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Penelope Who?

Posted in Research Questions

Last updated on November 25, 2006

I have a long-standing mystery on my hands. As I noted in my post showing my relationship to Mark Twain, I descend from the Clark family, Quakers who emigrated to Virginia via Barbados. Christopher Clark was born in 1681 in Nansemond County, Virginia, following his family’s immigration. His wife was named Penelope, but aside from this fact, we know very little about who she was. There are three main theories as to her birth family, but none have been proven conclusively using primary sources.

The most accepted theory is that Penelope was Penelope Johnson, daughter of Edward Johnson and Elizabeth Walker. There is only one recorded transcription in St. Peter’s Parish’s register listing the name Penelope:

Penelope Daughter of Edw’d Johnson Eliz. Na– ye 4 day of Agost & bapt. Ye 17 of ye instant, 1684.

This Penelope is of the right age and in the right location to be Mrs. Christopher Clark. One early source for Penelope as a Johnson is the work of Lorand V. Johnson, a doctor whose interest in genealogy led him to trace his family history to the 1300’s in Scotland. Unfortunately, there may be holes in Dr. Johnson’s research. For example, there is scant proof that Penelope’s father, Edward, was the son of Dr. Arthur Johnston as reported by Dr. Johnson. Acceptance of Edward Johnson as a son of Arthur Johnston hinges primarily upon a letter by Elizabeth Forbes Johnston Keith, who is proven to be Arthur Johnston’s niece, daughter of his brother William Johnston. Elizabeth wrote a letter to Mary Harris, a Quaker missionary, before the 1686 meeting in which she referred to “my cousin Edward Johnston,” who would be accompanying Ann Keith to Virginia. Researchers have sifted through Johnston family records in search of another Edward who could be the cousin Elizabeth refers to no avail. Edward could not have been Elizabeth’s second cousin, as her grandfather had no siblings. Thus, Edward must have been her first cousin. However, this is not conclusive proof of Edward’s connection to the Johnstons of Caskieben.

The second theory is that Penelope was Penelope Bolling, daughter of Major John Bolling and Mary Kennon. So far, researchers have been unable to locate a Penelope who could be the daugther of John and Mary Bolling in records. Strong circumstantial evidence for this theory is that the given name “Bolling” for sons was prominent in the Clark/Anthony allied families for generations.

  1. Bolling Clark, son of Christopher Clark and Penelope, 1720-1813
  2. Bolling Clark, son of Bolling Clark and Winifred Buford, dates unknown
  3. Bolling Clark, son of Micajah Clark and Judith Lewis Adams, 1751-1818
  4. Bolling Anthony, son of Joseph Anthony and Elizabeth Clark, 1769-1827
  5. Bolling Blakey, son of Churchill Blakey and Agnes Anthony, abt. 1793-?

There may be many more Bollings in the family that I have not found as my focus has been on my direct lineage. The preponderance of Bollings in the family suggests some strong connection between the Bolling and Clark families. It need not be relation, but it should be noted that the name Bolling as a given name is certainly rare enough that it is safe to say our first Bolling Clark was named for someone with the surname Bolling. To many, it makes sense that this is his mother’s maiden name. The absence of a Penelope Bolling in Bolling family records and official records is troubling. If Penelope is connected to the Bollings, she would descend from Pocahontas.

