Category Archives: Genealogy Aides

I, Wright Johnson of the County of Surry

This is the will of Wright Johnson (1774-1866) transcribed from the document in the Surry County Register of Deeds, Dobson, N. C. Spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and line breaks have been reproduced as accurately as possible:

[page#] 86

Wright Johnson’s Last Will & Testament

I Wright Johnson of the County of Surry and State of North Carolina
being in sound mind and memory and calling to mind the certainty of death and the
uncertainty of life do make and ordain this my last
will and testament In manner and form as follows. First my will
and desire is that my Executors hereinafter named Shall provide for my body a decent burial
suitable to the wishes of my friends
Second that my executors shall out of my estate pay all funeral
expenses and my just debts to whomsoever owing. Thirdly, I give and devise to my Sons
Henderson Johnson* a tract of Land one hundred acres
more or lefs** lying in Stokes County North Carolina I also give him two
Volumes of Books Clarkes Commenter.* FourThly, I give and devise to my son Wesley Johnson* two volumes of Books Clarks Commentary. I have also previously deeded my son J. Wesley Johnson one hundred acres of Land on Which he now lives. Fifthly, I give and devise to my son James Johnson* two Volumes of Books Clarks Commentary I have also previously to [Third?] Deeded to him a tract of Land one hundred acres on which he now lives Sixthly, I give and devise to my* son John W Johnson* John Wesley’s notes on the New Testament.* Seventhly [marked over] I give to my beloved wife Nancy
Johnson* for her natural life or widowhood The remainder of all my
Estate both real and personal of every discription what soever.
Eightly at the death or Marriage of my wife my will and desire is
That all the property which I or the remainder of all the property that
I have given to her during her life or widowhood be Divided among
My Daughters as follows My Daughter Nancy* Isaac Norman’s* wife
is to have forty acres of Land Commenceing on the Stokes line extending
west West [sic] along the State line far enough to receive her number of acres
My Daughter Elizabeth McMillion* John McMillions wife is to have
Forty acres of Land So laid off as to have the old Dwelling in which
I now live to be on her part
My Daughter Mary* Joseph Whites* wife is to have Forty acres of Land
So layed off that her Dwelling will be on her part
My Daughter Jamima* Joel Snody’s* wife is to have the remainder
Forty acres of Land. Ninethly, also my will and desire is that
all my personal property after the Death of my wife is to be
Equally divided among my Daughters to wit Nancy
Isaac Normans wife Elizabeth McMillions wife Mary
Joseph Whites wife and Jamima Joel Snodys wife

 

[Second page. Page#] 87

And Lastly I do hereby constitute and appoint my Son in-Law
Isaac Norman an Joel Snody my lawful Executors to all intent
and purposes to execute and carry out this my Last wll [sic] and
testament according to the true intent and meaning of the Same
and every part and clause hereof hereby revoking and declaring
utterly Void all other wills and testaments by me theretofore [word inserted] made Invoking
Whereof I the Said Wright Johnson do hereby Set my hand and Seal

[Left-hand column:]
In testmt [marked-out letters] signed Sealed published
and declared by the said Wright Johnson
to be his last will and testament in
presence of us who at his request
and with his presence do subscribe
our names as witnefs thereto
[signature] N Freeman
[signature] A Brim, Just

[Right-hand column:]
February 16th AD 1866
Wright (his X mark) Johnson, {Seal}

North Carolina } Court of pleas and quarter Sefsion

The Execution of the foregoing last will and testament
of Wright Johnson decd was produced in open court and
offered for probate and was duly proven by the oath
of Acaberry Brim one of the Subscribing witnefses thereto
and is ordered to be Recorded and filed
H C Hampton CCC

NOTES:
*Names underlined. Underlining looks lighter than the script and may have been added some time after the creation of the document.
**The original scribe of this document used the long s to write words with a double s, such as less, written as lefs, or witness, written as witnefs.
***Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Bible; John Wesley, Notes on the New Testament.

Transcribed by Glenda Alexander from Surry County, NC, Will Book 5: 1853-1868, pp. 86-87.

Copyright 2020 by Glenda Alexander. All rights reserved.

I, Wright Johnson of the County of Surry

 

 

 

This is the will of Wright Johnson (1774-1866) as transcribed from the document in the Surry County Register of Deeds, Dobson, N. C. Spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and line breaks have been reproduced as accurately as possible.

