Sunday, August 12, 2018

Where There Isn't a Will

Now that I've been discovering long-forgotten details of my McClellan family in Wellborn, Florida, I've started making a habit of reading through all the wills I could find in Suwannee County. You'd be surprised at what I've been finding, just by being patient enough to read every page, not just of the wills, but of the probate records, as well. Especially when it comes to a small town peopled by extended family members, the names I'm seeking seem to pop up in the oddest places.

One thing I learned in the process, browsing through all the probate files in Suwannee County, was that the records of those who died intestate also made for productive reading. Don't let the absence of a will deter you in scouring those legal papers for your ancestors who died intestate. While there won't necessarily be one handy record listing the name of all your ancestor's descendants, there may be some gems tucked in the folder—as long as you are willing to take the time and look.

I'll discuss this more in the coming week, but for nowsince this is the time for my bi-weekly progress reportlet's just say that what I wasn't able to add in quantity of names I made up for in quality of depth of understanding.

Yes, reading through hundred-page probate files can cause research progress to come grinding to a haltif all I'm doing is counting names in a database, that is. And while I certainly do more than just that, I generally try to keep tabs by those counts. It will be no surprise, then, that the rate of increase wasn't stellar, this time around.

In my mother's tree, the one I've been focusing on since signing up for the SLIG Southern research class next January, I added only 107 names to total 14,386 in her database. In the previous two-week sequence, I had added over three times as many names. But last time, I wasn't slogging through wills, trying to extract those minute but important details such as maiden names and deceased spouses' given names. It's the little things that countat least, that's the way it's been this time.

I did, however, add a name to one other database. This was an exception to my research rule, simply owing to a special occasion: the birth of my cousin's grandbaby. How could I not take the time to enter that precious arrival into the record?! And then, in the process, I realized I was missing another one of her grandchildren, so I got to add a bonus name to the record. So, for now, my father's tree stands at 514, an increase of two names.

My other treesthe one for my mother-in-law and the one for my father-in-law's Irish rootshave stayed frozen in time with their counts at 15,667 and 1,490, respectively.

With my focus on the wills and probate records in Suwannee County in the past two weeks, I haven't even taken a peek at my DNA results. I had to take just one look this weekend, though, if for nothing else than to keep a record.

Having done that, though, makes me glad August is another DNA test sale month. I could use some fresh numbers here, as my match increases have slowed to a trickle. After the bump in numbers following the Father's Day sales, this past two weeks have brought only a few distant cousins into the picture.

One additional point to brighten that DNA picture: I'm hoping that finding new branches of the McClellan line, as my understanding of who belongs in the extended family crystallizes, will be an accelerating process with each new leaf pinned in its proper place on the tree.

That, however, will have to take second place to my current goal of reading through all the probate files I can find online for the McClellan home in 1800s Florida.


  1. Although they can be hard reading and deciphering, the old wills are such a treasure trove. from a 1749 Northumberland Co, VA inventory I found much information.In Obedience to an Order of the Court dated 8 Sep 1749 we the Subscribers bring first sworn by a justice, have appraised the estate of Nicholas Tharkelson, dec’d. that was brought before us, as follows: 2 beds and bed furniture, numerous animals, 2 pewter tankards, pewter bottle and salt cellar, new basin, chamber pot, spice mortar & pestle, 2 tins pans, tin cup,parcel of old iron, narrow ax, 3 old hoes, 2 butter pots, cart saddle & hames (harness?), 2 pr old cards, lines & books, razor & hone, small boax lock & key, old lumber, pr spectacles, parcel of earthenware, DANE BIBLE****, shoe thread, old crocks, a dress deer skin, stilliard & pea, 2 meal skins, looking glass, old saddle cloth & bridle, brass crock, parcel of salt, spit & frying pan, fire tongs, saddle, flesh forks, several old tubs, 2 old chests, cane, hat brush, square table, 6 lbs, cotton yarn, grindstone, parcel of sole & upper leather, cold chains, 3 formes, 2 stools, 15 bottles, box iron, spinning wheel, 5 baskets, candle stick, snuffer, pepper box, griddle, water ware, 2 pots & pot hooks, 17 lbs bacon, parcel old corn.
    Estate Value= 36,13.17 1/2 lbs. This told me that he most likely could read since he wore glasses and had a bible, that he cared for his appearance as he had a razor, mirror and hat brush, and the notation of a Dane Bible indicated his possible origins. It appears that he was also able to make shoes...I don't know if the quantity would be a personal amount or if he had some business. He had been transported in 1703 by Harry Beverly as one of 46 persons transported as indentured. He paid off his indenture and in 1737 had been excused from paying taxes as he was considered ancient.
    Such an amazing glimpse into the life of an ancestor. I always enjoy your unfolding stories. Looking forward to the new photo journey

    1. I love it! It's almost like a personal archaeological dig without all the fuss and muss. What an incredible amount of detail. We do the genealogical happy dance for details such as these!


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