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Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Prayer Book of Rachel Keeling Row

     Recently my cousin and fellow researcher, Deborah Humphries, had occasion to visit Charlottesville, Virginia. While she was there she made good use of her time by stopping in at the Special Collections Department at the UVA Library to do some research. What Deborah found there is perhaps the most significant document regarding the history of my Row ancestors we have found to date.
     What Deborah uncovered were pages from The Book of  Common Prayer once owned by Rachel Keeling Row (1754-c.1829), wife of Thomas Row (1754-1840). They were my great great great grandparents. Deborah reports that the pages themselves are quite small, measuring about three inches by six inches. At some point one of the original pages went missing and a photocopy was substituted. The entries are apparently written by the hands of at least three persons--Rachel and Thomas Row and an unidentified relative who added information after 1840.
     The pages from this book are a record of the births of Thomas and Rachel Row's thirteen children, who came into this world over a span of twenty three years, 1775-1798. If this family record were all that existed in the archive this would be a very exciting and historically significant artifact. But what makes these pages from the prayer book special indeed are the entries documenting the births of the slaves at Row's Mill, the ancestral family farm in Orange County, for a period of forty six years, 1793-1839.
     Below are the high resolution images of these tiny pages taken by Deborah while at the University's library. I have presented them in their entirety followed by a transcription that Deborah and I worked on together. I have made no attempt to correct spelling or punctuation. Anything in the transcription that is unclear to me is contained within brackets with a question mark. The citation for the originals is: Keeling, Rowe and Farish Family Papers, 1765-1877, Accession #11144, Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library. The library generously gave me permission to present the scanned images of the originals for today's post.
     Any errors in the transcription are mine alone. If any of my sharp eyed readers can offer suggestions on some of the more difficult entries I would be glad to hear from you.

Rachel Keeling
Rachel Keeling
his prayer
Rachel Keeling
her hand and
pas she will
writ good
But I can't
tel [when?]

1 William Row son of
   Thomas & Rachel was
   Born November 7th 1775

2 Edmund Row was
   Born October 1st 1777

3 Milley Row was born
   August 26 day 1779

4 Thomas Row was
   born 4th day of October
   in the year of our Lord

5 Rachel Row was
   Born March the 1

6 Keeling Row
   February 25th day 1785

7 Jincey Row born
   November 1 day 1786

8 Elizabeth Row
   was born February
   the 15 day 1789

9 Carlton Row was
   June the 12 day 1790

10 Hettie Row Born
     February 25th day 1792

11 John Row was born
     April 9th Day 1794
     and Departed this
     life August 24th 1795

Absolum Row was
born Decr 13th 1796

Elhanon Row Born
August the 23rd 1798

Rachel Keeling
daughter of Carlton
Row was born
May the 4th 1819

Edmund Row son of Thos
& Rachel Row born the
1st day of October 1777
and died the 14th of May
in the year 1797

Carlton Row died
on the 6th day of March
in the year 1820

Jincy Roach Daughter
of Thos & Rachel Row
died on the 26 day of
February 1843

Milley Gaines Daughter
of Thos & Rachel Row died
31st May 1848

Negroe Amey was
born March 12th Day 1793

Negro Sylva was born
February 1st day 1795

Priman born Feby 3 1806

Negroe Sharlot was
Born May 21st day 179[6?]

Negroe Roose Born
January 19th 1798

Negro Dauphney Born
September 18th 1799

Negroe Ben Born
October 19th 1801

Negro Edey born Sept
the 7th 1803

Moriah daughter
of Amey born June
the 2nd 1815

Ned son of Amey
born June 22 1817

Catey daughter of
Jude born Nov 7 1817

Jesse son of Amey
Born May 11th 1819

Simon son of Rose
 born August 20th 1819

Charles son of Amey
born May the 1st day 1821

Peter Born the
9th of June 1823

Zoe Born March
the 22 1825

Robert Born Feby
[?]  1827

John Born Decr 27

Henrietta Born Jany
the 13th 1828

Roger Born Feby
the 9th 1829

Betsey Daughter of
Rose born July 26 1829

Anne Daughter of
Rose born July 7th 1831

Siller Daughter of
Eadey born Decr 15th 1831

Sawney son of
Aggy Born June 21st

Edmund Son of
Edey born June
the 29th 1833

Hannah Daughter
of Rose born 16th July
Lucy born the same
day of Rose-1834

Mary daughter
 of Eadey born Nov
the 22nd 1834

Sarah daughter
of Aggy born Decr 25th

Charles son of
Moriah born Sept
the 10th 1835

Peter son of Eadey
born April 20 1836

Frank & Feby son
& daughter of Rose
born March the 24 1837

Amey daughter of
Moriah born May the
14 1837

Rebeccah daughter of
Eadey born Feby the
29th in the year 1838

George son of Aggy
born October the 1st

Matilda Daughter of
Moriah Born Feby
the 25th 1839

Bette daughter of
Eadey born
October the 10 1839

     I hope to learn more about all these people, both slave and free, during my upcoming trip to Virginia. For now I will leave you with a transcription of Thomas Row's will done many years ago by distant cousin Marie Clark. By comparing the names of the slaves above with some shown below we get a sense of their fates after the death of Thomas Row in March 1840.


  1. What a treasure. I am very happy for your family to have reconnected with this important record. I look forward to your continued investigation.

  2. Pat! Thank you for this post. I just want to clarify one thing. The Special Collections at UVA does not allow scanners in the research area. The documents are fragile and they want to preserve them for as long as possible. That said, I was able to handle these pages freely. They were indeed VERY delicate. I used my iPhone and a special HDR photo ap in order to manipulate the contrast/depth to photograph each page (no flash obviously).

    I was in complete awe of the pages I was handling given the age and importance of what's written on them. Rachel Keeling had a strong and lasting influence on her family and descendants. Just think how far down the various lines the Keeling name has been carried. I want to say she was a rare only child, but I can't be sure. I also cannot wait to read what you find next Pat.

  3. My uncle Paul Atkins tells me this is a rare artifact since the Rowe family recorded slave births along with family births.

  4. I'm so blown away by the prayer book pages. What an awesome find. But most of all thanks for sharing your treasure, your facts & insight! I started researching my maiden name of Rowe about 15 years ago when we first got a home computer. I typed in "I'm bored" & clicked on Genealogy under things to do on the computer. My life has never been the same . LOL. From the info I've gathered so far, I believe I am descended from William...Rachel & Thomas' oldest. married to Elizabeth Garr. A new big question forming in my mind, is why did William leave Orange? After reading your blog & seeing the slave names listed & Thomas'!!!

  5. Thanks for reading, Beth. I agree that these pages are really quite something for us Row descendants. My guess is that the children of Thomas Row who migrated to Kentucky and Illinois did so in search of cheaper, richer farm land. I have found more papers relating to Thomas Row during a recent trip to Virginia and will be posting that information in due course. Stay tuned!

    1. Hi Pat,

      Thanks much for your research and for posting these amazing images. I am also descended from Thomas and Rachel. Please keep me posted. My site is

      Steve Rice

    2. Thank you Steve. I will be looking at at your genealogy site.

    3. Larry Wilson ui1969@gmail.comFebruary 10, 2016 at 5:16 PM

      Pat, I too am a 4xggrandson of Thomas Rowe. My family was one that went to Illinois. James Wilson married Hetty Rowe, (Th and Rachel's granddaughter) in KY in 1831 and went to Illinois about 1840. I now live in SC but will be in the Charlottesville area 2/15 and 16.It sounds like you may have some interesting material. I have an extensive amount on my side and am stickler for accuracy but share willingly. Are you willing to share or discuss what you have?

    4. I will be glad to share information with you, but cannot reach you at the email address you provided. Please write to me at

  6. I will be in Richmond/Charlottesville next week doing some research. I will
    get there just after lunch 2-22, am tied up the morning of 2/23 and free on
    the 24th. I hardly know where to start to ask you questions but it is
    obvious we have many ancestors in common. I live in SC and will be in a
    hotel so I am flexible when there. What does your schedule look like?

    1. Larry - I also live in South Carolina. Where are you?

  7. Dear Pat,
    Rachel Keeling, 1754-1829, was my 5th great grandmother. No one in my family talked about the family history and I didn't have any documents or pictures. I found a 2nd and a 3rd cousin who had names and dates and I'm piecing together my tree with documents on Ancestry, Familysearch, etc. I was so excited to see your documentation. I'm on, and I've done DNA testing with the 3 major companies and I'm on If you've done any testing I'd love to compare DNA. My son has also tested.