Marty and Karla Grant
William Hensley (1612-1654) of Accomack and Northampton Co., VA
Special thanks to Ruthe Muench, Laura Schreibman and Suzanne Baird for data shared on this family.
I don’t know how I’m related to William Hensley. He could be an ancestor (and distant namesake) of my ancestor William Hensley (c1730s-c1807). However, it seems unlikely, for when this older William died in 1654, he left a Will, but didn’t mention any children. Therefore he may not have had any.
As there were numerous William Hensleys in Virginia before 1800, you should refer to my analysis page on that subject. However, this William seemed to exist during a time when no other Hensleys were in Virginia, so there is little room for confusion.
William Hindsley, age 23, arrived in Jamestown around Aug 1635, transported by Mr. John Graunt on the ship “Safety.” (New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. XV, 1861).
That age and date work out to a birth date of ca 1612. It seems highly likely that William Hensley was born in England, as most of the earliest settlers were from there.
We don’t know if the above William is the same one who began appearing in Accomack County records six years later, but it certainly seems feasible.
Accomack (then spelled Accawmack) was a new county formed in 1634 on the eastern shore of Virginia, on the peninsula now shared with Maryland and Delaware.
On 31 Mar 1642, William Hensley, made an agreement with William Stevens, Boatwright to sharecrop on Stevens’ land. (Accomack County Court Records 1640-1645, pg. 96, shared by Tom Hensley.)
On 28 Apr 1642, Samuel Chaundler of London, Merchant, sold a cow to William Hensley of Virginia, Planter. (County Court Records of Accomack-Northampton, Virginia 1640-1645, by Susie M. Ames, 1973 p. 176.)
In 1643 Accawmack County was renamed Northampton County.
William is mentioned in court records in Northampton in 1645, 1646, 1647, 1648, and 1650.
In Aug, 1651, William Hensley of Accomacke, Northampton County, Planter, sold a cow to William Stanley. (Orders, Deeds, Wills - Vol 4 1651-1654 pg.116, shared by Suzanne Baird.)
On 3 Jan 1654, William, apparently being quite sick, made a deed of gift, if he should die, to the youngest daughter of Mr. William Andrews, Jr, the child who was born 1 Jan 1654. (Just 3 days old!). Witnessed by Ann Stevens and William Stevens, Jr. (Deeds and Wills Book No. 5 Northampton Co. 1654-1655, p. 67, shared by Suzanne Baird.)
The next day, 4 Jan 1654, William made his Last Will and Testament. He left everything to Ann Stephens, wife of William Stephens and to her son and daughter William and Ann. He named Ann, wife of William Stephens, as his sole executor. Witnessed by Edward Douglas, Peter Walker, Thomas Sprigg and Thomas Hunt. (Deeds and Wills Book No. 5 Northampton Co. 1654-1655, p. 81.)
He must have died very soon after, for the Will was proven in court the same month.
On 25 May 1654, Ann Stephens, Executrix of William Hinsley, deceased, delivered the cow William gifted to William Andrews Jr.’s daughter Elizabeth. (Deeds and Wills Book No. 5 Northampton Co. 1654-1655, p. 67 shared by Suzanne Baird.)
One might conclude that Ann, wife of William Stephens, was William Hensley’s daughter. Likewise for William Andrews, Jr.’s unnamed wife. Why else would William Hensley leave her child a cow, and everything else to Ann Stephens?
However, that might not be a safe assumption since no relationships were stated in the Will, nor in the deed of gift. We can say they were implied, but that is a big assumption. William Hensley would have been about 42 at the time of his death, so he easily could have had two married daughters and a few grandchildren by that time.
If William was a bachelor, or widowed without surviving children, it would make sense for him to leave what little estate he had to friends if there was no family around to leave it to.
There is also the possibility that the two ladies in question were Hensley’s sisters and not his daughters. Of course that would also be an assumption based upon scant evidence.
Unfortunately there are no other records to examine for William. Furthermore, no other Hensleys appear to have lived in this county at the time or after William’s death.
My conclusion is that he had no children, with the possible exception of Ann Stephens and Mrs. William Andrews Jr.
If I’m correct, then William Hensley is not the patriarch of the Virginia Hensleys. He might be related to those who came later of course, but we don’t even know that.
As noted above, we have no proof for any children for William Hensley.
Perhaps Ann, wife of William Stephens, and Mrs. William Andrews, Jr., are his daughters, but we have no direct proof of that. More research might clear that up.
Revised: September 3, 2021