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White County Keathleys

A Keitherley family (later Keithley and Keathley) is found in White County, Tennessee, after 1806. Circumstantial evidence suggests that they were there much earlier, perhaps as early as 1793, and that they came from either Virginia or North Carolina. Ke*thley researchers had tentatively identified these "White County Keathleys" as being connected to the German Keithley family, but there is much circumstantial evidence against this theory, principal of which is church affiliation. The German Keithleys were strongly Baptist Bretheren, or Dunkards ("Creek Dunkers"). The White County Keathleys were Methodist-Episcopal (later Methodist), providing, in fact, seven ministers of the Gospel. For more on this, see the Mt. Gilead Methodist Church page. There are, however, some coincidences that will support the German connection.

Analysis of tax records, land deeds, and marriage records suggests that the patriarch of the family was a John (?-1812), married to an Elizabeth, and that their children included Jesse (b. 1784), Willis and Sarah (b. 1785 -- twins?), Joseph, John, and Henry (b. 1793). The John and Elizabeth cited above have often been confused with John Kethley Jr and Elizabeth Whitfield Kethley, of Montgomery Co, Tennessee, but they are not the same. Click here for a large image showing the location of early Keathley property in White County (712K).

The White County Keathleys intermarried extensively with other families in the area. Related surnames include COPE, CUMMINGS, GIST, HERD, JARVIS, SWINDELL, WEBB, and WHITE. The families listed include many veterans of the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and War for Southern Independence.

Between 1815-1820, some of the family moved to Lawrence County, Indiana, and descendants are now extant in Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, where they are known by the "Keithley" spelling. Horse thieves? Read more here. The largest number of family members can still be traced to Tennessee, and are known as "Keathley".

The White County Keathleys have been designated a "Pioneer Family of White County", and a "First Family of Tennessee".

View brief overview of the White County families (PDF)

For detailed information on the White County Keathleys, please contact us.

wc_top.ged Size: 15K (First generation families). Right-click the link to download this family tree file.

wc_top.pdf Size: 4K (Same in .PDF) (Left-click to view, right-click to download)

Now available:

The White County Keathleys  (2nd Edition, 2023)
200 pg, $40.00 (includes extensive family trees for Jesse and Henry Keathley)


  1. Knights and Sheep Rustlers
  2. The Keighleys Come to America
  3. John, John, and John
  4. German or English
  5. The Keathleys in Tennessee
  6. The Family Spreads Out
  7. Keathleys in the War Between the States
  8. Willis and John Wesley go West
  9. Allied Lines: Gist and Walling
  10. Family Trees
Pay by credit card here, then send mailing address to Dr. Sandy Keathley

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