James or Hugh?


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Was James and not Hugh the father of William McCullough?

Just when you think you have it all figured out... some new info comes along and confuses everything! Thanks to the efforts of the Cox-Hull family, I have just received some new McCullough info that I summarize below and which casts some doubt on the accuracy of the "Remarkable Family" article.

To recap: In the 1911 article "A Remarkable Family" Hugh is said to be the father of known ancestor William, older brothers John and Archibald, and sister Mary/Polly, who is said to have married John Hull who earned a gold medal in the War of 1812, still in the possession of the family.

I have spent some time trying to verify this, with little/mixed success. What I thought  I had more or less proven via documents or other records was that William married Rachel Sheridine on Feb. 4, 1796 in Harford Co., MD. The first census record I definitely have for them is in 1820 in Centre Co., and shows 2 sons and no daughters. By 1830, Sheridan was married and had left for Western PA and the only McCullough in Walker Twp. (and who was also in the same proximity to the names of the 1820 census) was James (so I assumed, older brother of Sheridan) who also had an older man in the household, whom I took to be father William. Sheridan and his children in later census records and in other records always consistently report that he was born in Baltimore.

The new info from the Cox-Hull family is based in part on a letter written in 1930 from a man then 88, which gets us back pretty far. It also mentions things his grandmother said about aunts who were presumably a generation older, going back to the time of Mary McCullough or even Rachel Sheridine. Anyway, according to this story, Mary was not William's sister, but daughter, and born in 1794 in York, PA. She married John Lewis Hull in 1814, which would explain why she doesn't show up on the 1820 census in William's household. I have found an 1830 census record for them in Lamar, Centre Co., but haven't had time to search for one from 1820 yet. The letter also repeats the war story mentioned in the McCullough article, so it is obviously the same Mary McCullough.

Some conflicts with the currently accepted family tradition:

  • Quick census searches support both the date and place of Mary's birth: York, PA and before the marriage of Rachel & William in 1796. How could this be, if they were married in MD and also Sheridan is said to have been born in Maryland? They were (if in Harford, not Baltimore) close to the border, it's true. But strange that one child would be PA and then the next in Baltimore. A possibility is that Rachel Sheridine was William's second wife. Since he would have been 28 at the time of that marriage, this is quite possible.


  • The first Hull daughter was named Rachel Sheridine Hull and the second son, William McCullough Hull. Following naming traditions, this leaves little room for doubt that she was a daughter of William & Rachel. Other children were iii. Rebecca McCullough Hull, and Thomas Allen, Elizabeth Ann, Sanford W. and Mary Jane. McCullough as middle name also shows up in later generations. Still, strange that the collective children of Sheridan would not know that John Hull was Sheridan's brother-in-law instead of uncle. Actually, I find it strange that with all the things written about Sheridan, there is never a mention of a brother or sister. Finding father William's will would certainly be a help here! Again, the above possibility that William had two wives could help. If Mary was Sheridan's step-sister and seven years older, he (or his descendants) may have thought of her more as an aunt. If Rachel was the second wife, he still married her when Mary was very young, under two years old, so it is not so strange that she would name her daughter after her step mother instead of a mother she never knew, particularly since Rachel was still alive at the time.
  • In the 1880 census, Mary's parents (and also Mary) are listed as both being born in PA, though we are pretty sure that both William & Rachel Sheridine were born in Maryland. In the same census, Sheridan lists his and his mother's birthplace as MD but his father as PA. This tends to support the above step-mother theory.

In addition:

  • According to the letter, William was the son of a James McCullough, not Hugh, who came from Ireland as a boy, and was married to a Nancy Weldon, of English descent and who (or her father, it says) came from London during the "London Plague". Since William (b. 1768) is said to have had older brothers who were old enough to fight in the Revolution, this puts a likely birth date for his father at 1725-45.


  • There is also a curious paragraph in which the writer tells that his grandmother told of two maiden aunts (this would have been at the beginning of the 1800's) telling stories that the McCulloughs were related to Mary, Queen of Scots, and he asks his relative if she know the background of this claim. This is a story I have also heard in our family, a completely different branch.


  • The letter also relates a story of a McCullough wounded or killed in the battle of Brandywine and asks what the connection was. There are many James who served in the revolution, including one who took his oath near Elkton MD (where the British landed for the battle) and is buried in the Brandywine Cemetery near Wilmington.

I have also found many more James than Hughs, including two James H. (Hugh??) McCulloughs from the 1700's mostly from near Philadelphia/Chester, I believe, although the younger James was a collector for the port of Baltimore around 1800. One of them had a son named Hugh, so it is quite possible that the H stood for Hugh. There is also a quite prominent pair of brothers named James and Hugh in the Philadelphia/Chester area between 1730 and 1760 or so -- may be some connection. I wish I only knew what.

I have also found a couple of church records (baptisms) in Muddy Creek, Presbyterian Church, York Co., for McCullough children who are listed as being born in Harford (parent in this case John -- who, I was hoping until I received the Hull info -- was the long lost brother of William! Could still be the case, of course). It does indicate that there was a lot of border crossing in the area, even for Sunday church, apparently.

I have done a few hours on the James idea, but found nothing conclusive. William's and Sheridan's children's names don't help either, since Rachel Sheridine's father was quite likely James also. I have always thought it strange that there was never a Hugh (as far as I know) in the first few generations of descendants, and so had thought that Hugh could have been a middle name or short for something else.

I will continue to research this line of thought and hope that with the collective info of everyone, this might jog a memory of something someone else has run into. If so, please let me know!

Updated: 2008-01-15