Who are the parents of Sophia Ann Lea (1822-1899)? She was the person whose grave marker was "modified" to show a different birth year. See the post on the Caswell County Historical Association Facebook Page that shows the grave marker before and after it was butchered.
Many with family trees on Ancestry.com show Sophia Ann Lea as a daughter of Reverend Solomon Lea (1807-1897) and Sophia Ainger Lea (1810-1866). This appears unlikely as Solomon Lea and Sophia Ainger were not married until 1837. Moreover, as of 1822 (birth year of Sophia Ann Lea), Lea and Ainger had not met. It was over ten years later when Lea and Ainger met in Warren County, North Carolina. Their first child was born September 10, 1838 (Anness Sophia Lea). This information comes from primary-source public records and the memoirs of a known daughter of Solomon Lea and Sophia Ainger Lea: Wilhelmina Lea (1843-1936). Note that Wilhelmina Lea was alive during many of the years relevant to this inquiry. Presumably, she knew the identify of her siblings. See the notes at the end of this article.
However, is this the problem: confusing Sophia Ann Lea (born 1822) with Anness Sophia Lea (born 1838)? There should be no confusion. It is well-documented that in 1841 Sophia Ann Lea married Thomas Jefferson Willis (1816-1879). He is her only husband.
It also is well-documented that in 1859 Anness Sophia Lea was the first wife of Dr. Leonidas Richmond, M.D. (1829-1912).
Thus, there is no reason to confuse Sophia Ann Lea with Anness Sophia Lea.
So, if Solomon Lea and Sophia Ainger Lea are not the parents of Sophia Ann Lea, who are? Likely candidates are Archibald Lea (born 1799) and Lucinda Hendrick (born around 1801). They were married in Caswell County, North Carolina, pursuant to a marriage bond dated July 11, 1821. And, Sophia Ann Lea was born the next year (September 2, 1822). Of course, this does not establish a family relationship.
What evidence supports this parental possibility? What is known is not conclusive, but interesting.
First, but not in chronological order, there is the 1850 United States Federal Census:
1850 United States Federal Census
Name: Sophia A Willis
Estimated birth year: abt 1823
Birth Place: North Carolina
Home in 1850 (City,County,State): Caswell, North Carolina
Family Number: 335
Household Members: Name Age
Thos J Willis 34
Sophia A Willis 27
Nancy Willis 8
Mary Willis 6
Sidney Willis 6
William Willis 1
Calvin Groom 4
Cornelia F Lea 14
This shows in the household of Thomas J. Willis (husband of Sophia Ann Lea Willis) a 14-year-old Cornelia F. Lea. Unfortunately, the census does not explain the relationship between Cornelia F. Lea and the head of the household. It just shows she was 14, female, and born in Caswell County.
One theory is that Cornelia F. Lea, born around 1836, is a sister of Sophia Ann Lea Willis. If so, they share parents. Who are the parents of Cornelia F. Lea? They apparently are Archibald Lea and Lucinda Hendrick Lea.
But, here is where a concern arises. Cornelia F. Lea is enumerated in two 1850 United States Census records. While this is unusual, it is not unprecedented. We have seen several examples, it being explained by a person being found in two households on different census-taking dates. Here is the 1850 census record for the Archibald Lea household:
1850 United States Federal Census
Name: Archibald Lea
Birth Year: abt 1801
Birthplace: North Carolina
Home in 1850: Caswell, North Carolina, USA
Family Number: 65
Archibald Lea 49
Lucinda Lea 48
John H Lea 25
Rutha A Lea 20
Rebecca Lea 16
Cornelia F Lea 14
Mary C Lea 12
Archibald Lea 9
Alfred M Lea 5
So, here we find 14-year-old Cornelia F. Lea, female, and born in Caswell County. Again, the census record does not explain the relationship between Cornelia F. Lea and the head of household, Archibald Lea. However, while not conclusive, the list of the household members suggests that John H. Lea through Alfred M. Lea are children of Archibald Lea and Lucinda Hendrick Lea. Thus, one reasonably could conclude that Cornelia F. Lea is a daughter of Archibald Lea and Lucinda Hendrick Lea.
If Sophia Ann Lea is indeed a sister of Cornelia F. Lea why is Sophia Ann Lea not listed in the 1850 census record of the Archibald Lea household? She was 27/28 years old, married, with a family, and living in the household of her husband Thomas J. Willis. See the above 1850 census record with respect to this family.
Is there additional evidence? Yes, but it too is inconclusive. It is the 1840 Unites States Census record with respect to the household of Archibald Lea:
1840 United States Federal Census
Name: Archebald Lea [Archibald Lea]
Home in 1840 (City, County, State): Caswell, North Carolina
Free White Persons - Males - 10 thru 14: 1 [probably Archibald Lea, Jr.]
