I’ve just found the will of my 5th great grandfather, Frederick Goss (1766-1833) and the estate inventory of his widow, Sarah (Elston) Goss (1772-1837) in Davidson County, North Carolina. Frederick’s 1833 will includes the following:
“I give & bequeath unto my beloved wife Sarah my negro slaves namely James Catharine & Lett, to her use and benefit during her life time & then the said James & Catherine [no mention of Lett] to be sold by my executors and their proceeds to be divided among my lawful heirs.”
The inventory of Sarah’s estate includes “A list of the sale of the property of Sarah Goss deceased sold the 9th day of June 1837.”
Interspersed between the sale prices of such items as “one stone jug 30 cents,” “candlemold and scissors 5 cents,” and “1 side saddle 9 dollars and 50 cents,” the list also includes:
James a negro boy purchased for $601 by James Lee. (Lee also bought one “coverlid,” two quilts, one “needleworked counterpin,” and one “bed cord” for a total of $8.33.)
Catharine a negro girl purchased for $402 by Julian Leach.
Irena a negro girl purchased for $300.25 by William Harris.
The 1830 Census lists Goss enslaving 12 people: one boy under age 10, two male youths between 10 and 23, one young man between 24 and 35, and one man between 36 and 54. There were also four girls under age 10, two girls/young women between 10 and 24, and one woman between 36 and 54. Which of these twelve were the four individuals listed in the estate documents? And what happened to the others?
I wish I knew James, Catharine, Lett and Irena’s ages. What were their relationships to each other? I don’t know if Lett (listed in Frederick’s will) is the same person as Irena in Sarah’s estate inventory. The three enslavers who purchased these three people at the sale aren’t names I recognize from my family research and I don’t know if they were local. Did these four people remain in the area or were they uprooted and sent far away? So many unanswered questions, but I hope this little bit of information is helpful to someone.
I have many ancestors who were enslavers. Most were on my maternal grandmother’s side, but some, like Frederick and Sarah Goss, were ancestors of my paternal grandmother, and at least one was an on my paternal grandfather’s side. It’s a daunting task, but this post is a very small first step to share information on the souls who were held in bondage by my ancestors. There will be more.
Wills (Davidson County, North Carolina), 1823-1969; Index to Wills, 1823-1955; p. 239. Author: North Carolina. Superior Court (Davidson County); Probate Place: Davidson, North Carolina
Wills and Estate Papers (Davidson County), 1663-1978; Author: North Carolina. Division of Archives and History (Raleigh, North Carolina); Probate Place: Davidson, North Carolina
Frederick (1766-1833) and Sarah (Elston) Goss (1772-1837) 5th great grandparents
Fernita “Neatty” (Goss) Bodenhamer (1795-1863) 4th great grandmother
John Bodenhamer (about 1837-1863?) 3rd great grandfather
Clementine “Clemmie” Esther (Bodenhamer) Owen (1854-1925) 2nd great grandmother
Stella Lee (Owen) Miller (1881-1942) great grandmother
Esther Jane (Miller) (Stephenson) Hare (1914-1975) grandmother
I managed to spend more time than usual frolicking in my family research this year, including a trip to England in August and a road trip through family-related places in Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina in March. The research was a refuge and escape from other worries at times, and the travel and people I connected with were pure magic. Genealogy was definitely a highlight of my 2019, with a few particularly special discoveries and experiences.
A brick wall came tumbling down; never seen photos emerged; I visited a cousin in England and made contact with several cousins I hadn’t known about; I walked in places where my ancestors spent their days. My plan was to blog about each of these, but most of those posts are still drafts… Goals for 2020!
OliversandOliphants – Finding the father of my born-out-of-wedlock 2nd great grandfather, David Oliver (my mother’s family name), has long been a challenge, and the discovery of DNA matches named Oliphant helped redirect my search. Thanks to the help of a great new online community, Walk My Past (see below), the mystery has been solved. David Oliver’s father, my 3rd great grandfather, was George Oliphant (1827-1904) from Bower, Caithness, Scotland. And… I found a photograph of the place he was living at the end of his life!