The final theory is that Penelope was Penelope Massie, a descendant of Sir Anthony Ashley. His daughter Ann Ashley married Sir John Cooper. They were the parents of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the Earl of Shaftsbury. All of the Massie lines connect to this line. Tradition in the Moorman family (Christopher Clark’s mother was Sallie Ann or Sarah Moorman and his daughter Rachel married Thomas Moorman) says that there were three Massie women who descend not from Anthony Ashley-Cooper’s direct line, but from those of his sister. One woman, Sarah, married William Johnson, who was the father of Benjamin Johnson. He married Agnes Clark, the daughter of Christopher and Penelope. A second Massie married a Moorman. The third Massie woman was said to be Penelope. Johnson tradition holds that Benjamin Johnson married his first cousin, which Agnes would be if her mother was a Massie and sister to Sarah Massie. The name Penelope does seem to occur throughout the Massie family, despite the fact that researchers have said no Penelope Massies could be found in Virginia records. Sarah Penelope Massie was born in 1672 to Peter Massie and Penelope Ashley-Cooper (said to the the illegitimate daughter of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, First Earl of Shaftsbury. However, as the Johnson and Massie lines appear to be related, it stands to reason that Penelope could likewise have been a Johnson. No information I could find relates that Peter Massie and Penelope Ashley-Cooper had a daughter named Penelope.

The problem is that many records from Colonial Virginia have been lost. In the words of Linda Starr, researcher into the Clark/Moorman lines,

Almost twenty years ago when I became interested in genealogy, I rather quickly backed my mother-in-law’s line to Breckinridge County, Kentucky. The Archives there located a pedigree chart in their surname file, taking the Clark line back to Virginia. Although it was bare-boned, showing names but few dates and even fewer county names, it did go back to Christopher and Penelope Clark, Charles and Elizabeth Moorman and Robert and Mourning Adams. For Penelope’s surname, the compiler appended a brief note: “either Massie, Bolling or Johnson.” And that’s where we still are due to the destruction of relevant records. Some members of this group lean toward her being a Bolling, others are firmly convinced she was kin to Lord Shaftsbury, and still others think she was a Johnson.

Researchers at Colonial Virginia Connections, who rely on “primary and ‘good’ secondary sources” and are required to “cite their sources” seem to feel that Penelope is most likely a Johnson, although, as we have seen, researcher Linda Starr admits that “we have no documentary proof for any of these [lines].”

One thing we do have in our favor is the propensity in these families to name children after relatives. The name Penelope occurs again (the first two are Penelope ? Clark’s granddaughters):

  • Penelope Clark, daughter of Micajah Clark and Judith Lewis Adams, 1747-?
  • Penelope Anthony, daughter of Joseph Anthony and Elizabeth Clark, 1748-1822
  • Penelope Blakey, daughter of Churchill Blakey and Agnes Anthony (Penelope’s granddaughter), abt. 1803-?
  • Mary Ann Penelope Anthony, daughter of Matthew Jouett Williams Anthony and Ann Blakey Roberts, 1835-1917

If we can, as researcher Heather Olsen noted, find a family with a number of Penelopes in it, we may be able to connect that family to our Penelope.

Mary Ann Penelope Anthony descends from Christopher Clark and Penelope ? through three lines:

Christopher Clark (1681-1754) and Penelope (presumably 1684-1760)

+ Micajah Clark (1718-1808) m. Judith Lewis Adams (1716-?)

++ Elizabeth Ann Clark (1754-after 1810) m. Joseph Anthony (1750-1810)

+++ Micajah Anthony (1782-abt. 1850) m. Rebecca Williams (1782-1832)

++++ Matthew Jouett Williams Anthony (1808-1868) m. Ann Blakey Roberts (1810-1873)

+++++ Mary Ann Penelope Anthony (1835-1917)

+ Elizabeth Clark (1721-1825) m. Joseph Anthony (1713-1785)

++ Joseph Anthony (1750-1810) m. Elizabeth Ann Clark (1754-after 1810)

+++ Micajah Anthony (1782-abt. 1850) m. Rebecca Williams (1782-1832)

++++ Matthew Jouett Williams Anthony (1808-1868) m. Ann Blakey Roberts (1810-1873)

+++++ Mary Ann Penelope Anthony (1835-1917)

++ Agnes Anthony (1761-?) m. Churchill Blakey (1760-1837)

+++ Elizabeth Blakey (1788-?) m. Thomas Roberts (1785-?)

