After all the effort, over this past month, to confirm the father of Mary Carroll Gordon, my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother, I'm still left with one nagging thought. It may turn out to be a matter of one small problem, but it is a sticking point, nonetheless: why would a woman who had been dead for over a decade be named as an heir in her father's will?
If that father was indeed the Anthony Carroll of Monongalia County whom we've been studying this past month, he certainly did name someone in his will whom we can presume was our Mary—well, if we assume that the "Polly Gorden" in Anthony's will was nickname for Mary, that is. And I count it as an assuring sign that a hundred year old history book in nearby Preston County, West Virginia, explained that Anthony Carroll was married four times, including to the woman who was listed as mother of a daughter the couple named Mary.
On the bright side, that book—A History of Preston County, West Virginia—also mentioned that Mary Carroll, daughter of Anthony, married a local man by the name of William Gordon, which she did before the couple left Monongalia County for nearby Greene County, Pennsylvania. Another positive indicator was that William and Mary named one of their sons Anthony, presumably after her own father.
However, depending on which account we follow—either the Howard Leckey book, The Tenmile Country and its Pioneer Families, or the headstone pictured at Mary's Find A Grave memorial—Mary died in either 1814 or 1812. Anthony—if he was her father—died in 1830. He drew up his will at the end of the previous August. Surely by that time, he would have gotten word of his daughter's death, wouldn't he?
Knowing how many errors I've been able to spot in the various local history books which were the offerings of a nostalgic previous century, that one thought keeps nagging at me. What if "Polly Gorden" was an entirely different person? Why aren't there other tokens of our Mary's connection to the Carroll family?
I'm beginning to draw up a mental list of documents to look up, once we are all able to get back to traveling and researching family history in person. I may as well commit that list to paper—or at least file it virtually as a future to-do list. I can't quite yet hit the road to visit any repositories in Monongalia County, or even in southwest Pennsylvania, but it wouldn't hurt to prepare for the eventuality that someday, we will be back to researching family history on site where that family once lived.