James Kenyon White (1845-1925)

Research Project

We have established this research project to attempt to clarify the conflicting information posted about James Kenyon White's marriages and children. All family researchers are invited to participate. Updates and summaries of the information gathered will be posted here for public access and use.

Our primary questions:

  • Did James have four wives or five? If five, who is the unknown wife? When were they married and did they have children?
  • Who is the mother of John Freeman White?

Our secondary questions:

  • Which of our conclusions can be confirmed? Challenged?
  • What missing information can be discovered? More complete information about dates and places of birth? Of death and burial? Of the ancestry of James' wives?
  • Do any photos exist of James and/or his wives?

How We're Connected

Stephen Davis is the grandson of S C Davis and Emma Cordelia White, daughter of James Kenyon White and Martha Grant. Stephen has DNA matched to multiple descendants of James Kenyon White and to descendants of relatives of Martha Grant.


James White was born 15 July 1845 in Warm Springs, Meriwether County, GA - the fifth of six known children of James and Elizabeth White. We've chosen to use the 1845 DOB because that's the date James himself reported in 1921. However, his gravestone is marked July 15, 1846.

James served as a Private in the Civil War from 1862 until General Johnston's surrender in May 1865 that helped end the conflict.

James lived in the following places during his life:

  • Meriwether County GA - 1850, 1860, 1870 Census
  • Valley Plains, Harris County, GA - 1880 Census
  • Moved his family from west GA to east AL in 1884 - AL Census of Confederate Soldiers
  • Tallassee, Elmore County, AL - 1900 Census
  • Tallapoosa County, AL - 1910 Census
  • Shawmut, Chambers County, AL - 1920 Census

James died in Shawmut, AL on 15 Feb 1925, where he is also buried.

Marriages and Children

There is quite a bit of mis-information circulating about James, his four or five wives and twelve (at least) children. For that reason, we present a far more detailed analysis than is usually the case. Corrections and alternative theories are greatly appreciated.

Primary Record Sources

We have a number of information sources available to us, but they provide an incomplete set of information:

  • U.S. Census Records: 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920
  • Three marriage records
  • Alabama Census of Confederate Soldiers - especially page 2
  • 1976 recollections of Quintilla Verna (Strength) Smith

How Many Wives? Four? Or Five?

Most researchers have identified (or partly identified) four wives for James. However, his great-grandaughter, Quintilla Verna (Strength) Smith (1909-1988), wrote in 1976 that he'd married five times. She named Mattie Huey as his fifth (and final) wife and Lucinda as his fourth (second-to-last) wife. She reports that her grandmother, Laura Alzora White, was the oldest of his ten children to live to adulthood - but doesn't mention the names of JK's first three wives.

One of the goals of this project is to identify the possible missing wife. No other evidence suggests that one exists, but it's very difficult to prove a negative.

Marriage Dates

If James in fact had five wives instead of four, one or two of these first three estimates could be very wrong. Here is our best guess of the names of James' four wives and their times of marriage:

  • Nancy Rebecca Baily (name could be wrong): 1865 (est.) to 1871 (est.)
  • Martha Beatricia A. Grant: 3 Oct 1876 to 1890 (est.)
  • Lucinda Smart: 30 Apr 1893 to 1906 (est.)
  • Martha S. "Mattie" Griggs: Sep 1908 to 1925 (James' death)

List of Children

James had at least twelve children, across at least three of his wives. He had no children with his final wife, Mattie. This is our current understanding of the complete set of James' children, and the Census Reports in which they appeared. Corrections and additional information are greatly appreciated. Click the image below to enlarge if needed:

Assigning Children to Mothers

Usually it's a pretty simple task to determine which child is born by which wife. However, we run into many problems here due to multiple marriages, missing marriage records, incomplete marriage records, missing death records - and perhaps even a missing wife. We have attempted to identify the mothers of JK's known and presumed children despite these obstacles. Many questions remain, but we believe this to be the closest-to-accurate accounting available.

Information will be updated as missing pieces are uncovered by research contributors.

First Recorded Wife: Nancy

It appears from the 1870 Census that a woman named Nancy, born about 1849 in GA, was probably JK's first wife. No marriage records have been found nor has a source of her maiden name. Most researchers identify her as Nancy Rebecca Baily, but the source of that conclusion is unclear. We do know that a Nancy Baily, who was born about 1849, was recorded in the 1850 Census as living in Meriwether County GA.

Researchers also report that Nancy died about 1871, but no source for that information has been discovered. For example, no Nancy White or Nannie White (of an appropriate age) has been recorded as being buried in any Georgia or Alabama cemetery between 1870 and 1878.

Assuming that Nancy was JK's first wife and that she died about 1871, it seems likely that she was the mother of:

  • Laura Alzora "Allie" White Meadows: 1866 to 1931 - also seen name as Zoallah
  • Almedia "Meta" White Thomas: 1868 to about 1915 (very rough estimate of death)
  • Frances Eugenia "Jeanie" White Harris: 1870 to 1940
  • Gains White: About 1871 to ?

