My fourth great-grandfather, Zachariah Taliaferro, named in his 1831 will several executors. Besides naming two of his daughters to the position of executrix, there were three men named. Two of those men were his sons-in-law: my third great-grandfather Ozey R. Broyles and David S. Taylor, husband of Zachariah's daughter Lucy.
There was an additional person named to this position in Zachariah's will: a man by the name of Richard Taliaferro. Presumably, that man was Zachariah's brother, for he did have a brother by that name. But since I know very little about that brother Richard except that his was a given name popular in the extended Taliaferro family, this is obviously both a moment to learn more about the man and a warning to proceed cautiously with research.
As it turned out, a cursory check of online documents revealed two court records. One was an 1834 guardianship appointment for the two orphan children of Richard "Talifaro," drawn up on the third day of November in Monroe County, Georgia. The other record was the last will of one Richard Taliaferro, which he signed in nearby Coweta County, Georgia, on the last day of October in that same year.
At first glance, despite being drawn up in two different counties, date-wise it appears as if the two documents fit together like two pieces to a puzzle. But let's take a look further. The children named in the guardianship proceedings were Mary H. and Charles R. Talifaro. The guardian appointed was a man by the name of John Brown, rather than any Taliaferro kin who could easily have stepped into this position.
Let's take a look at that other document to see who among his kin was named in Richard Taliaferro's will.
Beginning as did many last testaments of that era, the will first took care of the necessary business of ensuring a decent burial and paying off his remaining debts. After that, where one would expect to see a listing of a wife and children, Richard proceeded to name two women "formerly belonging to me" to give them specific items out of his possessions.
Family was eventually mentioned in Richard's will, but not a wife, and—even more germane to our question—not any children. Those he did name were either siblings or children of those siblings. Among them were:
- "my sister" Frances Penn
- nephew Richard T. Penn
- niece Mary Jones
The last mentioned relative, Richard's niece Mary, had stipulations attached to the inheritance she was about to receive. For one thing, it was actually granted to John H. Johnson in trust for Mary, which might lead one to believe, at that point, that Mary was a minor. But not so. A parenthetical comment after that line explained that Mary was "formerly Penn"—in other words, Frances Taliaferro Penn's daughter—and "now wife of Dabney P. Jones." The will also specifically adds the words, "and her children."
In one single paragraph, we are granted a clear sketch of a family tree, if not of Richard, at least of his one sister, Frances. But is this our Richard? If so, what about the other document, drawn up only a few days later, naming orphaned children Mary and Charles? And how does John H. Johnson fit into the picture—if, indeed, either one of these documents belongs in the picture for our Richard Taliaferro.
Our first step will be to see whether we can find anything else on our Richard, executor for his brother Zachariah Taliaferro's will. Then, we'll also explore what can be discovered on Frances—ours? or another Taliaferro line?—and her Penn and Jones relatives. (Jones might be a rough research prospect, but perhaps not so difficult when coupled with an unusual given name like Dabney.)
Bit by bit, we'll either confirm or reject this connection between the Richard in the 1834 documents and the Richard mentioned in the 1831 will of our Zachariah Taliaferro—and learn a lot about at least someone's Taliaferro family.