Origins of Thomas Morris

Possible Significance of Given Names

I usually caution people against reading too much into given names, but in this case we have no other clues to work with.

Thomas Morris’s three children by his last marriage seem to have been named for other people.  That may indicate some sort of familial relationship.  If there were a relationship of some sort, we don’t know whether it was with the Morris or Hesser side of the family.  However, the fact that Thomas Morris did not give elaborate names to his first three daughters raises the distinct possibility that the naming influence for the last three children came from his wife Nancy Hesser.   Indeed, the daughter Sarah Ann Hannah Morris may have been partly named for Nancy Hesser’’s mother Hannah Warner Hesser (and perhaps Thomas Morris’s mother was named Sarah?)

James Heaton Morris

Thomas Morris named his first son James Heaton Morris.   Dr. James Heaton (1759-1824), was born in Suffolk County, New Jersey, became a doctor in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and moved to Loudoun County, Virginia after the Revolution.  He and Thomas Morris both lived in Purcellville so they clearly knew one another, but why Thomas Morris gave that name to his first-born son is not clear.   Several members of the Heaton family are buried in the Ketoctin Baptist Church Cemetery in Purcellvile, so we know that Dr. James Heaton died on 11 July 1824, four years before Thomas Morris’s son was born.   He had a son named James Heaton Jr. (1792-1826) who was also dead by the time James Heaton Morris was born.   There was also a grandson named James Decatur Heaton (1816-1859), but he was only twelve when James Heaton Morris was born.

Dr. James Heaton was married to Lydia Osborn (1778-1839) who has no obvious relationship to Thomas Morris either.  His son James Heaton Jr. married Hannah Spencer (1795-1835) who also has no obvious relationship to Thomas Morris.  Nor does Thomas Morris’s third wife Nancy Hesser, the mother of the two boys, have any known relationship to James Heaton.

John Thomas William Morris

To add to the mystery, Dr. James Heaton had a son named John Thomas William Heaton (1810-1862) who is buried in the same cemetery as his father.   Three given names was quite rare in this time frame, so it seems likely that Thomas Morris either named his son after Heaton or that both men were named for the same person.  The former seems unlikely – John Thomas William Heaton was only 18 when Thomas Morris’s second son was born.