Sisco/Francisco

The earliest reference I have found to the name Francisco on the Delmarva Peninsula occurs in Northampton County, VA where John Francisco witnessed the will of Sebastian Cane, written on 3 June 1670 and probated on 28 June 1670. Both Cane and Francisco were called Negroes in these records.

However, in the James City, Virginia 1624 census I found a Mathias Francisco age 18 listed as a servant to a Mr. Edward Waters. Mathias Francisco arrived on the ship Jacob on Feb. 2, 1624.

According to Douglas Deal in his book Race and Class in Colonial Virginia, John Francisco was originally a slave, owned by Stephen Charlton, of Nassawaddox Creek, VA. Charlton was a devout Anglican with a rather ambivalent feeling about slavery. He was a Justice of the Peace from 1640 onward, a representative of the House of Burgesses in 1645 and 1653. He had patented nearly 4000 acres of land on the Eastern Shore and seems to have owned no slaves prior to 1646, when he married his second wife, the widow Bridget Severne, sister of the former Governor John Pott. She brought two slaves into the Charlton household and in 1647, Charlton added a Negro man named John. In 1648, Charlton added three more slaves: Emanual and Frances Driggus and Bashaw Farnando.

The racial make-up of these early Carlton slaves is unknown. The strongly Spanish sounding names suggests they were acquired from Spanish or Portuguese traders and may have arrived in Virginia from South America. They could have been any combination of Spanish/Portuguese, African or South American Indian.

By July 1648, however, Charlton executed a deed for the eventual manumission of John, who was to serve until the end of 1658 and then be a free man. When Charlton wrote his will in October 1654, he confirmed his resolve to free John (called "Black Jack" in the will and John Eomanor/Enomand) and also a Negro woman named Chrystian. Chrystian was to be freed immediately if she could pay 2500 pounds of tobacco to Charlton's daughters (the cost of a new slave ?).

According to Deal, John and Christian, onced freed (sometime between 1658-1664), married and changed their name to Francisco . The Franciscos then leased a 140 acre plantation between Cherrystone Inlet and King's Creek from William Kendall and lived in close association with other freed slaves: Drigguses, Farnandos, Canes, Harmans and Paynes.

At the same time, we find two interesting references (thanks to Albert Thrasher}

In August 1668, an odd assortment of people filed a grievance against the slave, Thomas Driggus, complaining that Driggus had "very grossly abused them". Physical assault was not mentioned so it is possible the abuse was verbal. Thomas Driggus was the slave of William Kendall who was none too pleased with what he called Thomas's neglect of his duties. Thomas was married to a freed woman named Sarah and the confusion this seems to have caused may have contributed to the problems. It is possible that animosity developed between those slaves who had moved out of bondage and those that remained. Or there could have been racial tensions between those of African origin and those of Indian origin. The plaintiffs in this action included freed slave Francis Payne and his white wife, John and Christian Francisco and the white wife of a neighbor.

Oddly enough, sometime before 1668, Thomas and Sarah Driggus, had given custody of their daughter, Sarah, to these same Franciscos until she reached the age of 21 at which time they were "to sett it free forever from the claims of any person to make it a slave." Thomas's master, William Kendall, gave his consent to the arrangement. Young Sarah stayed with the Franciscos, apparently moving north with them to Accomack Co. Virginia.

John Francisco and his wife appeared in the Northampton Co. Virginia tithables lists between 1664-1671.

In 1671, in Accomack Co., VA. , however, we find an interesting notation. John Parker asked for (and received) 400 acres of land for transporting eight people: Allexander Cooper, Thomas Davis, Peter Elsey, Francisco, a Turk , John Harding, Barbara Howard, John Lawes and John Parker. I do not know where these people were transported from, nor the significance of the term "Turk". This 1671 request for compensation seems a bit late to refer to Charlton's slave, John, who was acquired around 1647 so it is not clear if a second Francisco line entered VA sometime around 1670 and, because of their dark complexion, were classified as Negroes.

John Francisco appeared in the Accomack Co. Virginia Court Records in 1672-1674, called a "Negro", where he acknowledged owing Lt. Col. Tom Waters 2020 lbs. of tobacco and court costs. A Jno. Francisco also appears in the Accomack County tithables for each of the years 1674 through 1695. In one of those years (1684) he was listed with a wife. In two of those years (1674 & 1686) he was listed as a "Negro". He is believed to have lived on the seaside of Accomack County, below Chincoteague Island.

It is not clear if all of these references apply to only one man or if there was more than one John Francisco living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the 17th century. John Charlton's slave was probably born sometime before 1630. It is possible he was the same man listed in the Accomack Co. taxables in 1695 but then, who was "Francisco the Turk"?

