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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tracing the Kentucky/Virginia William/Samuel Bonnell Family through the Peter Rossell & Jacob Wright Families

Genealogy is solving mysteries, putting together puzzles and working with others. report John Bunnell reports on the progress he and his collaborators are making on one branch of the Bunnell family. 

Readers, if you have any useful information, please send it to me and I'll forward it to John. You can also add a comment and it will be immediately accessible to all readers.


I've already been corresponding with George Farris on this, but I'll now bring everyone else in the loop.  It appears that George's hunch that we could find the Kentucky/Virginia William/Samuel Bonnell family by tracing the related/neighbor families has paid off.  As a review, the two related families during the early Virginia years (pre-Revolution through Revolution) were the Peter Rossell family and the Jacob Wright family.  Tax lists show these families moving together from Loudon County to Spotsylvania County, William Bonnell and Jacob Wright were witnesses to a land sale for Peter Rossell, and William Bonnell was the administrator of Jacob Wright's estate (with the elder Samuel Bonnell as a second).

Recently, George was able to trace the Rossell's back to the Trenton, NJ area using established genealogical information.  Fortunately, I was able to stop by the New Jersey state archives for a very short visit in conjunction with a recent work trip.  While I only had time to scratch the surface at this facility, several things were immediately clear. 

First, a court case between Peter Rossell and Charles Rossell established the fact that Peter was living in the township of Windsor in Middlesex County in 1758-1759.  This is just to the east of Trenton.

Second, Jacob Wright, a farmer, was also a resident of Windsor Township until 1766.  Jacob Wright was in legal trouble over debts in the 1760s, climaxing in the complete confiscation of all of his possessions in October 1766. 

Third, there was a Bonnell family in the same Windsor Township from at least 1732 until at least the mid-1760s.  This family (the only Bonnell family there, as far I can tell) was headed by Samuel Bonnell, Sr. and also included a Samuel Bonnell, Jr.  At least one of these two was a blacksmith.  The Bonnells also had debt problems dating as early as 1749.  The debt cases involved both Samuel Bonnells in the mid-1760s.  In the last cases, the plaintiffs were the same as those suing Jacob Wright.

The connections here are so numerous and tight, that I think that there can now be no doubt that these are the same three families that appear in Loudoun County in 1768.  For the first time, then, we are able to place the Kentucky Bonnell line in the northeast.

The next task ahead is for me to sort through the pile of documents relating to this family that I took away from the NJ archives.  My time in the archives was so limited, I did not even have time to read most of the documents then or since.  I am extremely grateful to the staff, who rushed through making over sixty pages of copies to take with me.  I will ask for your patience in sorting through this, as my time is extremely limited due to work and family pressures now.  It will probably take months to get through all of this material.

The first objective in sorting through these documents is to untangle Samuel Bonnell, Sr. from the Samuel Bonnell, Jr.  This will help us determine which one appeared in Loudoun County and the relationship between the Samuels and William (father and brother or father and grandfather).  Once we have a clear view of Samuel, Sr., we can then try to ascertain the earliest records in this township, which may then give us a point of reference as we try to connect this eldest individual to the main Bonnell/Bunnell line.

As groundbreaking as these records are, I expect they will be insufficient to answer all of our questions.  I imagine there is much more information in the NJ Archives that I was able to quickly gather from indexes.  Also, we are now focused on such a small geographic area that there is a reasonable chance of payoff from searching count and church records, looking for the Ganno connection, etc. 

I anticipate that this will be a tremendous jigsaw puzzle, so I welcome everyone's help as we try to put these pieces together.

More to follow (bit by bit)...

John Bunnell


  1. You are certainly discovering information that has apparently never come to light. I have been reviewing Bill Austin’s book, “The Bunnell/Bonnell Family in America,” to see what, if any, information he has on this. He has posited that a logical candidate for our William Bonnell is Isaac4 (Nathaniel3 Nathaniel2, William1) Bonnell’s son William, based on Isaac’s living in New Jersey at the right time, and the lack of information on his son’s life. He does have a family Bible that states that Isaac had sons, William, b. probably in Elizabethtown, Essex (now Union) Co., NJ 28 Nov 1740; and Samuel, probably born in the same place, 1 Oct. 1750. He knew of no surviving children of either William or Samuel, though Samuel had two children who died, one 18 Aug. 1777 and the other 18 May 1789. Bill believes (or did, the last time I communicated with him) that this William is “our” Kentucky William. Nathaniel3 did have a brother Samuel3, b. about 1675, no other information known. It’s possible that this Samuel had a son William, who would have been a cousin of the one we’ve tentatively identified. It may be that you are about to find that out. Wouldn’t that be great! Have you found any reference to Lyons\?. That name keeps popping up, too.

