Thursday, March 25, 2021

Still Grinding Away


I'm still on a month-long genealogical wrestling match, er, mission to find the parents of my third great-grandmother, Delaney Townsend. She, living in Florida along with her husband Andrew Charles, disappeared from sight—well, at least governmental sight in census records—sometime between the 1850 census and the one taken ten years later.

Yes, in a way, I am still grinding away at this problem in the background, making genealogical sausage. The boring stuff I promised I wouldn't detail—at least, not too much—here in posts.

Turns out, even though "browsing" through microfilmed probate records may sound tedious, the process has a rhythm to it. After reading up on what's available at the wiki—and spotting (with dread) the locked icon which signifies a film which usually is only available for viewing at the Family History Library (a place inaccessible during these pandemic times), I clicked through to see what would happen with my collection of choice.

Somewhat like a very surprised Alice in Wonderland, I discovered those iron gates opened to me of their own accord. Apparently, in the midst of my searching, the lock icon had been removed. Now, all I have to do is "browse" through 654,824 images to find my guy, John Townsend, the supposed father of Delaney Townsend Charles.

That record set with the 654,824 images is held in the file called "South Carolina Probate Records, Files and Loose Papers, 1732-1964." See? Simple.

Actually, the process is not as overwhelming as it sounds. First, I select the county of interest. Since John Townsend—the name indicated by so many others who have researched this family line including my Delaney—lived in Marlboro County, South Carolina, and actually was buried there in 1843, that, obviously, was my first choice, though I may also have to search in any other county where he might have owned property.

The next step—after reading up on what to expect in the collection—was to head first for the file labeled "Index to Estate Papers." That began the hunt-and-peck method: locate the "T" section by picking a landing spot within the "tiles" in this mosaic of thumbnail sketches of digitized pages from the microfilm. Then, when I landed on the right letter of the alphabet, I realized I overshot my goal, landing well into the 1900s—the date range for this collection being 1732 through 1964—and I had to backtrack, page by page, opening up each thumbnail picture to enlarge the page.

When I finally arrived at the page containing both the right alpha character and the closest date range—the first entry on the index page began with the year 1795—I read through all the surnames entered. There were, encouragingly, several Townsends entered on that page. Unfortunately, none of them was John Townsend. In fact, the dates in the margin of the index jumped from 1835 to 1846, skipping right over the year of John Townsend's supposed death.

Remembering my search through the wills for a different branch of my family—for a man whose estate took over twenty years to settle—I made sure to page through to check on later dates, just in case John's will showed up in a later entry. No luck. 

I also recalled that sometimes, a wife might inherit property from her husband, which then might require a separate will, and looked for Keziah Townsend's name in later entries (she died in 1858). No sightings.

You know I'll be checking on this further, in case there was a filing system I've yet to gain the knack of exploring. In addition, though John and Keziah were buried in Marlboro County, if they spent their later years living in a different county, perhaps their property went through probate in a different location. There is certainly more to explore before I cry "uncle" over this genealogical wrestling match.


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