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Randolph Jefferson

Randolph Jefferson (October 1, 1755 – August 7, 1815) was the younger brother of Thomas Jefferson and a planter.

He was Thomas' only brother to survive infancy. He was a twin to Anna Scott Jefferson, Thomas' youngest sister. Randolph and Anna were 12 years younger than Thomas. He married his first cousin, Anne Lewis, on 30 July 1781 in Albemarle County.[1] They had five sons and a daughter who survived. They resided at Snowden in Buckingham County.

Anne died some time after the birth of their last son in 1796-97, and before Randolph's May 1808 will. Randolph remarried after May 1808 and before December 1809 to Mitchie B. Pryor of Buckingham County. She conceived a son before Randolph died in August 1815.[2][3][4][5][6][7]


  • Biography 1
  • Marriage and family 2
    • Suggested paternity of Sally Hemings' children 2.1
  • Ancestry 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5


Born at Shadwell, the Jefferson family plantation in Albemarle County, Virginia, Randolph Jefferson spent his entire life in Virginia. He attended The Grammar School at the College of William and Mary and was tutored in higher subjects by Thomas Gwatkin, who taught Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at the College.[1] Records show he resided at the College of William and Mary from Oct 1771 until Sept 1772.[1][8] Additionally, he took violin lessons from Frances Alberti, the same instructor as his brother.[9] Prior to that, he attended Ben Snead's English School in Albemarle County, as did his sisters.[10] The historian Dumas Malone writes in his book, Jefferson and His Time: The Sage of Monticello, that Randolph did not share his older brother's eloquence. His letters to Thomas show a disregard of grammar and the use of colloquialisms such as "tech" instead of "touch."[11]

Randolph Jefferson served in the Revolution and in the local militia, and he furnished provisions for Virginia troops, pasture for cavalry horses, and Negro laborers at Scotts Ferry to help remove military stores. Along with his brother, Jefferson signed an Oath of Allegiance to the Commonwealth of Virginia on 21 April 1779. He seems to have been an amiable man. A court record states that Randolph did not "possess the skill for the judicious management of his affairs, and that in all the occasions of life a diffidence in his own opinions." It said he was a kind man, but he was easily influenced by others.[11][12][13][14]

A former Monticello enslaved man, Isaac Jefferson, recalled in 1847 that "Old Master's brother, Mass Randall, was a mighty simple man: used to come out among black people, play the fiddle and dance half the night: hadn't much more sense that Isaac."[2][15][16]

Thomas was considerate and affectionate toward Randolph; they addressed each other as "Dear Brother," and exchanged visits and services with each other. Letters document that Thomas lent Randolph the harness for a gig, had his watch repaired, gave him a dog, sent him vegetable seeds, and gave him a spinning jenny.[11]

Captain Jefferson, as Randolph was called, inherited his plantation, Snowden, from their father Peter Jefferson. It was located about twenty miles south of Monticello, in Buckingham County, across from Scott's Ferry. Jefferson earned his title, Captain, while serving for a nearly a decade in the Buckingham County Militia.[1] His life at Snowden was relatively simple compared to life at Monticello; however, he was an affluent planter and dependent on enslaved labor. In early 1816, only two days after Randolph's second wife and widow Mitchie B. Jefferson moved out, the dwelling house at Snowden burned to the ground.[1]

Marriage and family

Jefferson's first marriage was to his first cousin, Anne Lewis, on July 30, 1780,[17] however, another account states that they were married in 1781.[1][18] Ann was the daughter of Colonel Charles Lewis of Buck Island and Mary Randolph, the sister of Jane Randolph Jefferson.[17][19] Isham Randolph of Dungeness was the grandfather in common of both Randolph Jefferson and Ann Jefferson Lewis. They had five sons of record mentioned sequentially in Randolph's 1808 will, as written by his brother: Thomas; Robert Lewis; Peter Field; Isham Randolph; and James Lilburne.[1] As a child, Thomas was a resident at Monticello for extended periods of schooling in 1799 and 1800, and possibly 1801. Thomas eventually married his first cousin, Mary Randolph Lewis, the daughter of Charles Lilburn Lewis of Monteagle.[17][18] They also had one daughter, Anne "Nancy" Jefferson, who married Zachariah Nevil.[1]

After Anne died, Randolph Jefferson married Mitchie B. Pryor of Buckingham.

Suggested paternity of Sally Hemings' children

The Jefferson–Hemings controversy concerns the question of whether there was an intimate relationship between U.S. President Thomas Jefferson and his mixed-race slave, Sally Hemings, that resulted in his fathering her six children of record. Randolph Jefferson was proposed in one study as a possible alternate to his brother.

Jefferson's grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, told a historian in the 1850s that Peter Carr, a nephew of Jefferson's (the son of his sister), had fathered Hemings' children. Historians generally asserted this denial for nearly 180 years. While some historians of the late twentieth century started reanalyzing the body of evidence, for many consensus was not reached until after a Y-DNA analysis in 1998: results showed a match between the Jefferson male line and a descendant of Eston Hemings, Sally's youngest son. There was no match between the Carr line and the Eston Hemings descendant.

