Lydia Phipps of Smyth County, Virginia

A recent comment took the form of a query:

Hello, Please post as a new post. My maternal ggggrandmother was Lydia Phipps, who according to most of the census information, was born in North Carolina around 1805. She and her children were living in Smyth County Va in the 1840 census. I am assuming she passed away between 1860-1870. I haven’t been able to locate a husband to Lydia or her maiden name. In the 1830 census for Washington County VA, there is a Benjamin Phipps listed and the members of the household do almost match up with what Lydia’s were 10 yrs later. (Smyth County was formed in 1832 next to Washington Co) I haven’t been able to find any information on this Benjamin. Does anyone have any Benjamin’s in their family trees that could have showed up in Washington County Va in the 1820’s to the 1830’s. BTW, the children of Lydia are as follows: Jerome, James, Sarah, John & Harriett. Thanks for any input.

This Lydia was found in census data as follows:

1840 census, Smyth County, Virginia:

  • Lydia Phips:
    • Free white males:
      • 1 5-10 [born about 1830-1835]
      • 2 10-15 [born about 1825-1830]
    • Free white females:
      • 1 under 5 [born about 1835 or later]
      • 1 5-10 [born about 1830-1835]
      • 1 30-40 [born about 1800-1810]

1850 census, 6 August 1850, Smyth County, Virginia:


  • Lydia Phipps, 45 [born about 1805], female, born North Carolina
  • Jerome Phipps, 23 [born about 1827], male, laborer, Virginia
  • James Phipps, 21 [born about 1829], male, laborer, Virginia
  • John Phipps, 15 [born about 1835], male, laborer, Virginia, attended school
  • Harriet Phipps, 13 [born about 1837], female, Virginia, attended school


  • Joseph Chapman, [age unclear], male, sawyer, Virginia
  • Sally Chapman, 18 [born about 1832], female, Virginia
  • James Chapman, 1, male, Virginia

1860 census, Smyth County, Virginia, post office 7 Mile Ford, 14 June 1860, pp. 21-22:


  • Joseph Chapman, 26 [born about 1834], male, laborer, born Virginia
  • Sarah Chapman 24 [born about 1836], female, Virginia
  • Elizebeth Chapman, 10, female, Virginia, attended school
  • John Chapman, 9, male, Virginia, attended school
  • Harriet Chapman, 7, female, Virginia, attended school
  • Conaley Chapman, 5, male, Virginia
  • Benjamine Chapman, 3, male, Virginia
  • Jerome Chapman, 1, male, Virginia
  • Lydia Phipps, 54 [born about 1806], female, Virginia


  • John Phipps, 25 [born about 1835], male, cooper, Virginia
  • Ann Eliza Phipps, 23 [born about 1837], female, Virginia
  • Sophrena T. Phipps, 4 [born about 1856], female, Virginia
  • Micaga [Micajah] P Phipps, 2 [born about 1858], male, Virginia
  • Ann Taylor, 75 [born about 1785], female, North Carolina, could not read and write

In the 1850 census, Lydia Phipps is living next to Joseph and Sally Chapman. According to unsourced secondary sources, the Sally Chapman who is listed there was a Phipps.

One would suspect that she was a Phipps, since in the 1860 census, Lydia Phipps is listed within the household of Joseph and Sally Chapman. Although, of course, circumstances can vary, the most common scenario for this type of listing in censuses seems to have been a mother and daughter in law relationship.

Also in the 1860 census, the household of John Phipps is next to the household of Joseph and Sarah Chapman. (Sally was a common period nickname for Sarah.) This John would presumably be the same John Phipps who was listed in the 1850 census as, apparently, a son of Lydia.

The idea that Sarah (“Sally”) Chapman was originally a Phipps appears to be verified by a Smyth County, Virginia death register abstract in GenWeb. That register refers to the death of John Chapman in 1913 as a son of Joseph Chapman and Sarah Phipps.

Other Phipps references in the same list of death register abstracts mention Saltville. One must then wonder whether this family had some connection to the Saltville family we’ve discussed in at least one past post. It might be helpful to note, however, that Saltville, at least today, is in both Smyth and Washington Counties.

The idea that this Phipps family in the Saltville area is connected to that of Lydia appears more likely when it’s noted that the George Palmer Phipps who is discussed in that post was a son of James Phipps and his wife “Emanda” Taylor, according to his death certificate. Both James and Emanda were born (the past post erroneously says “both” instead of “born”) in Saltville.