In November 1722 , back in Northampton County, VA., Abraham Bowker sued Elizabeth Francisco, a "Free Negro", for debt. The dated 3 October 1722 charge reads:

The record continues in January 1722/23 when :

Also in Northampton County, VA.

In the 1800 Accomack County, VA. Federal Census Nancy Frisko a free colored is found with 2 taxables and Daniel Sischo is found with 3 taxables.


Sisco in Delaware


So far it is just speculation that the Franciscos of Delaware are descended from the Franciscos of Northampton and Accomack Counties, VA. although it does fit in the with the general northbound migration already documented on the Delmarva peninsula. As of now, there is no firm connection.

The earliest reference to the name in Delaware is in an inventory dated 22 September, 1732 according to Ned Heite who has seen the original. My copy is very unclear. The document which survives is in the form of a copy made in 1752. It is for David/Daniel Francisco whose estate was valued at 27 pounds, 1 shilling and 6 pence.

A DANIEL FRANCISCO appears in the 1726 and 1731 Murderkill Hundred Taxables, and in the 1727, 1729, 1730 and 1733 Taxables for Little Creek Hundred. The 1733 Little Creek Hundred, Kent Co. Taxables lists his assessment at 12 pounds, 8 shillings. Daniel then disappears and we find in the 1738 Little Creek Hundred taxables ELIZA. SISCOM and her son THOMAS and, later , JOHN SISCO (first appears in 1744 taxables), DANIEL SISCO (appears in 1748 taxables) and BENJAMIN SISCO (first appears in 1761). Later Siscos also appear in Little Creek Hundred although several also appear in Duck Creek Hundred and Dover Hundred.

The will of Thomas Conselah (see Concilor), a planter in Kent Co. DE made in 1739 mentions that his daughter was Elizabeth Francisco but her husband's name is not mentioned. It is possible that she was the widow of this early Daniel Francisco who died prior to her 1738 appearance in the tax lists..

In Kent Co., Letters of Administration on the estate of Thomas Sisco were granted to his widow, Patience, on 16 July, 1748. In November 1750 further records on this estate use the name "Francisco". This is the first instance of the names being used inter-changeably. Mentioned in the accounts were John Sisco , Daniel Durham and Elizabeth Francisco, Thomas' mother. No children are mentioned.

Elizabeth Francisco was probably the daughter of Thomas Conselah, mentioned in his will in 1739 and called the mother of Thomas in the 1738 Little Creek Hundred taxables. It is possible that John and Thomas were both her sons. The appearance of Daniel Durham in these records is significant because it is the earliest known connection between the Durhams and the Francisco/Concilor families. The Butchers, Concilors, Durhams, Hansors and Siscos all became central members of the emerging mixed blood community in Kent Co. in the early 18th century.

In 1748, a DANIEL Sisco makes his first and only appearance in the Little Creek Hundred tax lists.

In 1756 John Francisco petitioned the Kent Co. Orphans Court for custody of his dead brother's child, then in the care of John Swaney. The child's mother is listed as Catherine. This is probably the same John Sisco who appeared in the 1750 estate papers of (his brother?) Thomas Francisco but since Thomas's wife was named Patience and no children were listed, it is possible that the child belonged to the above Daniel.

The 1758 Little Creek Hundred taxables list 2 JOHN SISCO's. One is probably the elder John Sisco but is this second John his dead brother's child???

Between 1761 and 1768, BENJAMIN Sisco makes an appearance in Duck Creek Hundred and in 1770 a WILLIAM Sisco appears in Little Creek Hundred. William continues in Little Creek through 1779 before disappearing from the Kent Co. taxables.

For an interesting clue about the possible identity of the Sisco's we need to move up to Pennsylvania where on 14 August, 1760 a delegation of Nanticoke Indians appeared before Governor Hamilton in PA. The Nanticokes originally lived on the Delmarva peninsula, primarily along the Nanticoke River. Beginning in the 18th century, many left the area and moved up the Susquehanna River. Some moved west with the Lenapes and some moved north to live with the Iroquois. In 1760, this delegation informed the governor that they were currently living at Chenango (Otsiningo,NY). Among the delegates were Abraham Siscoe and Jacob Sinoscoe.

On 13 July, 1767, Governor Sharp of PA was asked by another Nanticoke delegation to write a letter to Col. Henry Ennals and Charles Dickinson in Dorchester Co., MD, requesting permission for the Nanticokes to return to MD to visit relatives still living at Locust Neck. Among this delegation was John Siscomb . These records clearly indicate that Nanticokes remained on the Delmarva, long after the bulk of the tribe had migrated. The presence of the name "Sisco" among the delegates and among the Kent Co. mixed blood community strongly suggests a connection.