++++ Ann Blakey Roberts (1810-1873) m. Matthew Jouett Williams Anthony (1808-1868)

+++++ Mary Ann Penelope Anthony (1835-1917).

Mary Ann Penelope Anthony is my great-great-great grandmother and is picture below in the middle of the bottom row.


I think all three lineages for Penelope are equally interesting and would be proud to claim any one of them. I just wish I knew which one to claim! Chances are I never will.

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  1. Latrell Mickler
    Latrell Mickler

    I love your site and this blog.
    My 3X great grandmother was Catherine Clark. I am trying to find which Clark family she is from. All I know about her is that she married Jacob Mickler in Camden County, GA, in 1996. I have not been able to connect her to any of the GA Clark families. I did find a reference to a Katherine William Clarke born 23 July 1775, St. Michael, Barbados, dau of Valentine Clark and Mary Richard Croome. I haven’t yet found any more about her, and don’t know if she is my Catherine. She was born in the right time frame. Would anyone know more about this family, or if there is a Catherine Clark in this family of Christopher Clark? It seems that some of the surnames in this family are the same as some of the surnames mentioned in the ancestry of some of the people who match me in the FamilyFinder DNA test I took earlier this year.

    August 14, 2013
    • Carol Gowder
      Carol Gowder

      I am related to Cader Clark .Camden Co Ga.A picture of the house is online.300 acres from Cherokee Land Lottery.He is my G Grandfather.

      March 31, 2024
  2. Dan Wieland
    Dan Wieland

    Hi, Christopher Clark and Penelope Johns(t)on were my 6th great grandparents.

    Right now, I’m trying to find any info on their grandson Joseph Boylon Clark (son of Bolling and Winnifred). The story goes that Joseph married an Indian girl by the name of Mary Ann Golden. Information passed down to me indicates she was born 1776 in Powhatan, VA and died before 1838 in Christian County, KY. Children were born 1791-1811 in South Carolina, Virginia and probably elsewhere. I’m trying to find out anything I can about Mary Ann.

    I hope someone can help.

    August 22, 2013
  3. Theresa Whisenant
    Theresa Whisenant

    I am trying to find out some information on a Robert Clark who married Mary Neale in Craven County North Carolina. It is possible he could be my gggg grandfather. I would welcome any help offered. Thank you!

    October 28, 2013
  4. Christopher Clark and Penelope Johns(t)on were my 9th great grandparents.

    April 18, 2015
    • Karen Clark
      Karen Clark

      Capt. Christopher Clark and Penelope Bolling John(t)son were my 6th great grandparents. I’m descended from their daughter Rachel Clark (Moorman/Tatum line).

      June 1, 2015
      • I’m descended from their daughter Agnes Clark who married Benjamin Johnson.

        June 4, 2015
        • Tami Thomas
          Tami Thomas

          Me too! It’s very frustrating not knowing which last name to assign to Penelope. My gut tells me it has to be Bolling.

          June 21, 2015
  5. Sandy

    I am descended from Micajah Clark & Judith Lewis Adams. Several women in my lineage have the name Mourning that comes from Mourning Lewis. It appears passing names down is highly valued in this family, which would seem to me to give credence to the Bolling line. I have lost my GG Grandmother, Susan Mourning Mansfield who married Horatio Ford. He died and then she went to St Charles with her children, but I haven’t found any record of why she died, after the 1860 census. If anyone has this info in their genealogy, I would love to have it! Great site and thanks for all of this info!

    July 4, 2015
    • Sandy Todd
      Sandy Todd

      Edna Ford Dorlaque was my Great Grandmother. I have just found a date for Susan’s death of Aug 22, 1868 in St Charles. I also found her listed as a seamstress in the 1860 census. I do not have any cause of death either. I am also interested in exactly when, where and how Horatio Gartrell Ford died.

      October 9, 2015
  6. Karen Clark
    Karen Clark

    Because Penelope is my 6th great grandmother, I’m a descent of Scottish royalty dating back to 739 ad. I just stayed in Castle Forbes. But if she isn’t a Johnson, then I’m not a Forbes. Wonder if Lord Malcom would take a DNA test.