Note that another Taylor, that being Ann Taylor, was living in the John Phipps household in the 1860 census, above. Also in the 1860 census, Taylor families are living in very close proximity on either side of those who are listed above.

According to a marriage record abstract, James Phipps was 25 years old when he married Amanda Taylor, who would be the “Emanda” Taylor just mentioned. She was age 15, and they married on 23 November 1853 in Smyth County, Virginia.

This means that he was born about 1828. According to the 1860 census, which shows him in Smyth County, he was born about 1831 in Virginia. In 1900, James and Amanda were living at Saltville.

The 1850 census shows a James Phipps, born about 1829 in Virginia, in Lydia’s household. Assuming that this is the same individual, this and the census records below, along with data in the earlier post, could suggest the following relationships. Indentations indicate parent and child relationships.

  • Unknown and Lydia Phipps, she born about 1805-6
    • Jerome Phipps, born about 1827
    • James Phipps, born about 1828-1831, married Amanda/Emanda Taylor
      • George Palmer Phipps, born 1876
    • John Phipps, born about 1835, married Ann Eliza
      • Sophrena T. Phipps, born about 1856
      • Micaga (Micajah) P. Phipps, born about 1858
    • Sarah Phipps, born about 1836, married Joseph Chapman
    • Harriet Phipps, born about 1837

Again, Smyth County was created in 1832 from Washington and Wythe Counties, and Lydia was born about 1805-1806, according to the 1850 and 1860 censuses. The 1830 census shows at least the following Phipps or Fips, etc. individuals in Washington County, and apparently none in Wythe. Ages are based on the oldest male and/or female present:

  • Alfred Phipps, Washington County, oldest male born about 1780-1790, oldest female about 1780-1790
  • Isaac Phipps, Washington County, oldest male born about 1790-1800, oldest female about 1810-1815
  • John Phipps, Washington County, oldest male born about 1800-1810, oldest female about 1810-1815
  • Peter Phipps, Washington County, oldest male born about 1800-1810, oldest female about 1790-1800
  • Robert Phipps, Washington County, oldest male born about 1790-1800
  • William Phipps, Washington County, oldest male born about 1770-1780, oldest female 1780-1790

Ages in censuses were frequently a bit off. Note, however, that of the above, none of the ages of apparent wives matches that of Lydia. The comment posted referred to a Benjamin Phipps in the 1830 census in Washington County, Virginia, but searches of multiple databases have not turned up any such listing. In fact, a page-by-page search of the entire 1830 census for Washington County (156 pages) did not turn up any Benjamin Phipps.

There are also a George, William, Jasper, and Elizabeth Phillips there in the 1830 census, with online claims that Jasper was a Phipps. The households of George and William Phillips show an apparent wife of the right age (born about 1800-1810), but the household of Jasper does not (born about 1780-1790).

One possibility might be that the family was living earlier in North Carolina. We know from the 1850 census that Lydia was born in North Carolina.

The 1860 census does say that she was born in Virginia. A historical research principle however, asserts that the most unexpected reading is the most likely to be correct.

We would expect a Virginia census taker to record the birthplace as Virginia, unless there was a compelling reason to do otherwise. If she was not born in North Carolina, then what reason would a census taker in Virginia have to say that she was born in another state?


2 thoughts on “Lydia Phipps of Smyth County, Virginia

  1. Thank you for taking the time to look at my Lydia Phipps “brickwall” My apologies, I realized after I read this again, I must have had the wrong county for Benjamin 😦 I believe it was Grayson County, which joins both Smyth & Washington. I don’t know if it is Phipps or not, but it is on page 57 of the non stated part of the county. (I keep trying to have my Phipps journeying from North Carolina through Grayson to Smyth) I am fairly sure that Lydia is Sarah (Sally) Chapman’s mother, and the George Palmer Phipps mentioned in the other article would be Lydia’s grandson. I have thought that James Phipps & John Phipps married Taylor sisters. I do have my DNA results at familytreeDNA and GEDMatch. I haven’t quite been able to track down a positive Phipps relative yet. Thank you again.

  2. Hello Miss Cindy, Lydia Phipps is buried at Bunker Hill Methodist graveyard just outside Kernersville,NC. Nothing on headstone hints at her relationship to the many Phipps’ in this area. Nothing in family history explains this Lone Mystery of Lydia Phipps.

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