Wednesday, January 17, 2024

While I'm Hunting and Pecking


Behind the scenes, I've been hunting and pecking through the non-indexed microfilmed pages of court records from Spotsylvania County, Virginia. I'm on a quest to find the will of John Carter, my fifth great-grandfather.

According to the genealogy volume on the Carter family published in 1912, John Carter's will was probated in Spotsylvania County on December 18, 1783. Thankfully, at least I have that specific date and Virginia county—but that still doesn't mean the search will be streamlined. I'll be plugging away at that task in the background, to spare you the monotony, though I'm spotting some interesting details as I wander.

Meanwhile, though I can't yet confirm the "Who's Who" of this family tree—at least not by their patriarch's will—at least I can learn a bit more about the "Where's Where" of the Carter property. Joseph Lyon Miller noted in his book, Descendants of Capt. Thomas Carter, that John Carter had died "at his home on the Caroline-Spotsylvania county line" in November of 1783. Thankfully, the author also noted the specific county to which I should look to find the man's will. Searching one county's records from the late 1700s is trouble enough; having to repeat the process for two counties—especially picking the wrong one for my starting point—would be discouraging.

As it turns out, there might have been a reason why the Carter estate was situated on the county line: perhaps it wasn't always spanning two counties. I took a few minutes to look up the boundary changes for the area, and the dates at which they occurred. While I don't know yet when—or how—John Carter acquired his property, for a frame of reference, I used his approximate date of birth to begin the timeline. According to the Miller book, the author estimated John Carter's birth as occurring some time between 1715 and 1720, and noted that he was born in a third Virginia county, King and Queen County.

Checking the dates of formation for the three counties, I started first with searching for Caroline County. Apparently, Caroline County was established in 1727, drawn from three other Virginia counties, one of which was King and Queen County, where John was said to have been born. Likewise, Spotsylvania County was also drawn from the same three counties as Caroline County—though it was established earlier than Caroline County, formed in 1721 (though still after John's own birth). That root county, King and Queen County, had also been drawn from another colonial county—but much earlier, being established in 1691, long before John Carter's time.

Since researcher Joseph Miller speculates that John Carter was the eldest son of his parents in King and Queen County, perhaps the property where he was born was the very home at which he died in 1783—a case in which we see one ancestor said to have lived in three different counties, but all the time living in the same location. It's just the county lines which moved, not the family's property.

Of course, that is all conjecture on my part (though primogeniture laws in Virginia during that colonial era may well have meant it was so). I certainly am not up for seeking yet another will in another county to see who inherited John Carter's parents' home. I need to stick with this one goal, first.

Until I find that document, though, I realized there is another interesting detail about my ancestors John Carter and his second wife, Hannah Chew: it might be a stretch, but their DNA could possibly still show up in their descendants of my generation. While my will-searching efforts grind away, out of sight in the background, let's explore that possibility next.

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