A few weeks ago I attended the Roberts family reunion in Owensboro, Kentucky. This reunion brought together the descendants of Joseph Lawrence Roberts, my wife's great-grandfather. Joseph Lawrence had 11 children, 8 that lived to adulthood. All 8 of those children have now died, the last, Paul, passing in April of this year. However, the Roberts family is still very much thriving. We had dozens of Roberts cousins attend. Four spouses of the Roberts children are still alive and three of them attended the reunion. The oldest Roberts there was Catherine Roberts, age 93, widow of Manuel Roberts. She is in excellent health and I think she may even have driven herself to the reunion! Here are some pictures from the reunion.
At the reunion, Roy Roberts, son of Roy Gilbert Roberts and Ruth Taylor Roberts, presented each family with a book of the family's genealogy. Roy's book contains a lot of interesting stories about the family and paints a portrait of what life was like for a rural Kentucky family in the early 20th century. I contributed a bit to the book, mostly by referring Roy to other Roberts researchers who had far better and more detailed information than me. Since the Roberts family already has this detailed information on their family, I am merely going to post a summary of my findings on the Roberts family instead of my usual posting that includes source documents:
The earliest confirmed ancestor of the Roberts family is a John Roberts who died in 1724 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Family tradition is that this John Roberts was from Wales, but like most early Virginia settlers, it is impossible to tell where he was from as few colonial documents recorded this information.
John Roberts and his wife Elizabeth Trammell had at least five children. One son, John Jr., lived to be about 100 years old. We do not have exact dates for his life, but we know that he was born prior to 1703, and he is mentioned in an 1802 letter as being "one of the oldest residents in the county." He may have been over 100 when he died. He and his wife Elizabeth Russell had at least four children.
John Jr.'s son Benjamin was born in about 1741. He served as a Sergeant in the General George Rogers Clark's Illinois Regiment in the Revolutionary War from 1779 to 1782. This was the group that headed west to defend settlers on the frontier from Indian allies of the British.
It appears that Sgt. Benjamin signed up with Gen. Clark with the intention to permanently move to Kentucky. Three days after enlisting, he sold his land in Culpeper county, Virginia, and his family likely followed the army west.
Once in Kentucky, Sgt. Benjamin was part of the expedition that established a fort at the Falls of the Ohio, which was the founding of the city of Louisville. Also present in the expedition were several of Sgt. Benjamin's cousins, including the confusingly similar Captain Benjamin Roberts, son of George Roberts. Many researchers (including myself) have mistaken these two, as they were about the same age, from the same county, and both married to women named Anne (hence the reason I refer to him as "Sgt. Benjamin").
During his service, Sgt. Benjamin filed for a land grant for land in Jefferson County, Virginia that eventually became a part of Henry county, Kentucky. His wife, Anne Duncan, died shortly after arriving in Kentucky in 1780. Sgt. Benjamin remained on his land in Henry county for the rest of his life, and died after 1810. Sgt. Benjamin and Ann had 8 children.
Sgt. Benjamin's son James was born in 1766 in Culpeper county, Virginia. He moved to Henry county, Kentucky with his parents in 1780 and then on to Daviess county, Kentucky around the time his father died after 1810. James was married twice in Henry county. James and his first wife, whose name is unknown, had three sons, James, Merry, and Benjamin. His second wife, Elizabeth, had two sons, Willis and Henry. All five sons moved with their father to Daviess county to the village of Yelvington. James died there in 1822.
James's son Benjamin was born about 1793 in Henry county. Moved to Yelvington in Daviess county prior to 1820. In 1821, he married Rebecca Frazier, daughter of James and Nancy Frazier. The had seven children, and lived in Yelvington their entire lives.
One of Benjamin's sons, Marion Franklin, known as Frank, was a bricklayer in the Knottsville area in Hancock county, Kentucky, who helped build one of the first Catholic schools in that area. On May 9, 1917, at age 80, Frank converted to Catholocism. He died at age 88 in 1924 and is buried at St. Lawrence Catholic Cemetery in Maceo, Kentucky along with his wife, Arilia Ann (Relly Ann) Bowlds, daughter of William N. Bowlds and Sarah Pickerell. Frank and Relly Ann had six sons and five daughters. Their son Joseph Lawrence, born July 6, 1881, married Anges Maud Hartley on January 2, 1909. It is the descendants of their children that attended the Roberts family reunion. Most of their descendants still live in Daviess and Hancock counties, Kentucky.