Wednesday, March 13, 2024

To Again Move a Great Distance


Early in her married life, my fifth great-grandmother Elizabeth Lewis may have followed her husband from Virginia to Georgia, but in her later years and widowhood, it was her children who induced her to once again move a great distance to settle in a new home.

For the mother of at least eleven children, making a choice like that might have been difficult. After all, her most well-known son, George Rockingham Gilmer, served twice as governor of Georgia, and was certainly not going to move from the home state which he had represented in Congress. Besides that, her eldest daughter—my fourth great-grandmother, the twice widowed Mary Meriwether Gilmer Taliaferro Powers—also remained in Georgia.

However, by the time of the 1850 census, the first United States enumeration to include the names of each person resident in a household, Elizabeth's name showed up in the household of one "Benaga" S. Bibb in Montgomery County, Alabama. The reason? He was apparently her son-in-law. Along with Elizabeth's daughter Sophia, Benajah Bibb's wife, several others of Elizabeth's now-adult children had also moved to Montgomery County—or, if not, had taken up land in nearby Mississippi, or even moved to Texas. 

Finding her most recent residence so far from the place where she had raised her family back in Georgia was—to me at least—helpful, because that is what leads us to her will, and a listing of some members of her extended family. With that document, once again, we see another example of a product of her era, for some of the "property" which she bequeathed to her granddaughters named enslaved persons at the time of her residence in Alabama leading up to her 1855 death, opening our eyes as researchers to the up-close details of what life was like in that time period.

A brief entry in the local newspaper in September of that year gave Elizabeth's age as ninety two. The obituary also provided the names of several of her surviving children, as well as notice of the loss of her son Charles. Apparently, her son George must have recently published Sketches of Some of the First Settlers of Upper Georgia, for Elizabeth's obituary quoted a passage from the former governor's book.

While George Gilmer's book certainly wouldn't serve as genealogical documentation, per se, the names listed in his mother's will certainly helped place several of her children in her family tree, and inform us as to the descendants of those children—in particular, those of her married daughters. That becomes useful to me in trying to place my DNA cousins in their correct place in our family tree. 

Beyond the help gleaned from Elizabeth's own will, my latest discovery—thanks to the FamilySearch "labs" whole-text project—unearthed another family will which is now taking its place as my "Rosetta Stone" of Gilmer family relations.

And to think that, at first, I assumed it wasn't even what I was searching for.... 

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