    September 24, 2015
  7. Vivian Markley
    Vivian Markley

    I am very interested in this family and I don’t know if you are aware that Ancestry now has Original Quaker records online that are handwritten. So much of what bothers me about the Penelope Johnson record is that it is not Quaker. Here is just an example out of the originals…Christopher Clark son of Michajah Clark and his wife Judith was born 20-02-1737 so that puts your above dates off by about 20 years. Tackling these will be big and I just went through my Johnson and Moormans but I had a friend this morning that shared a Quaker will with Charles Moorman witnessing a Bunch will and that got me thinking about this and that I had seen Boling in these earliest records. I don’t know if this can be proven now that we have original records but it is worth a try. Also, I have tested at all three companies also and have been building databases for 3 years and have both Johnson and Boling so maybe we can do this. I would love to share with you . Feel free to email me.

    November 20, 2016
  8. Pat Rodgers
    Pat Rodgers

    I have just started my own investigation into just who Penelope is.I have her as a Bolling and alot of my tree has DNA matches and I have a DNA Bolling line on Gedmatch of which 99% have matches down to Penelope Bolling.I have contacted 2 people to ask to use there DNA matches with me for the purpose of sorting this out, once and for all .Fingers crossed,if anyone matches me on chromosome 17 on T967505 or a X chromosome, please feel free to contact me.
    Maybe, we will make history one way or another. Thank you,

    January 21, 2018
    • Danielle cantiello
      Danielle cantiello

      How do we go about doing this dna testing. I have been trying to figure this out for years and it comes to a stop in the family tree with Penelope. I’d love to figure this out with you.
      Thank you

      February 6, 2018
    • Donna M.
      Donna M.

      Hey Pat. What’s your gedmatch ID? I’d love to check against mine. I’m related to the Clark family through Eizabeth Clark, g-granddaughter of Christopher Clark, who married General Stephen Trigg, son of congressman and revolutionary war general John Johns Trigg. (Elizabeth’s son Stephen Trigg Jr. married his first cousin Jane Trigg.) There are several daughters named Pocahontas in that line, including my great-aunt Pocahontas Hewlett Allen and another aunt, Pocahontas Offutt, and Pocahontas Trigg Robertson. These names date back to the early 1800s. You may find this of interest:

      March 30, 2018
      • Pat Rodgers
        Pat Rodgers

        Just found your reply.My Gedmatch is T967505,let me know how we may match,

        August 29, 2018
        • Mrs Pat Rodgers
          Mrs Pat Rodgers

          Just going through the emails on this site and found that I need to insert my Gedcom number,Sorry. 1758725 hope you all find some matches.Pat

          May 23, 2021
        • Mrs Pat Rodgers
          Mrs Pat Rodgers

          l also, put the wrong date for Penelope’s birth,as at the time it was all that I had come across.It is definately incorrect.

          May 23, 2021
  9. I was on Prodigy-what 20 years ago?
    Patricia Stanley was a wonderful genealogist on this surname (Penelope’s last name) And gave us all proof that it was Johnson.
    Last Jun, I lost my computer,date base-and 39 years of genealogy work, including my notes.
    Sometimes I can google my name and a surname, and find where I have shared them online. But not this one.
    SO I no longer have the proof- But I know I changed it, with Proof-at this time.

