Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Starting on a Journey
Going Backwards in Time


How do you trace the story of your family's history when the first step to be taken is at the end of a life which began in the late 1700s? Granted, many of the same principles apply to such a search as do to the quest to find, say, a grandfather's origin. The markers which guide us along the way, however, may take far different shapes, and sometimes be hidden in places where we'd least expect to look.

Such is the case with my goal this month of discovering something—anything—more on my fourth great-grandfather, Charles McClellan. Thankfully, there have been trailblazers—and we'll discuss them as we move through this month's research challenge—who have noted their observations as they explored this path for themselves; we can benefit from their documentation. But here, we will also need to be inventive in our exploration, and willing to step beyond the typical bounds of genealogical pursuit. We'll need to immerse ourselves, for starters, in the territorial history of northern Florida, and the sparse records about land holdings, tax payments, and perhaps some unexpected other types of information.

At the end of Charles McClellan's life, thankfully, there was a will. Not that it contained everything we could hope for. In that document, presented in court in Jefferson County of territorial Florida, not only was Charles' wife's name missing, but many of his oldest children were left unnamed. Still, the 1839 document serves as a guide.

Given that McClellan is not an uncommon surname, I might have hesitated to accept this March 25 record as belonging to the right Charles McClellan. Except there was one detail: the name of one of the executors. Along with his friend, John A. Cuthbert, Charles McClellan named his "eldest son George E. McClellan" as executors.

Specific to the details of the will, there was not one mention of a wife. Explicitly named were Charles' two youngest children, Samuel R. and Adeline H. E. McClellan, for whose well-being after his passing he apparently had great concern. Each was likely a teenager at the time the will was written, meaning they were still considered minors after Charles' passing by the end of that same year, when his final will was presented at court in Jefferson County, Florida, on December 9.

As for the others, well, the work now begins to confirm those collateral lines of my third great-grandfather, George McClellan, executor of his father's estate. Hidden in the story of those collateral lines may well be more hints about their father Charles' own origins.


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