Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Road Ahead


Sometimes, piecing together a family's story involves not only the immediate relatives, or what some people call the direct line. I've found many cases which I could not solve without branching out to siblings—sometimes siblings over several generations. In the case of our Carters, though, those collateral lines (and the records of their property) are leading us on a merry chase through many counties in colonial Virginia. At this point, I need a plan for sorting out each iteration of the research road ahead.

With this month's research puzzle, the closing days have brought me to a point in which I wonder whether my fifth great-grandfather John Carter ever had a wife named Elizabeth Armistead at all. There is no record that I can find of a marriage between the two in colonial Virginia where they lived. 

Logically, there would be no mention of Elizabeth in John Carter's will, simply because she predeceased him—if, that is, she was ever his wife. That has concerned me, ever since we learned that there was another woman named Sarah Kenyon who had been John Carter's wife before his final marriage to Hannah Chew, but who was not mentioned in genealogy books focused on the Carter line. Why no mention of the one, yet no documentation for the other? The only way I can see out of this tangle is to reach further among extended family members for any sign of Elizabeth or other members of her Armistead family.

That prospect brings me to the point of expanding this search far and wide beyond the simple task I originally thought it would involve. Let's take a look at the research road ahead, to see what this effort might require.

First of all, if the possible marriage between John Carter and Elizabeth Armistead ever did happen as the Carter genealogy book asserted, any record of the event might have been filed in a county other than John's final residence in Spotsylvania County. Looking for signs of the Armistead family yesterday, I realized that trail would lead us to search court documents in at least four counties. Besides Spotsylvania, we saw yesterday that a likely father for Elizabeth filed his will in Richmond County. Then, too, John Carter had property in Caroline County, another possibility for a marriage arrangement. Even farther-fetched than that, Elizabeth's young widowed mother Sarah had remarried, bringing her—and possibly her two young Armistead children—to her second husband Joseph Russell's home in the colony of Maryland, giving us yet another location for records regarding a marriage.

Besides that direct search for any indication of a marriage between Elizabeth Armistead and John Carter, we will likely need to find records affiliated with each branch of the respective families to locate any mention of others in the extended family—particularly any additional mentions of Elizabeth, herself. It may be a long, winding trail that leads us to the answer of when—and whether—Elizabeth and John Carter were married.

As these multiple documents become part of our search, it will be even more important to draw up a timeline to help track the dates of each occurrence in the extended family's story. I already find my head swimming as I consider the events in Elizabeth's family history; melding hers with her brother's and with other members of the blended Russell family—not to mention the multiple people on the Carter side of the family—will take some timeline work.

That said, hopefully the court documents which will provide the answers are still in existence and digitized for our benefit. Beyond that, hopefully they will make their appearance before the month runs out at the end of this coming week.

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