    February 25, 2018
  10. I am a direct line descendant of Militia Captain Christopher Clark and his 2nd wife Penelope.
    I believe that she was probably a Johnson ( Johnston) based upon circumstantial evidence.
    And the fact that my DNA results link up with Johnsons and there are no Bollings or Massies.
    1. A review of church records shows Christopher Clark being assigned various jobs, along with his brother or father Edward Clark, in the late 1690s. Thus I believe he was probably born around 1678 and NOT 1681. Birthplace unknown. The 1681 date at Nasemond VA is probably another person, if it has any basis in fact.
    2. By 1700 the Clark family lived north of the James, and were among those of the Black Creek Friends Meeting in New Kent County. Christopher, Edward, and Elizabeth Clark signed the wedding certificate at a marriage which took place at the Black Creek Friends Meeting in New Kent in 1700.
    3. I believe his first wife ( Elizabeth ) was the elder daughter of his next door neighbors, the Johnsons.
    4. After Elizabeth dies around 1706-1707, I believe her younger sister Penelope Johnson then married Christopher Clark around 1708-1709. Their first son (Edward Clark) was born in 1710.

    So was Penelope previously married and widowed ? Maybe and that might explain other names and her later age marriage to Capt Christopher.
    OR, did she spend a bunch of time helping her married sister Elizabeth ( next door property) as Elizabeth continued to try having kids, None of which was born or survived. ( this may be what killed Elizabeth. )

    By then she would have had years of contact with Capt Christopher. She would have been around 26 years old when she had her first surviving kid “Edward.”
    Considering that she had a several children and then outlived Christopher ( A Quaker Minister mentions the privileged of visiting her as a widow around 1755.) , Penelope was one tough lady . She raised a bunch of kids and grand-kids plus she was the person who really built up the Quaker meetings in her sphere of influence.

    My direct Line:
    Capt Christopher Clark @1678 to 1754
    Micajah Clark Sr 1718-1808
    Robert Clark Sr. 1738-1816
    Micajah Clark ( the Farmer) 1765 to 1849
    Christopher Henderson Clark 1804 to 1879
    James Joseph (Joe) Clark 1853 to 1921
    Walter Henderson Clark 1875 to 1932
    Llyod L. Clark 1905 to 1996
    Robert L Clark 1929 to 2017

    September 3, 2018
    • William Gragido
      William Gragido

      I am a direct descendant as well and I agree with your assessment based on DNA.

      September 21, 2018
  11. William Gragido
    William Gragido


    I’m descended from Christopher Clark and Penelope Johnson Clark via their daughter Elizabeth Clark, who married Joseph Mark Anthony. Their son, James Anthony II married Ann “Nancy” Tate, and one of their children, Joseph James Anthony III became my direct ancestor. He married Mary Polly Anderson and one of their children, Nany Tate Anthony, married my 3rd great grandfather, John Taylor Lokey. They had 19 children one of whom, Nancy Laura Lokey, married my second great grandfather, George William Cargill.

    I’ve read all of the theories on Penelope. I reject the idea that she’s a descendant of Pocahontas for many reasons and remain convinced she’s a Johnson.

    I’m w/DNA. I believe at one point there was a Penelope Johnson DNA circle (for those unaware these are relatively new and quite cool) but it is no longer available. Feel free to email if you’d like!

    September 21, 2018
  12. Jacob Carpenter
    Jacob Carpenter

    I am a descendant of Capt. Christopher and Penelope (—–) Clarke on my mother’s side. That Penelope is/was a Bolling didn’t appear in my Ancestry D.N.A. results. If Pocahontas “Rebecca” (—–) Rolfe was our shared ancestress, I’d have expected Native American to be present to some degree. Unlike many genealogists, I shared/share my late paternal grandfather’s denial of circumstantial evidence. Mrs. Penelope Clarke’s full identity was lost long ago, but at least her forename survived.

    Also, Christopher’s parents weren’t Micaiah and Sarah “Sally” (Mooreman) Clarke. No proof has surfaced to support it. He could’ve been an Englishman from Barbados, yet a birthplace of England might’ve been just as true. I came/come through the Anthony-Candler line with Emily “Millie” (Candler) (McTyre) Waller. Her first husband was a Robert McTyre of Warren County, Ga. The second was Charles Rodes Waller, son of Pvt. John, Sr. and Elizabeth (Rodes) Waller of Md. and Ga.