The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, formed in 1999 after the DNA results were published, commissioned its own independent scholars report; completed in 2001, it suggested that Randolph Jefferson or one of his sons rather than his brother, Thomas Jefferson, was the father of Hemings' children.[20] Critics of the report noted Randolph had never been seriously proposed as a candidate until after the DNA study of 1998.[21] Cynthia Burton supports Randolph as a potential father.[22] Alexander Bouton noted that "previous testimony had agreed" that Hemings had only one father for her children.[21] Some researchers documented that Randolph Jefferson was seldom at Monticello.[23] Robert Turner is a Jefferson scholar who disagrees.[24]

The Monticello Jefferson-Hemings Report (2000) noted that Randolph made only four recorded visits to Monticello (in September 1802, September 1805, May 1808, and sometime in 1814); none is related to Sally Hemings's conceptions. In August 1807, a probable conception time for Eston Hemings, Thomas Jefferson wrote to his brother about visiting, but there is no evidence that the younger man arrived. Similarly, no documentation of a Randolph visit appears at the probable conception time for Madison Hemings.[9][25]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Yeck, Joanne (2012). The Jefferson Brothers. Kettering, OH: Slate River Press.  
  2. ^ a b Cynthia H. Burton, Jefferson Vindicated--Fallacies, Omissions, and Contradictions in the Hemings Genealogical Search, 2005
  3. ^ Vogt and Keithley, Albemarle County Marriages, 1780-1853, Vol. 1, 1991
  4. ^ Will of Randolph Jefferson dated 28 May 1808, ViU
  5. ^ Jefferson Family Bible, LVA
  6. ^ Buckingham Court Deposition of Thomas Jefferson dated 5 Sep 1815, ViU
  7. ^ Albemarle County Personal Property Tax records
  8. ^ Bursar's Book, 1770-1777, College Archives, College of William and Mary
  9. ^ a b Yeck, Joanne (2011). "A Most Valuable Citizen: A Profile of Randolph Jefferson". Magazine of Albemarle County History 69: 1–37. 
  10. ^ James A. Bear, Jr. and Lucia Stanton, Jefferson's Memorandum Books, 1991.
  11. ^ a b c Mayo and Bear, Thomas Jefferson and his Unknown Brother
  12. ^ John H. Gwathmey, Historical Register of Virginians in the Revolution
  13. ^ Thomas Jefferson Deposition, Buckingham Co. Court, 15 Sept. 1815
  14. ^ Jefferson Papers at UVA, microfilm, ViU.
  15. ^ James A. Bear, Jr., Jefferson at Monticello, 1967
  16. ^ "Isaac Granger Jefferson".
  17. ^ a b c Sorley, Merrow Egerton (2000) [1935]. "Chapter 13: Col Charles Lewis of Buck Island". Lewis of Warner Hall: The History of a Family. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co. pp. 365, 370–371.  
  18. ^ a b Woods, Edgar (1901). Albemarle County in Virginia. Charlottesville, Virginia: The Michie Company. 
  19. ^ McAllister, John Meriwether; Tandy, Lura Boulton, eds. (1906). "Charles Lewis". Genealogies of the Lewis and Kindred Families. Columbia, Missouri: E.W. Stephens Publishing Co. p. 101. 
  20. ^ "Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: A Brief Account", Monticello Website, accessed 22 June 2011
  21. ^ a b Alexander Boulton, "The Monticello Mystery-Case Continued", reviews of The Jefferson-Hemings Myth: An American Travesty; A President in the Family: Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings and Thomas Woodson; and Free Some Day: African American Families at Monticello; in 'William & Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 58, No. 4, October 2001. Quote: Past defenses of Jefferson having proven inadequate, the TJHS advocates have pieced together an alternative case that preserves the conclusions of earlier champions but introduces new "evidence" to support them. Randolph Jefferson, for example, had never seriously been considered as a possible partner of Sally Hemings until the late 20th century, when DNA evidence indicated that a member of the Jefferson family was unquestionably the father of Eston.
  22. ^ Burton, Cynthia H. , February 8,"Why Randolph Jefferson is the Likely Candidate"
  23. ^ Jeanette K. B. Daniels, AG, CGRS, Marietta Glauser, Diana Harvey, and Carol Hubbell Ouellette, "Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, A Look at Some Original Documents", Heritage Quest Magazine, May/June 2003
  24. ^ Turner, Robert F. , February 7,"Evidence Regarding TJ/Hemings is Deeply Flawed"
  25. ^ Monticello Jefferson-Hemings Report: Appendix J


  • Fawn M. Brodie Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History 1974
  • Noble E. Cunningham, Jr. In Pursuit of Reason: The Life of Thomas Jefferson 1987
  • Annette Gordon-Reed, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, 1997; reprint 1999 with response to DNA results
  • Dumas Malone, Jefferson and His Time: The Sage of Monticello 1977
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