County, NC marriages). They had only sons documented, but even if they had had any daughters, that would have been too late to have any that married a Milam and give birth to Celia.

Irvine Brandon, therefore, could not have had a niece who was the daughter of a sister, half sister, or step sister.

2. The second possibility is that Celia is the daughter of a sister, half sister, or step sister of Mary Lawson (b, about 1785) the wife of Irvine Brandon (who went with him to Trigg County Kentucky).

It is unclear just who are the parents of Mary Lawson. Mary was an independent household prior to her marriage to Irvine Brandon, and about 5 years his senior. Mary Lawson married Irvin Brandon 25 December 1809 in Halifax County, Virginia. Surety David Brandon (David Brandon was Irvine's guardian and uncle). There is a second marriage date for Mary Lawson and Irvin Brandon, 27 December 1810. Marriage by Rev. Reuben Pickett. Beginning in 1805 Mary Lawson was on the Personal Property tax list of Halifax County, last showing up in 1809 with two blacks and a horse.

The only other taxable woman Lawson in Halifax during these years was Ann Lawson, whose listing changes to Estate of Ann Lawson at about the same time that Mary Lawson first appears. Ann Lawson was the widow of John Lawson. They were married in 1782 and John Lawson died about 1792). It is clear that John Lawson had a will (from court records), but his will has not appeared. No will has been found for Ann Lawson either. Both were property owners and a will would document the distribution of that property to named heirs. Nonetheless, we can name our Mary Lawson as an heir (their daughter) based on the emergence of Mary as a taxpayer with the disappearance of Ann Lawson from those rolls due to death.

Any sisters of Mary’s would be daughters of John Lawson and Ann Irvine, and prime candidates to be Celia Milam’s mother. In the absence of their wills and normal census information this is presumption only, but it fits the existing evidence.

But, of this were true, I would have DNA cousins with the relevant Halifax VA based Lawsons in their family trees. I searched the family trees of those among my 29,902 cousin matches who had family trees, identified for me by Ancestry DNA, and found no Halifax based Lawsons

3. The third possibility is that the term "niece" was used by a historian to describe a complicated or misunderstood biological relationship that could more accurately be characterized as a "close family member." To explore this possibility I searched for Brandon's from Halifax among my DNA Cousins. I found them.

To be exact, I found the descendants of Thomas Brandon, the father of William Brandon, Francis Brandon, and David Brandon. And, I found the descendants of William Brandon (and his wife Elizabeth Irvine) and Francis Brandon (and his wife Elinor Richmond). I also found the descendants of James Irvine and his wife Jannet (maiden name unknown) of Halifax -- Irvines married into the Brandons. So, the mother of Celia Milam is almost certainly a Brandon.

In looking at the descendants of William and Francis I was able to exclude, as a potential mother of Celia, all of those who were descendants of Francis. In his will, William identified four children: John, Irvine, David, and Thomas. I was able to exclude the descendants of John because he had relocated with his family to South Carolina, where they stayed and prospered. I was able to exclude the descendants of Irvine since his only daughter Nancy had already been excluded because of her age and the fact that she was married to Cralle. And, I was able to exclude the descendants of Thomas because none of his descendants could have been the mother of Celia.

This leaves just David Brandon (and his wife Cathrine Irvine). Cathrine Irvine is the granddaughter of James Irvine who was identified one of my most recent shared ancestors by Ancestry DNA. David was his nephew Irvine's (who went to Trigg county) guardian. He was alive until at least 1809 when the lands over which he was guardian were distributed to Irvine and Nancy. Irvine was just 18 and getting married to Mary Lawson (at least 5 years his senior) that year or the next. David and Cathrine married in 1785, so they could easily have had a daughter who later gave birth (as a married Milam) to our Celia. I have been able to find no documentation about this family. There are genealogies that say they had a son (David Jr. b. 1791) and that Cathrine died in 1791. If that were true, one could imagine a scenario where David and his children would become close to his wards, Irvine and Nancy. But that is mere speculation.

Also speculative is that Seelia Milam, who married James Long in 1813, at age 29, was actually Celia Brandon, the mother of our Celia Milam. If she were actually a widow (likely) then it would also be likely that she would have one or more children. She was born about 1785 and thus a candidate for being a child of David and Cathrine Brandon. And, of course, she lived in the Caswell County (NC), Person County (NC), and Halifax County (VA) border region where the Halifax Brandons roamed.

Celia’s Father

But what is the name of her father? Since Irvine Brandon stood surety at her wedding, it is likely that Celia’s father was dead by 1826.

Starting with the 1820 Census of Halifax County Virginia, we find several Milam households:

1. Harris Milam, b. abt 1792 and married in 1813, was the father of Mary Milam, but too young to be Celia’s father. But, he is a likely relation -- an uncle, perhaps, or a brother. Harris is another unconnected Milam in the Milam genealogical universe.

