Bad Grandma?

Her story goes like this: Theodosia Beck Beasley, age 14, married a 28-year-old man named John McMullan in Orange County, Virginia. The year was 1769. Together they had five children, one of whom was a fourth great-grandfather on my mother’s side named Patrick McMullan. At some point in time, Theodosia left John and married a man by the name of William Dula. How this came about is a matter of some speculation. It is unclear if a marriage record exists for Theodosia and John; nevertheless, there is a marriage record for William Dula and “Dosia McMullins” in Wilkes County, NC, in 1790. But what I have never seen is a record documenting how Theodosia’s first marriage ended. It was one of those family stories that I had difficulty believing since I first read about this ancestor over twenty years ago. That is until I found in the results of my DNA test a sign of verification of at least the material facts of her story.

Excerpt from marriage bond between William Duley and Docia McMullins in Wilkes County, North Carolina, April 5, 1790.

I will not go into details about John McMullan here because I’ve already covered his story in a post from February titled The Legend of John McMullan. Also, in March, I wrote an article on Patrick McMullan titled Now That’s What I Call Southern Gothic! In both pieces, I examine in detail the probate records for each man.

Focusing on Theodosia and her story, there seems to be a lot of confusion about when key events occurred. Some accounts give her birth year as 1755; however, if she and John McMullan were married in 1766, as some say, she would have been 11 years old at the time. Other accounts give her birth date as between 1744 and 1747. Some reports say that she and John became estranged while he was serving in the Continental Army for 5 ½ years during the American Revolution. John was one of the soldiers who spent the terrible winter of 77 at Valley Forge. Records show that at one point, he spent time in the hospital while he was there. Most accounts state that Theodosia and William Dula began their relationship in 1781 and that she had by him a child who was also named William Dula in 1782

One descendent wrote:

And it was not really unusual for a woman named Theodosia McMullen to run off with William and move to Wilkes County, North Carolina, in spite of the fact that she left five children and a husband behind. After all, she married him at age fourteen, a child herself. (In today’s forgiving world, we understand she probably needed a psychiatrist.) Or else this was true love between William and “Docia.”

Another wrote:

She became pregnant at 15 and was forced to marry a family friend. He was not “connected” but she had three more children with him before leaving him for her true love, Thomas Dula. No divorce documents have ever been found as Theodosia’s father paid the husband to leave the state for Georgia and take all four children with him. She then moved in with Dula and had six children with him while amassing a fortune in assets. This happened after Dula’s service in Revolutionary War.”

It appears that John McMullan received a mention in William Dula’s will. From a Transcript of the Will: “my wife Docia Dula (formerly Docia Beasley, the daughter of James Beasley)…without being any way constrained by the will of any other person or persons whatever,…and shall in no wise be subject to be enjoyed or interrupted by a certain John McMillan or his heirs or assigns, or any of his creditors or any other person except the said Docia Dula, during her natural life…

Another researcher writes:

Theodosia was married (pregnant) at 14 to an older man John McMullin (sic) age 29 having 5 children with him. Her father paid McMullins and the children to move out of NC to Georgia so Theodosia could live with legally as a wife to Dula.

And one more:

It has been reported that John’s enlistment last five and one half years. We don’t know if John ever went home during this time or if there was any kind of mail service that would allow him to stay in contact with Theodosia. Regardless, when John returned home, he found that Theodosia had left him for William Dula. They moved to North Carolina where she had several more children with him.

A website titled McMullan and Allied Families has a page in which they discuss over a dozen issues regarding the history of John McMullan, including the possibility that John McMullan had first come to America as an indentured servant and escaped from his master in Pennsylvania in 1767 to go to Virginia. Some of what is stated are based on fact, but as the page’s author admits, a lot of what is written is “mostly conjecture and assumption.”

With several inconsistencies in the dates, the stories told of Theodosia appear speculative and manufactured.

In looking at my DNA test results in the Thru Lines section at, I see where it says for my fifth great-grandmother Theodosia Beck Beasley there are a total of 27 DNA matches. Six of those matches are for descendants of my fourth great-grandfather, Patrick McMullan. One match is on a descendent of Patrick’s brother James, and a total of 19 matches occur with descendents of a sister of Patrick’s, Katharine McMullan, who married a man named Shiflett. These twenty-six are all descendants of John McMullan. But there is, however, one DNA match with a half sixth cousin who claims descent from Theodosia Beck Beasley by way of William Beasley Dula, son of William Dula. Additionally, there are at least three other people that this person and I match with.

The fact that my DNA matches with someone who claims to be a descendent of William Dula would appear to prove then that Theodosia Beasley did, in fact, leave her husband, John McMullan, for another man. Yet, this revelation makes the circumstances surrounding her estrangement and separation from John no clearer.

Horton Cemetery Yadkin Valley, Caldwell County, North Carolina, USA

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