Bembry Blitz Pays Off: Thomas Bembry’s Wife Now Has a Name!

Last week I visited the Daughters of the American Revolution genealogy library here in Washington, DC, and hit the motherlode.

My focus for the afternoon was to find all the Bembry references I could locate in the North Carolina counties that I knew were associated with the family. So, I went through all the indexes for Bertie, Edgecombe, Martin and Halifax counties and found many deeds, estate records and other items which I will now need a couple of weeks to incorporate into my tree!

The biggest surprise (that I wasn’t even searching for) was a series of indexed probate records for Nathan Harris of Edgecombe county. In his will, he clearly names a grandchild, Patsey Dicken, as the wife of Thomas Bembry. Many online trees have Patsey as his wife, but I have never seen any primary evidence for this and so have been reluctant to include her in my own tree. FINALLY, I have the document that proves this relationship!

Estate records of Edgecombe County North Carolina 1820-1850 Vol II

pp 109-110

Harris (Harriss), Nathan, division of negroes agreeable to the will into five lots for his grandchildren to wit: 1.) Frances Dicken who is of age; 2.) Thomas Bembry in right of his wife Patsey; 3.) , 4.), 5.), the three younger children, Matthew, Ephraim, and William Dicken, April 26, 1821, May Ct. 1821.

Account current with Elias Bryan, exr., began with the boarding of three male children for the year 1820. Paid for “schooling” Matthew and Ephraim Dicken and board for Frances Dicken. Thos. Bembry was allowed to board for his wife Patsey for part of 1819 and 1820, May ct. 1821.

Receipt of Thomas Bembry to Elias Bryan who was formerly guardian to his wife Patsey, formerly Patsey Dicken, in full for their part of the estate of Nathan Harriss, dec’d, Jan. 1, 1821, August ct. 1821.

Settlement with the guardian by commissioners for the accounts of the three youngest legatees, viz., Matthew, William, and Ephraim Dicken, grandchildren of Nathan Harris, dec’d. Feb. ct. 1822.

Account current with Dempsey Bryan and Henry Bryan, exrs. of Elias Bryan, decd., who was guardian to said estate May ct. 1822.

Account current of William Dicken in acccount with Exum Lewis, exr. Audit and settlement of account of Exum Lewis, acting as former guardian to Matthew, Ephraim and William Dicken, children of Richard Dicken, with Kenneth Bembry, their present guardian, from Jan. 1 1823 to Jan. 1 1827, May ct. 1827.

Division of negroes among Matthew Dicken, Ephraim Dicken and William Dicken so as to allot a proportionate part to said Matthew Dicken, Jan. 4 1830, May ct. 1830.

Division of negroes between Ephraim Dicken and William Dicken, a minor, both heirs of Nathan Harriss, dec.d, Jan 4, 1832, Feb ct. 1832.

Now I know that Patsey’s father was Richard Dicken, her mother’s maiden name was Harris, and her siblings were named Frances, Matthew, Ephraim, and William. I also know that her maternal grandfather’s name was Nathan Harris.  Could Thomas N., Patsey’s son and my ancestor, have been named Thomas Nathan? It seems likely.

Furthermore, I found this estate record for Ephraim Dicken, Patsey’s brother, in which he names Henry L. Bembry, Thomas N.’s younger brother as his nephew. This shows that Patsey was in fact alive until at least 1843, and was therefore definitely Thomas N.’s mother as well, as opposed to Mary Savage, Thomas’ second wife, who is found on the 1850 census.

Abstracts of Wills, Halifax County, North Carolina, 1825-1854

p. 48

Ephraim H. Dicken

My executors are to dispose of my estate in the manner they deem proper. Proceeds of sale to be divided as follows: on fourth to the heirs of my nephew William Dicken, decd., balance to be divided between my nieces Laura E. Lewis and Elizabeth Ray, Elizabeth’s part to be held by executor and she is to receive $100 annually. To my nephew Henry L. Benbury one half of my real estate and personal property and one half of my money and notes. The other one-half is to be sold with the proceeds divided among my heirs.

Records of Loose Estates, Halifax County, NC Vol 1

p. 28

Dickens Ephraim H. D. Edmondson having refused to qualify as exr., Noah Biggs was appt. admr. Feb 12 1877. Heirs were Henry L Benbry (age 33) the heirs of William Dickens, Laura E. Lewis, Elizabeth Ray (wife of William T. Ray of Madison County, FL), J.H. Anderson and Alice his wife and Lucy Dicken. The said Laura Lewis was a resident of Dooly County, GA.

(The Elizabeth and Laura mentioned may be Thomas’s daughters by the same names, but I haven’t looked into this yet.)

These records answer another question: I had found a record of Henry L. Bembry in Halifax County in 1880 a while back. All the information matched up, but I could not for the life of me figure out what he would be doing back in North Carolina at that time. The answer is now clear: he went back to claim his inheritance from his uncle Ephraim.

It does not answer the question of why Ephraim would have settled so much on one nephew and apparently left nothing to Patsey’s other sons, John and Thomas N. Bembry!

So, now I have a whole new branch of the family to research. A family that seems to have had close ties to the Bembrys (note that Thomas’ brother, Kenneth, was also named guardian to Patsey’s little brothers) and may eventually lead to more discoveries as to their origins.



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