James Mills and Maria Milnes Photos – I’ve always had a fair amount of information on Granny’s (Elsie Mills, 1899-1993) maternal family, but not much on her father’s side. So far I’ve only turned up one blurry passport photograph of her father, James Mills (1863-1925). And then this unexpected gift! An Ancestry member posted a pair of photos from a family album–Granny’s grandparents, James Mills (1824-1904) and Maria Milnes (1825-1892). It was remarkable to see their faces and especially to discover how much my Granny looked like her grandmother.
Living Cousins – 2019 brought re-connection and first contact with close-ish cousins in England, Scotland, New Mexico, Texas, and New York. Some were through DNA matching and others through more old-fashioned methods. It turns out that a childhood friend is a 10th cousin (thank you, Ancestry DNA) and a friend from college is a 9th cousin. Best of all, I spent a lovely afternoon with my Mum’s first cousin in London. Another goal for 2020 is to be in contact with more cousins.
Ackworth School – Oh, my, what a thrill this was! In August I arranged to spend a day visiting Ackworth School in West Yorkshire, exploring the buildings, and poring through the archival material collected for me by Celia Wolfe, the school’s kind and incredibly knowledgeable archivist. I won’t spoil the post that I really, truly do still plan to write, but the short version is that I strolled the campus where my great grandmother, Emily Wright (1865-1954) was born and spent most of her childhood, where her parents worked, and where her ancestors on both sides and her siblings were students from 1780 through the late 19th century. The original buildings and grounds of this Quaker boarding school are little changed, so it felt like they could have been right there, walking the halls and pathways with me.
And there were photographs of students and teachers, including lots of wonderful images of Emily Wright and her parents, Mary Ann Deane (1841-1884) and Alfred Wright (1831-1901). The Quakers are precise record keepers, so there were documents rich in details about many family members. Proper blog post to follow!
Pennsylvania/Virginia/North Carolina Road Trip – A spur of the moment driving trip in March took me first to Sunbury, Pennsylvania, in the Susquehanna River Valley, north of Harrisburg, where I researched my Miller and Deppen ancestors. Thanks to the helpful folks at the Northumberland County Historical Society, I learned that my 4th great grandfather, John Miller (1774-1821), is said to have drowned in the Susquehanna River while checking his flooded land on the Isle of Que. The tiny island is one half mile wide and 5.5 miles long, part of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania on the west side of the river. I paid a quiet visit to that shore at dusk.
Next stop was Staunton, Virginia, where James and Maria (Milnes) Mills settled around 1870. I took a whirlwind tour of Trinity Church, where the family worshiped; Thornrose Cemetery, with a sizable Mills family plot beneath a majestic magnolia tree. Census records and city directories provided me with the addresses of several family homes, so I was able to find where James and Maria lived during their later years with some of their children.
The North Carolina leg of my road trip took me to Davidson County in search of late 18th to mid-19th century graves of my Owen, Bodenhamer and Goss ancestors. It was a bit of a wild goose chase. Visits to the Abbott’s Creek Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Reeds Baptist Church Cemetery, and Becks Reformed Church Cemetery led me to graves of some collateral ancestors, but no direct ones. But the bonus was some exceptional decorative gravestones–well worth a quick visit!
Walk My Past – A new resource for genealogists appeared on the scene this year when amateur genealogist Abbie Allen decided to create Walk My Past, a website where people could easily offer or request help with their family history. The idea is simple– volunteer “genies” are available to help with requests for information, cemetery photos, or a trip to a nearby archive. With willing helpers scattered across the globe, it gives access to information that can be out of reach otherwise. There are now 187 genies in 14 countries and the numbers are growing. Definitely worth checking it out!
And I’m the happiest of users. A kind-hearted “genie”, Meredith Cane of Revill McKay, Scotland, saw my request for help tracking down the answer to my Oliver/Oliphant mystery. She was already working in Scottish records for that region, and was able to identify my 3rd great grandfather, George Oliphant. Hoorah!
There’s my 2019 in a very large nutshell. Now, onward to 2020 and new adventures.