It's been a slow mosey through the probate records of Suwannee County in search of details concerning my Florida roots. Reading every single page of a hundred-page-long probate file, if not expeditious, can at least be informative. Because the place in question—the town of Wellborn—was a small and, apparently, close-knit community, I couldn't help but stumble over names I knew from family history while I was reading the file for someone else.
It always helps to tie up loose ends. While it was gratifying—though disappointing—to learn of the root of the rift between my McClellan ancestors and the family of their step-mother, I had entered into this search with other questions, too.
Remember Mary of the Red Scarf? While I can safely say that my Charles family brick wall has tumbled down and admitted me to the secrets of another two generations, I still have been left with some questions. Prime among them is just how the Charles family—or was it the McLeran family?—connected with another line of mine from Suwannee County: the Tisons.
If you remember, I had been searching through local cemeteries to discover the identity of one Mary who kept showing up in records having to do with my Charles family descendants. I was able to confirm that she was Mrs. Mary McLeran, but what was her maiden name? True, I eventually discovered she was the missing Mary Charles—of the family of the stagecoach legend—but then, that created a new question: who was Mary's husband? And, being a McLeran, could his identity help me determine how the McLeran line connected with the Tison line?
Page by page, scrolling through the digitized Suwannee County probate records, my eyes happened to take in the details from a rather perfunctory letter. At the bottom of the one-page note was affixed the now-familiar signature of Mary A. McLeran.
It was the text of the letter that allowed me to proceed with finding my answer.
To the Hon. Joshua Caraway, Judge of Probates for the County of Suwannee and State of Florida.
You will please take notice that as widow of William T. McLaren deceased, I have elected to take a child's part of the estate of my deceased husband, the said William T. McLaren, deceased, in lieu of dower, as authorized by the provisions of the Act of February 8th, 1838, and desire that this my election be filed and entered of record in your court.
May 10th 1861
Mary A. McLeran
Image of Mary A. McLeran's letter to the probate judge of Suwannee County, Florida, courtesy Ancestry.com.