The Wives of John (John Jacob) Rector
John K. Gott, John P. Alcock, John Blankenbaker

About 1990, the late John Gott found the incomplete results of a court case in the basement of the Fauquier County, Virginia, Courthouse. This case shows that a major error in the mother of John Rector’s children had been made. In reality, John Rector had two wives and the second one, previously unknown, may have been the mother of most, if not all, of John’s children. In addition other corrections to the Rector history were made. This John Rector (Johannes Richter) was born in Germany in 1711 and was the son of Hans Jacob Richter, the 1714 immigrant. The wife of Hans Jacob Richter was Elizabeth, the daughter of Philipp Fischbach.

How can there be unfiled papers in a courthouse? Usually no filing or recording in the court books is made until the case is complete and closed. If a lawsuit is never concluded, it remains as work pending a resolution and is kept in reserve for the next step in the case. This is not a rare situation and it should be lesson to all. In general, an examination of the loose papers may be merited to complete a search. Some courts have prepared a register of the unfiled papers.

In 1774, the case here commenced with plaintiffs, David Robinson, Henry Rector, Sr. and his wife Ann, Joseph Robinson, and William Howell. The defendants were Catherine Rector, executrix, and Henry Rector, Jr., executor, of the estate of John Rector deceased. David Robinson gave a disposition that his father William Robinson died (date not given) leaving an estate and five children, David (eldest son), Ann, Frances, Joseph, and William, and a wife Catherine who married John Rector. David Robinson claimed no accounting had ever been made of the estate of William Robinson which had been mixed and blended with John Rector’s estate. John Rector in his will left nothing to Catherine’s children. David Robinson was suing the executors (his mother and his half-brother) to recover something for himself and his living full siblings or their representatives. Later, in the course of the suit, his full siblings (Ann, Frances as represented by William Howell, and Joseph) withdrew as plaintiffs and David carried on alone and now named his full siblings as defendants also. Apparently his brother William had died prior to the start of the suit.

Catherine Rector gave testimony, recorded 26 May 1787, that she had married William Robinson and was the mother of his five children as her son David had named. She said also that William Robinson died about 15 April 1723 (one of the troublesome features of the analysis is that this date must be in error). She, Catherine, was the daughter of Charles Taylor who took in the children and the personal estate of William Robinson after the death of William. Then she stated, “That in no very long time after this [she] intermarried with the said John Rector” and they took the children to live with them. Excepting for three wild hogs she had no recollection that any of William Robinson’s estate was transferred from Charles Taylor to John Rector. She claimed the estate “was very inconsiderable” and she went on to defend John Rector’s treatment of David Robinson of which David had complained.

In her disposition, it is worthwhile to notice that two facts were entered after the original document was written. One of these was the first name of her father, Charles. The other was the year of William Robinson’s death, 1723. This suggests that more than two people may have been the source of the information for the disposition, one of whom was not well informed. In David Robinson’s written testimony, he left the date of his father’s death blank.

The suit dragged on for 14 years from 1774 to 1791 when it was dismissed without being recorded. At the start of the suit, summons were issued in the name of George III and at the close they were issued in the name of the Common Wealth of Virginia. Apparently the defendants stalled and missed court appointments and Catherine Rector, Henry Rector, Jr., Henry Rector, Sr. and Ann his wife, Joseph Robinson, and William Howell were held in contempt of court at one time or another.

One item in the file of papers, undated but probably before 26 May 1787, seems to refer to Ex. Catherine Rector and Henry Rector Decd. This is consistent with the will of Henry Rector, the son of John Rector. The disposition by Catherine Rector on 26 May 1787 is consistent with a death about 1789/90. The original lawsuit may have been dismissed in 1791 due to the deaths of the principal defendants and due to a lack of accounting.

Cattren Rector was devised fifty acres in Germantown by the will of John Fishbach, her father, which was written in 1733/34. It is clear that John Rector was married twice and his children are divided between two wives. Accordingly, some time in 1734 would be the earliest that Rector could have remarried after the death of this first wife.

The child of John Rector named Charles was surely a child of Catherine Taylor Robinson Rector since Charles was the name of Catherine Taylor’s father. An analysis of the children and their births shows that Catherine Taylor could not have married John Rector much before 1732. Still, it was possible for her to have married John Rector in 1733. The son Charles and the following children were definitely hers. John Alcock estimates that John Rector, Jr. was the son of Catherine Fishback and probably all of the children after that were the children of Catherine Taylor. For all of the children before Charles, there is some uncertainty as to the mother.

The case also shows that Henry Rector, Sr. (a son of Hans Jacob Richter) was married to Ann(e) Robinson, not to Anne Spencer which had been conjured up to explain the name of their son Spencer. In 1759, Henry Rector, Jr. was a member of the household of Frances Robinson and her husband William Howell. Henry and Frances were probably half-siblings.

John Alcock concluded that Catherine (Taylor) Robinson was the second wife of John Rector and the mother of most and perhaps all of his children. Mr. Alcock admits that proof is lacking that John Rector of Rectortown might not have been the John Rector who was the son of Hans Jacob Richter. (There are cases of confusion between distinctly different John Rectors.)

More details and analysis are provided in two articles in Beyond Germanna. The first is volume 2, the number 1 issue (January 1990) and the second is in volume 6, number 6 issue (November 1994).

Findings like this shake up one’s belief that there is certainty in genealogy. How many cases may there be in your family where, if the complete knowledge were known, a requirement for alterations in your history might be required?

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