Mrs. Bathsheba Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's paternal grandmother
Was she a Herring?


by R. Andrew Pierce


After reviewing the available evidence about Bathsheba (-------) Lincoln, President Lincoln's paternal grandmother. I have concluded there is NO evidence that her maiden name was Herring.

In 1770, Abraham Lincoln, the President's grandfather, received a license to marry in Augusta Co. VA. The bride's name is not recorded.

In 1780, Abraham Lincoln, his wife Bershaba (signing as "Batsab", also called Bathshabe, Barshaba, Bershebe, and Barbara in body of deed) releasing right of dower, sold land in Augusta Co. VA (that Abraham had bought or inherited) and moved to Kentucky. The full text of the deed is in "The Ancestry of Abraham Lincoln", currently available online through

"Virginia Valley Records", a book databased on, says Virginia Valley Records: "The Christian name of Captain Abraham Lincoln's wife was Bathsheba, and as this name occurs only in the Herring family in Rockingham County it is believed that the grandmother of President Abraham Lincoln was Bathsheba Herring, a daughter of Alexander Herring." This appears to be the entire basis for Bathsheba being called "Herring" and all the followups in print to that effect.

Alexander Herring resided in Rockingham (then Augusta) Co. from at least 1751 until his death in 1778, and had five sons. There was considerable deed activity among the sons after his death, and none of them mention a daughter/sister Bathsheba. Distinctive names among the Herrings such as Alexander, Leonard and Bethuel, do NOT occur in the Lincoln family.

To date I have not had time to sufficiently go through references now; the book "Settlers by the Long Gray Trail" offers the best writeup of the Herrings and also sketches the Lincolns. At some point in the early 20th century a Herring descendant was interviewed for the book, and he stated "from memory" that he believed Bathsheba was daughter of Leonard and granddaughter of Alexander, which is chronologically impossible. A typical instance, I think, of him telling the authors what they wanted to hear, and vice versa (they had probably read the above paragraph from "Virginia Valley Records").

Publications further state that Bathsheba Lincoln moved to Washington Co. KY with her five children, then to Hardin Co. KY were she lived until 1833 with her daughter Nancy (Lincoln) Brumfield. There is even a (modern) marker on what is believed to be her grave in Hardin Co. However, the 1810, 1820 and 1830 censuses for the Brumfields and the four other Lincoln children do NOT show a woman of Bathsheba's age ever living in any of their households.

My theory is that Bathsheba, still in her mid to late 30s at Abraham's death in 1786, remarried. She probably did come to Kentucky and may even have lived until 1833, perhaps NEAR one or more of her children. Deeds, probates, tax and court records for Washington and Hardin Cos. KY exist in abundance, several being in print, though not local to me. Research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City is being planned.

Also, deeds in Rockingham & Augusta Cos VA might be searched if she, under her second husband's surname, deeded out any of her ancestral land there after 1786.

R. Andrew Pierce, a professional genealogist, is the author of The Stones Speak: Inscriptions from Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts [NEHGS, 2000]; The Wampanoag Genealogical History of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts [Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 2003]; and a six part series on the ancestry of President John F. Kennedy in NEHGS' Nexus journal. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 6101, Boston MA 02114, email