In the 1782 "Census of the White Population of Delaware" we find numerous Siscos,all living in Little Creek Hundred, Kent Co., DE. Among these were Charles Sisco , Ephrim Sisco , George Sisco , John Sisco and Margret Sisco . No mention is made of their race and they appear right along side of their white neighbors. This is significant because, later on, many of these same people would be called "mulattos".

Listed in the 1785 Kent Co. Delaware tax lists for Little Creek Hundred we again find Charles Sisco, George Sisco and John Sisco .

On 9 April, 1788 John Durham of Kent Co. wrote his will which mentioned his daughter Sarah Sisco (listed as the wife of John Sisco). Mentioned in the accounts was Ephraim Francisco . Remember that in 1750, John's brother (son?) Daniel Durham was mentioned in the accounting on the estate of Thomas Francisco, with John Sisco, continuing the connection between the Durham and Sisco families.

In 1790 we find a distinct change in the racial climate in Delaware. Many of the previously mentioned Sisco's now found themselves listed as "negro" or "mulatto" in the 1790 census of Little Creek Hundred: Charles Sisco, George Sisco, John Sisco and John Sisco Jr.

In July of 1790 Amelia Cisco of New Castle County DE. married Jeremiah Shad. The family moved to Canada West in Ontario where their descendants still live.

Around 1791 John Francisco died in Kent Co., DE. He was probably the husband of Sarah Durham, mentioned in her father's will in 1788 and the John Francisco first mentioned in the 1748 estate papers of Thomas Sisco. He left a very large estate and inventory valued at over 942 pounds. See probate records . His estate papers mentioned children Charles, Esther and Lydia and a grand-daughter Elizabeth Francisco . There is no mention of any other children so it is unclear how the other Sisco's in Kent County were related to John Sr.

With the 1800 federal census we see the introduction of the term "free persons of color". In Kent Co. Delaware Comfort Sisco appeared in a household of 2 FCP, Ephraim Sisco in a household of 11 FCP, John Sisco in a household of 7 FCP and James Sisco in a household of 7FCP.

This younger John Sisco should not be confused with the John Francisco who died c.1790 leaving the large estate. This younger man is probably the John Sisco, Jr. mentioned in the 1790 reconstructed census of Little Creek Hundred and called ("the son of Ephraim"}. Sometime around 1803 John married Mary Durham, the widow of Isaiah Durham (whose sister, Sarah, had married to the elder John Sisco). The family was tenant farmers on 134 acres belonging to Francis Denney, called the Bloomsbury Tract. Excavations of this tract by Ned Heite have revealed a wealth of information about the lives of these tenants, living in reduced but still comfortable circumstances.

Benjamin Sisco and William Sisco of Kent Co., DE. were mentioned in the accountings on the estate of Jeremiah Concilor in 1811. It is possible they were brothers. Jeremiah was the son of Elijah Concilor and Hannah Durham. Hannah was yet another sibling of Sarah Durham Sisco but their relationship to Benjamin and William is not yet known.

The will of George Sisco of Kent Co., DE, written in 1814, mentions a sister "Emela" (Sisco) Hanser and a brother William Sisco (possibly the same William as above). In the 1815 accountings on the estate the names are "Francisco", continuing the tendency to use the names inter-changeably.

In the same year, 1814, Amelia Sisco Hanser died in Kent Co. Letters of Administration on her estate were granted to John Francisco , probably the Bloomsbury tenant mentioned above.

The Durham/Sisco connection in Kent Co. continued in 1815 when Hester Sisco married Whittington Durham. Whittington was the grandson of Daniel Durham who first appeared connected with the Sisco's in 1750.

It is possible that all these Siscos (Benjamin, John Jr., George, William, Amelia, James, Isaiah, Comfort and Hester) were the children of Ephraim but there is currently no proof of the relationship of these Siscos, nor their relationship with John Sr. (d. 1791).

The 1820 DE federal census lists only Benjamin Sisco, "free colored", born sometime before 1772, living in Little Creek Hundred in a household of 13 others and John Sisco , "free colored, born sometime before 1772, living with a family of 10 others in Duck Creek Hundred. It is not clear what became of the other Sisco's although they were probably still living in the area. This is the "Bloomsbury John Sisco" mentioned in Ned Heite's archeological excavations in Duck Creek Hundred, "son of Ephraim".

In February 1826, Rachel Sisco died in Kent Co. Letters of administration were granted to Thomas Carney. In the bond, dated 13 February, a notation suggests that Rachel was the wife of Isaiah Sisco.

