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
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?