    March 15, 2019
    • Jamie A Friedlander
      Jamie A Friedlander

      I am a descendant of Capt Christopher and Penelope Clarke on my moms side. I did not have any native american show on my Ancestry DNA results but it did show in my 23 and me results ( a small amount but was there) so you never know. I have multiple DNA matches to many other living cousins related to Robert Fritzallen Clark 5th GG he was Capt Christophers Grandson also I have multiple DNA matches to Roberts daughter Mary Clark (Roach) which Roach is my Grandmas maiden name. I have no clue who Penelope was and if she was related to Pocahontas myself. I hope more information comes to light.

      September 29, 2021
  13. Darren Weaver
    Darren Weaver

    Penelope is my 7th great grandmother via Moorman then thru Candler then Taylor and so on. this was a very interesting read and well written. I’m just getting into this ancestry research and sorry I don’t have anything to add. Certainly will check back sometime to see if any more information comes out.

    September 9, 2022
  14. Diana

    Dana, Hello, I’d be glad to contribute information I have on Penelope Bolling. I am descended from two Bolling family lines, from Family Group 1 – Col. Robert Bolling (1646 – 1709) through his granddaughter Elizabeth Bolling (1709-1755) married Major James Munford, and Family Group 6 – Descended from Simon Boule (b abt 1626 England, died 1694 in Stafford County, Virginia) and William Bolling (b 1646 Gloucester County, Virginia; belonged to St Paul’s Parish in Stafford County, VA, and died 1702 Charles City, Virginia). In my family records, Penelope Bolling (b 1694 Prince George County, Virginia, d 1754 Henrico County, Virginia), is listed as a daughter of William Bolling. She married Captain Christopher Clark (1698 – 1754) in 1708/1709 in New Kent County, Virginia. Her sisters are listed as Elizabeth Bolling (1698-1740) married to Robert Embry, and Mary “Molly” Bowling (1700-1757) married to Andrew Baker.

    I was told growing up that our family descended from Pocahontas (as so many families have this legend) and have researched many of the Bolling lines to try to verify whether this could be true. I came across information that William Bolling (1646-1702) had several children with Mary Pettus (b 1655 Westmoreland County, d 8 Mar 1705 or after 1716) who is listed as the mother of Penelope Bolling. Mary was the grand-daughter of Col. Thomas Pettus (1598 – 1663) or his brother Theodore Pettus (1600-1636) and Jane Ka-Okee Patawomeck, of the Powhatan tribe, who is alleged to be the daughter of Pocahontas and her first husband Kocoum. Mary’s parents were killed in an English massacre of the Patawomeck tribe in 1666, and she was sold into servitude to the young Robert Bolling (1646-1709). She had several children with Robert Bolling, including Rebecca Bolling (1670-1714) married to Michael Pendergrass, and Jane Bolling (1674 – 1714) married to Rev. James Clack. Mary was the wet nurse for the infant John Fairfax Bolling after his mother Jane Rolfe died in 1676 (Robert Bolling’s first wife) and from 1676-1692, was the wet nurse and servant for children of Robert Bolling and Anne Stith, his second wife. In 1692, when the fifth child of Robert Bolling and Anne Stith died, Anne blamed the death on the care provided by Mary Pettus and forced her removal from their home. Robert Bolling placed Mary in the home of William Bolling (1646-1702). William Bolling already had five sons born between 1670 – 1680 (George 1670, Francis 1672, James 1673, Thomas 1676, and John 1680), who settled in the Northern Neck of Virginia (George) or St. Mary’s, Maryland (Francis, Thomas, and John). He supposedly had several more children with Mary Pettus (Penelope b 1694, Elizabeth 1698, and Mary “Molly” 1700). After the death of William Bolling in 1702, Robert Bolling freed her and her remaining children.

    This doesn’t confirm whether it was Penelope Bolling or Penelope Johnson who married Captain Christopher Clark, but hopefully gives another avenue to research.

    May 23, 2024

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