In the 1826 "Black Taxables" of Appoquinimink Hundred, New Castle Co., DE (dated Feb. 7, 1826), we find John Ciscoe assessed for 195 acres of land transferred from Benjamin Blackston. The lists for 1831 and 1832 also include a John Francisco. This is probably "Bloomsbury John Sisco" but it may, in fact, be another man altogether.

On April 6, 1829, William Sisco died in Appoquinimink Hundred, New Castle Co., DE. See Probate Records . His estate papers and inventory list his wife: Hannah Sisco and Sarah Sisco, Mary Puckham (wife of Isaac Puckham), Charles Sisco, William Sisco, Benjamin Sisco and Martha Ann Sisco . Although called children, each received 1/6th share of the estate so it is quite probable they were his children. Also mentioned in the accounts is a bond of John Sisco signed over to Hannah. This is probably the same William mentioned in the estate records of Jeremiah Concilor in 1811 and called the brother of George Sisco in his will of 1814. The mention of John Sisco also suggests that William was related to John and Benjamin (possible children of Ephraim).

By the 1830 Census, the only Sisco still listed Delaware was Hannah Francisco , Williams widow, still living in Appoquinimnik Hundred, New Castle County but it is likely there were other Siscos not listed.

In 1837 William Yates, a free black, was sent to Delaware by the American Anti-Slavery Society to investigate the status of blacks in Delaware. While investigating tenant farmers he noted that many had chosen to leave. "Two examples were Benjamin and John Francisco, who in the early nineteenth century sharecropped in Kent co. where they built up considerable holdings in livestock....the Francisco brothers chose to leave Delaware and invest their money and future in the free state of Ohio".

This is an interesting statement. It mis-identifies Benjamin and John as freed blacks but this is not surprising since Yates never met the Franciscos. He was getting his information from others whose perceptions of the Francisco's were colored (no pun intended) by the racial prejudices of the time; the assumptions that all non-whites were black. What is interesting is Yates' statement that John and Benjamin were brothers (and therefore sons of Ephraim???) and that they left Delaware for Ohio sometime prior to 1837. If true, this is one of the few clues we have to what happened to all the Delaware Sisco's.

A search of Ohio in 1840 lists no Siscos, but a search of the PA records shows Benjamin Sisco living in Washington Co., PA. and a William Sisco living in Philadelphia, PA. I'm not sure who this William Sisco is but it seems clear that our Benjamin Sisco didn't quite make it to Ohio but stopped just short of that in western PA.

By 1850, in nearby Beaver Co., PA, we find Ephraim Sisco , born c. 1791 in DE living with his wife, Delilah and 4 children. Beaver Co. is quite near Washington Co., so it is possible that Ephraim was the son of Benjamin (and grandson of the original Ephraim??). Other Siscos continued in this area of western PA until well into the 20th century.

By 1840, no Sisco's appear in the Sussex or Kent County DE federal census records. Hannah Sisco is still listed in Appoquinimink Hundred, New Castle County. She is listed next door to Elisha Counsellor (Concilor) who by this time had married Hannah's daughter, Sarah Sisco. Hannah is listed as a widow over 55 with 2 males (10-23), 1 female (10-23) and 1 female (under10).

William Sisco and his family first appear in the 1850 Delaware records but, according to the 1870 DE census, William was born in PA c. 1815. There are several problems with this 1870 census (the ages for William and his wife are way off although their children's dates match known records) so it is possible this PA birthplace is an error. Despite some family legends that the Siscos came from Lancaster Co., PA, it is more likely that William was the son of William and Hannah Sisco of Appoquinimink Hd. He is probably the William mentioned in the estate papers of William Sisco (d. 1829). In any case, William was in Delaware from 1843 until his death sometime after 1870. At least 2 of his children married into the Kent Co. mixed race community although his other children are said to have "gone west".

Sorting out the connections between these early Delaware Sisco's is a difficult task. They were all clearly related; all were members of the same mixed race Kent Co. community, all were bound together through ties of marriage with the other mixed race families like the Concilors, Hansors and Durhams. It is possible that they originated in 17th century Northampton and Accomack Counties in VA and moved north but that does not explain how they became associated with the Nanticokes. Wherever they originated; by the mid 19th century, most of them were gone. But where???

As Sisco's began disappearing in DE in the early 19th century, Siscos began appearing in, western PA, Ohio, TN, AL, IN and elsewhere. Many of these Siscos appear to have originated elsewhere (in northern New Jersey or Virginia) but it is possible some may be descendants of those who left Delaware. A special Sisco Mailing List is available. It is a very active group of researchers trying to sort out the various Sisco lines. Check them out.