Barefoot, Brinley, Morgan, Robinson, Ross, Sheldon, Wells
A Ross By Any Other Name .....…Sharon Sheldon
Over 100 years after her death, a new marker was erected at the Bedford Co., PA grave of our ancestor, Rebecca (Ross) Barefoot, claiming she was the granddaughter of George Ross, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Family tradition stated that she was the daughter of Col. James Ross, a Revolutionary War veteran and son of George Ross. A number of family members joined the DAR or SAR claiming lineage through Col. James Ross and "George the Signer." Among the records cited in support were the grave marker and other secondary sources such as the Barefoot reunion brochures.
In 1997, my distant cousin Becky Barefoot and I decided to research our common ancestor, Benjamin Barefoot of Chester Co., PA who had married this Rebecca Ross in 1787. Their eldest son, James Barefoot, moved to Bedford Co., PA in 1809. We could find little information regarding the life of Benjamin Barefoot. We therefore decided to look more closely at Rebecca's family, thinking that perhaps her well-documented family would give us clues to our Barefoots. Ironically, the opposite happened. The more we read about the Ross family, the more uncomfortable we became with Rebecca's assumed place among them: despite
diligent research we had never seen a reference to the possibility of James having an eldest daughter named Rebecca in the many works written up about this Ross family.
Among our family records are photocopies of pages from Rebecca Ross's prayer book, which she bought in 1785. The entries in the prayer book record her marriage, the birth of her children, and an unexplained death record: that of a man named William Ross, who died on February 9, 1818. None of our family records explained the relationship of William Ross to Rebecca Ross. Nor could we find proof of him as part of "The Signer's" family.
In June 1997, I sifted through the contents of the "George Ross the Signer" proof file at the DAR Library. There was nothing in the file that proved or disproved a connection to our family. Then I came across a copy of a typewritten page from a genealogy compiled by Robert Brinley that had the following information underlined in red pencil: "…[Mary Ann Ross] was the sister of William Ross…died February 9, 1818…
Mary's sister, Rebecca Ross, married into the Bearfoot [sic] family…" Could this be the William from Rebecca's prayer book!? Suddenly we had indications of THREE Ross siblings (Rebecca, William and Mary Ann), none whom could be documented as children of Col. James Ross.
Robert Brinley's book also stated that William Ross and most of the family of Mary Ann Ross Brinley were buried in Morgantown, Caernarvon Twp., Berks Co., PA. According to tax records, there was a James Ross (who also served in the Revolution) who lived in Morgantown during this time period with his wife Ruth (Robinson) Ross. Ruth's father, William Robinson died in 1768. In his will, William Robinson left his daughter, Ruth Ross, 45 acres of land in Caernarvon Twp., Berks Co., PA. This land was described as being adjacent to that of Col. Jacob Morgan, who employed a household servant named Martha "Patty" Barefoot who was later freed from her indenture by Col. Morgan's 1792 will. Patty had been in residence at the Morgan household from 1779. Now we had evidence of a Ross family who lived next door to a property where there was at least one Barefoot in residence. In Chester Co., we also found a will that had been filed for William Ross who died in 1818. These estate papers stated that William Ross was survived by three sisters: Margaret Ross Wells, Mary Ann Ross Brinley and Rebecca Ross Barefoot. We now had proof in primary source documents, that Rebecca Ross had at least three siblings, but still had no proof connecting them to Col. James Ross of Lancaster County. Moreover, the information we found in various sources regarding Col. James Ross's life appeared to be consistent in stating that he had, at most, four children: George, Catherine, Maria, and James.
We have presented this information to the Barefoot family genealogists so that future editions of the published family history can omit the erroneous information claiming direct descendancy from Col. James Ross and "George the Signer." To date, however, we have been met with silence. Most recently, one of my letters was published in the family newsletter, but only after the editor had excised all information relating to the erroneous Ross lineage.
Nothing would have made Becky and me happier than finding conclusive proof, or even some firm basis for believing, that we are descended from such a prominent figure as George Ross. I would suggest that a good rule of thumb in research is not to believe something just because it is published in a family history, printed on a tombstone, or has been accepted as fact by your family for many years.
While we now have the task of working on a line that we thought was 'completed,' we feel good about reuniting, at least on paper, our Rebecca with the people she really knew and loved.
By Sharon Sheldon
Direct descendant of Benjamin Barefoot & Rebecca Ross
If you are interested in contacting Sharon with questions or comments on the Barefoot - Ross family, her address is:
If you are researching a Bedford County family and would like to list the family and where
they lived prior to coming to Bedford County, I will be happy to post it.
Please contact me at: