Death Date for Thomas Willis Farley

Thomas Willis Farley was born 26 January 1841 in Buckingham County, Virginia. His father was James Henry Farley. His mother was Catherine F. Roberts, who fell over dead of a heart attack across Thomas’s crib when he was six months old.

Thomas grew up in Buckingham, and attended Hampden-Sydney College, and served with the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He married Nancy “Nannie” Montgomery Rigg and they had 10 children.

1900-census-nannie-farleyOne of the first records I found for Nannie (and Thomas) is the 1900 U. S. Federal Census for Kanawha County, WV, on which Thomas does not appear at all, and shows his wife Nannie as widowed. I had his date of death noted as “bef 1900” for many years. Then over the last few years I stumbled across several sources which jointly establish his date of death  as 26 July 1903.

farley-bible-deathsFirst, the family Bible shows this date. Second, his gravestone is inscribed with 1903 (though not the month/date). And third, his daughter Francis Folsom Farley (“Aunt Aggie”) recalls 1903 as the year during a recorded family conversation in the 1970s.


farley-thomas-willis-obit-1903The obituary shown here (publication unknown) does show 26 July (but no year).




The 1900 census remains a mystery. Nannie is documented as having given birth to 6 children, with 5 still living. Nannie and Thomas were parents to 12 children total, 9 still living in 1900. And her marriage status is initially set as “married” then marked out as “widowed.” Daughter Frankie is listed as a son (understandable) with 1885 as the birth year (instead of the the correct 1886). So there are many mistakes here — the most I’ve seen on one record for a family for which I am fairly confident on the details. It serves as a good reminder that these records are not always 100% accurate.

Leave a Reply