It is very possible that Nancy died giving birth to Gains in about 1871, but there's no known evidence supporting that. Gains (Gaines?), however, was included in the 1880 Census, so we know he lived until at least age 9 (and perhaps well beyond.)

Second Recorded Wife: Martha A. (Beatricia?) Grant

We know a number of things about a Martha:

  1. According to their Harris County GA marriage certificate, Miss Martha A. Grant was married to James K. White on 3 Oct 1876.
  2. Martha White, born about 1849 in GA, was named in the 1880 Census with James White, residing in Valley Plains, Harris, GA.
  3. Martha Beatricia White was named as the mother of Emma C. (White) Davis on Emma's 1958 Alabama death certificate.

We don't know Martha's date of death, nor when and why their marriage ended. However, her Davis and White descendants are DNA matches to many descendants of her Grant cousins. In addition to Emma, we can safely conclude that Martha was the mother of Mattie.

Who was the Mother of John Freeman White?

The mother of Freeman White isn't known. Freeman's date of birth of 12 May 1876 in Meriwether County GA presents many possibilities, some of which include:

  1. Nancy did not die until 1876 and Freeman is her son.
  2. The "missing" wife was James's second wife, not Martha, and Freeman is the missing wife's son.
  3. John was born out of wedlock to James and Martha, who married five months after his birth.

For now, we have assumed that Martha is Freeman's mother, but hope to develop a more complete understanding. With that caveat, Martha is the mother of:

  • John Freeman White: 1876 to 1925
  • Mattie B. White Johnston: 1878 to 1931
  • Emma Cordelia White Davis: 1887 to 1958

Third Recorded Wife: Lucinda Smart

We know more about Lucinda than any of James' other wives, including:

  1. Born in Aug 1866 in Coosa County, AL
  2. Full information about her parents as well as her many siblings and half-siblings
  3. Lucinda Smart married James on 30 Apr 1893 in Coosa County AL. She was 26; he was 47.

James' final five children may have all been born by Lucinda - or perhaps some by the "missing" wife:

  • James Cleveland "Jim" White: 1894 to 1953
  • Susan "Sudie" White Howard: 1897 to 1963
  • Christine E "Tener" White Prather: 1899 to 1982
  • Emerson Harvel White Sr: 1902 to 1954
  • Leves L White: 1906 to ?

Fourth Recorded Wife: Martha S. "Mattie" Griggs

Although we don't have the exact date and place of their marriage, James reported in 1921 that he was married to Mattie in Sep 1908. No new children were listed in the 1910 or 1920 Census.

Children Living to Adulthood

JK recorded on 21 Feb 1921 in the Alabama Census of Confederate Soldiers that he had nine living children on that date:

  • Mrs. Allie Meadows - Shawmut AL
  • Mrs. Jeanie Harris - Equality AL
  • Freeman White - Shawmut AL - cripple
  • Mrs. Mattie Johnston - Phenix City AL
  • Mrs. Emma Davis - Shawmut AL
  • Jim White - Shawmut AL
  • Mrs. Sudie Howard - Shawmut AL
  • Miss Christine White - Shawmut AL
  • Harvel White - Shawmut AL

A tenth child who lived to adulthood was Mrs. Almedia "Meta" Thomas, who died after 1910, probably in Columbus GA before 1920.

Census Records

James appears in every U.S. Census from 1850 to 1920 (1890 records were destroyed in a fire.) He lived with his parents in 1850 and 1860, but with his current wife and a number of children in every subsequent Census.

1870 Census

James and his wife Nancy lived in Chalybeate Springs in Meriwether County, GA with their children. Numbers shown are approximate ages at the time of the Census.

  • James White 24
  • Nancy White 21
  • Zoalla White 4
  • Almeda White 2
1880 Census

James and his wife Martha lived in Valley Plains in Harris County, GA.

  • J. K. White 35
  • Martha White 34
  • Allice White 15
  • Meta White 12
  • Genia White 10
  • Gains White 8
  • Freeman White 5
  • Mattie B. White 2
1900 Census

James and his wife Lucinda lived in Tallassee in Elmore County, AL.

  • James K White 53
  • Lucindy White 32 -
  • Jams C White 7
  • Susie White 3
  • Tener White 6 mo - Christina?
  • Emma C White 12 - listed as a step-daughter; perhaps of Lucinda?
1910 Census

James and his wife Martha S. White had been married about on year. They lived in Tallassee in Elmore County, AL. Martha was born about 1867 in Alabama; her parents were both born in Georgia.

  • James K White 63
  • Martha S White 43
  • James White 15
  • Susan White 14
  • Gena White 12
  • Harvel White 8
  • Leves L White 4
1920 Census

James lived in Shawmut in Chambers County, AL. No wife is listed, but he is shown as married.

  • J K White 74
  • James White 25
  • Jena White 20
  • Harvel White 17
  • May White 18
  • J H Howard 26
  • Ludie Howard 23

Note that Ludie Howard is JK's daughter; JH is her husband. Harvel is JK's son; May (Mae) is Harvel's wife.

Are we related?

Here are the GEDmatch Kit #s for my father and mother:

GI: A909282
CL: A216073

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