2. Mary Milam was the head of a household in the 1820 Census of Halifax County only 2 pages away from Harris. Her household boasted two women over 45 and one between 26 and 45 and one man between 26 and 45. Mary is also an unconnected Milam. She would be a candidate to be the mother of Harris Milam or of the father of Celia Milam.

3. On the same census page as Mary Milam is Allen Milam, in a single person household. Allen is between 16 and 26 years old, married in Pittsylvania County VA in 1822 and is thus too young to be Celia’s father, but could be her brother or cousin. He certainly could be a child of Mary Milam. He too is an unconnected Milam.

4. Just four pages away from Mary Milam, John Milam was another genealogically unconnected Milam who headed a household in the 1820 Census of Halifax County Virginia. He was between 26 and 45 years of age. In the 1830 Census he was between 30 and 39 years old, and had disappeared by the time or the 1840 Census. He is thus a candidate for being Celia’s brother, or uncle. In his household was another male between 16 and 26 (probably another John Milam who was 30-39 years old in the 1840 Census), 2 females under 10 years, and 1 female age 16-26. This last could be Celia Milam, but is more likely the mother of the two children and the wife of John.

5. The final Milam household in the 1820 census is the most problematical. It is that of Lewis Milam, over 45 years of age. The household was far away from the other Milams and was nestled among many Brandon households, including those who had been the legal guardians of Celia’s "uncle" Irvine Brandon, protecting his and his sister's property rights against the interests of their mother Judith Fanning Brandon Snead, after the death of their father in 1791. The household includes 1 other male between 16 and 26 and 1 male between 26 and 45. It has 1 female between 16 and 26 who could be Celia, 2 between 26 and 45 and 1 over 45 years old. Two members of this household were engaged in agriculture.

There is a Lewis Milam whose family is well known in the genealogical literature. It is Lewis Milam, b. 1764 in Halifax County who married Mary Holt 20 Feb 1782. His parents were James Milam (d. abt. 1791 next door in Pittslyvania County VA) and Martha Winegar Randolph. Early on Lewis moved far away to Montgomery County and then farther to Tazewell County VA. where his children were settled. By 1818 he had left Tazewell County for Hawkins County Tennessee where he died and is buried. Why would he have been in Halifax County, farming, in 1820? He did have legal business in the area. In 1809 he was given power of attorney (in the deed book of Tazewell County) by other heirs to recoup money found by an unnamed and undocumented son of Lewis on the Pittslyvania estate of his father James. But, there is no reason for him to have settled in Halifax County in 1820 on his way from Tazewell to Hawkins County Tennessee.

There is one other Lewis Milam, however, b. about 1751 in Halifax County, the son of Adam Milam and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). This Lewis Milam has all but disappeared from the genealogical record, but perhaps has simply been conflated with the other Lewis Milam. Certainly, appearances of Lewis Milam in nearby Warren Co, NC (in his father Adam’s will in 1789 along with his brothers) as well as his surfacing in Caswell Co., NC in 1790 and Person Co., NC in 1793 suggest that this was not the same Lewis Milam resident in far away Montgomery County at the same time. Instead is was Lewis the son of Adam who had wandered along the NC and VA border before settling in Halifax County, VA..

Ancestry DNA found me cousins that share Lewis's grandfather John as a most recent common ancestor and found me additional cousins who share this Lewis's father as a most recent common ancestor. In addition a known daughter of Lewis, Sarah (Sallie), shows up among DNA cousins.

So, it is likely that it is this Lewis Milam who lived among the Brandons of Halifax County in 1820, age 69 years. Because of his age, DNA results, and obvious relation to the Brandons (and their documented intermarriages with the Lawsons and Irvines), it is probable that Lewis is the grandfather of Celia, and, likely of Allen, Harris, and John, and possibly the father-in-law of Mary Milam.

Lewis children are not well documented, but he and his wife certainly had children during the relevant time period. In fact, his known children bookend the likely birth of the father of Celia perfectly; Sarah (Sally) b. 1782, and Samuel b. 1792.

At least one candidate for Seelia Milam's husband has ben suggested, Ransom Milam. But, it is not obvious he was a son of Lewis, he is documented as marrying another (Polly Hagler), and he moved to Stewart Tennessee with Polly by 1809. So, Celia's father is unlikely to be Ransom.

But, her father is very likely to be a son of Lewis Milam of the NC/VA border region.


Celia Milam is likely the daughter of Unknown (possibly Celia) Brandon, daughter of David Brandon and Cathrine Irvine, and Celia is also likely to be the daughter of an Unknown Milam, son of Lewis Milam and his spouse (maiden name unknown).