Free White Persons - Males - 15 thru 19: 1 [probably John Henry Lea]
Free White Persons - Males - 30 thru 39: 1 [probably Archibald Lea]
Free White Persons - Females - Under 5: 1 [probably Mary Catherine Lea]
Free White Persons - Females - 5 thru 9: 2 [probably Rebecca V. Lea and Cornelia F. Lea]
Free White Persons - Females - 10 thru 14: 1 [probably Ruth A. Lea]
Free White Persons - Females - 15 thru 19: 1 [possibly Sophia Ann Lea]
Free White Persons - Females - 30 thru 39: 1 [probably Lucinda Hendrick Lea]
Slaves - Males - Under 10: 2
Slaves - Males - 10 thru 23: 2
Slaves - Males - 24 thru 35: 2
Slaves - Females - 10 thru 23: 2
Persons Employed in Agriculture: 6
Free White Persons - Under 20: 7
Free White Persons - 20 thru 49: 2
Total Free White Persons: 9
Total Slaves: 8
Total All Persons - Free White, Free Colored, Slaves: 17
Here are the females enumerated with birth-year ranges converted to year ranges:
Born 1836-1840: 1 [probably Mary Catherine Lea]
Born: 1831-1835: 2 [probably Rebecca V. Lea and Cornelia F. Lea]
Born: 1826-1830: 1 [probably Ruth A. Lea]
Born: 1821-1825: 1 [possibly Sophia Ann Lea]
Born: 1801-1810: 1 [probably Lucinda Hendrick Lea]
No other possible daughter has been found for the 1821-1825 female slot other than Sophia Ann Lea. But, this does not establish conclusively that Sophia Ann Lea is a daughter of Archibald Lea and Lucinda Hendrick Lea.
So, what do we know; not much:
Cornelia F. Lea was found in the 1850 household of Thomas Jefferson Lea and Sophia Ann Lea. This Cornelia F. Lea appears to be a daughter of Archibald Lea and Lucinda Hendrick Lea. The 1840 United States Federal Census of the Archibald Lea household has a slot for one female born 1821-1825, and no person has been identified for that slot. Archibald Lea and Lucinda Hendrick Lea were married in 1821. Sophia Ann Lea was born in 1822. Is Sophia Ann Lea a daughter of Archibald Lea and Lucinda Hendrick Lea? That relationship, while certainly possible, must remain a working hypothesis for additional research.
However, we do conclude that Sophia Ann Lea is not a daughter of Solomon Lea and Sophia Ainger Lea. Those who perpetuate this relationship are irresponsible.
1. We know that Family Search shows Sophia Ann Lea as a daughter of Archibald Lea and Lucinda Hendrick Lea, but without any supporting documentation. One comment there states as follows (but without evidence):
Reason This Information Is Correct: She is oldest daughter in family of Archibald Lea and Lucinda Hendricks. Married Thomas Jefferson Willis. Last Changed: November 8, 2012 by Janikins (email@example.com).
2. Others have attempted to explain how and why the grave marker of Sophia Ann Lea was changed. However, these explanations are not convincing. Here is one from Find A Grave:
DavidTerry91 Sophia Ann Lea - Gravestone: Sophia Ann Lea's grave marker was placed by her grandchildren but with an incorrect birth date. An unprofessional attempt was made to correct the date which deteriorated over time. If viewed today the original incorrect date is visible. Her date of birth is September 2, 1822.
3. Note the following from Wilhelmina Lea, daughter of Solomon Lea and Sophia Ainger Lea:
"My father attended a country school near home for a number of years, preparing himself for college, meanwhile, by hard study. He was sent, as were his two oldest brothers, to the University of North Carolina. His health failing, his studies were interrupted for a time; but an active outdoor life restored him, and he went back to complete the course, graduating in 1833 with fair honors. He then began his life work as a teacher at Warrenton, N.C., where he taught for two years. It was while teaching there that he met the lady whom he married a few years later. She was a teacher like himself.
"My father was married in 1837 to Miss Sophia Ainger, an English lady of marked piety and intelligence. She was a most congenial spirit and a great help to him in his work as a teacher. She died in 1866. The world little knew how sadly he missed her companionship and what a void was in his heart. Eight children were born to them, six daughters and two sons. One of the latter died in infancy. Two married daughters have passed away."
Source: Miss Wilhelmina Lea (1843-1936), daughter of Solomon Lea and Sophia Ainger Lea: Interview by N. C. Newbold: "Rev. Solomon Lea," The Trinity Archive, February, 1898, by N. C. Newbold.
All eight children referenced by Wilhelmina have been accounted for, and they do not include Sophia Ann Lea.
4. Naming Pattern Concern: If Sophia Ann Lea is a daughter of Archibald Lea and Lucinda Hendrick Lea, one might expect one or more of the children of Sophia Ann Lea to be named in some manner after their grandparents. This does not appear to be the case. Sophia Ann Lea married Thomas Jefferson Willis. No Archibald or Lucinda has been found among the 12 Willis children. Several of the other Archibald Lea/Lucinda Hendrick Lea children named a daughter Lucinda.