    Anyway, congratulations on your good work.

    1. Marjorie,

      The only information I have found on the Lyons are the Mercer County court cases involving Joseph Lyon (Rebecca Bonnell's husband) assuming guardianship of minor children upon his father's death. This is a in the first two decades of the 1800s. I've not been focusing on them on the early years, because it appears their association started much later than this time period.

      As to our William, we now have so many more facts than we did a year ago that I think we can develop a more educated theory about the connection. I don't feel wedded to the previous educated guess about the William to Isaac connection. The facts seem to be taking is in a new and different direction. I think the most likely scenario now is William to Windsor Samuel Jr then to Windsor Samuel Sr. I'll endeavor to confirm or deny this with the NJ records and then try to figure out if we can reconnect with Samuel Sr.

  2. Hello.
    I am wondering about this Betty Ganno that is listed in a couple of trees. I see you mentioned it in your post. What do you know about the Ganno name? Thanks. Diane

  3. My take is that Betty was once cited as the wife of William Bonnel/Bunnell. However, thus far I know of no credible source for that assertion. Prior research efforts aimed specifically at Ganno/Ganoe/Gano families in the same time/place as our KY Bu/Bonnells was not successful. This group's research may eventually find such a connection. There was a Betty Jean Ganno b. 1942 in KY who married a Bonnell in KY, but that's a couple of hundred years too late.

    1. As John Bunnell has uncovered more information regarding the Samuel Bonnell family of Woodbridge, Somerset Co. NJ, and Windsor Township, Middlesex Co. NJ, in the 1700 - 1766 timeframe the potential Bonnell/Gano connection has become more plausible. The Stephen and Daniel Gano families and their descendants were in Somerset and Hunterdon Counties all through that time period. Presumably, William Bonnell was married in that area sometime during those years. I wish that whoever originally listed Betty Gano as the wife of William had left a reference as to where that information originated. Stephen Gano and Elizabeth DuBois of Somerset County apparently did have a daughter named Elizabeth but I haven't found any reference regarding what happened to her. After Stephen died his widow married Barrett Ryearson and some of their children ultimately ended up in Mercer Co. KY.

    2. George,
      About 3 years ago John Grady and I embarked on a mission to find out the source of that info. In Claude's database (which I'm now trying to maintain) it cited as a source, a Thomas H. Bonnell. After some initial confusion over the same person with 2 different member numbers in the database, John located Thomas. Thomas sent John a notebook full on info, some good and some not listing sources. I talked with John today to make sure our notes and memories matched. Thomas said that his source for the Bettie Ganno + William assertion was some notes that his mother had had, but could no longer be located. Based on that, I removed Bettie from the database.

      John's search for Gannos resulted in the following e-mail from John to me: " I picked up the next piece of paper – EARLY ROSTERS OF CINCINNATI AND HAMILTON COUNTY, by Marjorie Byrnside Burress, 1984. Pg. 15. GANO and Stanley Account Book, 1794. A general store was kept at Columbia by JOHN STILES GANO and William Stanley. Listed are customers of 1794, residents primarily of eastern Hamilton County (Ohio), and men attached to Fort Washington. – among whom: BUNNEL Samuel, BUNNELL Calvin, BUNNELL Luther, BUNNELL Nath’l. & Capt. Daniel GANO, E. Isaac GANO, John S. GANO and Richard M. GANO"

  4. Thanks for the info Charlie. My connection is Susannah Bunnell who married John Handy. Diane

    1. I searched in and noticed that we don't have the parents of Susannah. She is
      002045 in that database. Drop me an e-mail at Thanks

  5. I am a descendent of both Peter Rossell and Jacob Wright. Not only did William Bonnell act as administrator of Jacob Wright's estate, but he signed the marriage bond of Peter Rossell and Sarah Wright in 1795. Peter was the grandson of the elder Peter, and Sarah was Jacob Wright's daughter. I have always felt that Anna Wright, Jacob's wife, was the daughter of Samuel Bonnell and sister of William. David Nobles

  6. David,
    Several of us have speculated that Ann Wright may have been a sister of William Bonnell based on their close interaction over many years. In addition to the Bonnell connection to Sarah Wright, Dennis Wright, son of Jacob and Ann later lived in Mercer Co. KY before moving to TN. Ann Wright remarried to William Arnold in Botetourt Co. VA, but they were separated as of 1792. That's the last record I've found of her. Do you know of any other record of what happened to her? I've wondered if she later ended up in Lincoln Co. TN with the families of her two children.