[page#] 86

Wright Johnson’s Last Will & Testament

I Wright Johnson of the County of Surry and State of North Carolina
being in sound mind and memory and calling to mind the certainty of death and the
uncertainty of life do make and ordain this my last
will and testament In manner and form as follows. First my will
and desire is that my Executors hereinafter named Shall provide for my body a decent burial
suitable to the wishes of my friends
Second that my executors shall out of my estate pay all funeral
expenses and my just debts to whomsoever owing. Thirdly, I give and devise to my Sons
Henderson Johnson* a tract of Land one hundred acres
more or lefs** lying in Stokes County North Carolina I also give him two
Volumes of Books Clarkes Commenter.***
FourThly, I give and devise to my son Wesley Johnson* two volumes of Books
Clarks Commentary. I have also previously deeded my son J. Wesley Johnson
one hundred acres of Land on Which he now lives.
Fifthly, I give and devise to my son James Johnson* two Volumes
of Books Clarks Commentary I have also previously to [Third?] Deeded
to him a tract of Land one hundred acres on which he now lives
Sixthly, I give and devise to my* son John W Johnson* John Wesley’s notes
on the New Testament.*** Seventhly [marked over] I give to my beloved wife Nancy
Johnson* for her natural life or widowhood The remainder of all my
Estate both real and personal of every discription what soever.
Eightly at the death or Marriage of my wife my will and desire is
That all the property which I or the remainder of all the property that
I have given to her during her life or widowhood be Divided among
My Daughters as follows My Daughter Nancy* Isaac Norman’s* wife
is to have forty acres of Land Commenceing on the Stokes line extending
west West [sic] along the State line far enough to receive her number of acres
My Daughter Elizabeth McMillion* John McMillions wife is to have
Forty acres of Land So laid off as to have the old Dwelling in which
I now live to be on her part
My Daughter Mary* Joseph Whites* wife is to have Forty acres of Land
So layed off that her Dwelling will be on her part
My Daughter Jamima* Joel Snody’s* wife is to have the remainder
Forty acres of Land. Ninethly, also my will and desire is that
all my personal property after the Death of my wife is to be
Equally divided among my Daughters to wit Nancy
Isaac Normans wife Elizabeth McMillions wife Mary
Joseph Whites wife and Jamima Joel Snodys wife

[Second page. Page#] 87

And Lastly I do hereby constitute and appoint my Son in-Law
Isaac Norman an Joel Snody my lawful Executors to all intent
and purposes to execute and carry out this my Last wll [sic] and
testament according to the true intent and meaning of the Same
and every part and clause hereof hereby revoking and declaring
utterly Void all other wills and testaments by me theretofore [word inserted] made Invoking
Whereof I the Said Wright Johnson do hereby Set my hand and Seal

[Left-hand column:]
In testmt [marked-out letters] signed Sealed published
and declared by the said Wright Johnson
to be his last will and testament in
presence of us who at his request
and with his presence do subscribe
our names as witnefs thereto
[signature] N Freeman
[signature] A Brim, Just

[Right-hand column:]
February 16th AD 1866
Wright (his X mark) Johnson, {Seal}

North Carolina } Court of pleas and quarter Sefsion

The Execution of the foregoing last will and testament
of Wright Johnson decd was produced in open court and
offered for probate and was duly proven by the oath
of Acaberry Brim one of the Subscribing witnefses thereto
and is ordered to be Recorded and filed
H C Hampton CCC

NOTES:
*Names underlined. Underlining looks lighter than the script and may have been added some time after the creation of the document.
**The original scribe of this document used the long s to write words with a double s, such as less, written as lefs, or witness, written as witnefs.
***Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Bible; John Wesley, Notes on the New Testament.

Transcribed by Glenda Alexander from Surry County, NC, Will Book 5: 1853-1868, pp. 86-87.

Copyright 2020 by Glenda Alexander. All rights reserved.

Genealogy Skills: Transcribing Old Documents

How do you read these words: lefs, witnefs, acrofs? Is the name spelled Wright, Right, or Rite? What did they mean when they described a woman as a man’s consort?  Documents created before we had keyboards are hard enough to read.  Even hand-writing was different back then, sometimes with completely different symbols for letters of the alphabet or for key words.

I found some good clues in this webinar by Diane L. Richard on “Accurate Transcriptions for Historical Records”  https://www.ncgenealogy.org/accurate-transcriptions-historical-records/ on the North Carolina Genealogical Society website.

The author’s most important advice for me was, don’t try to clean up the document to make it easier to read—you may actually be destroying important information. She has some good methods for copying the document just as you see it, warts and all.

I decided to practice those skills by re-transcribing an old will, because I had, with good intentions, tried to make it more orderly. The original did not put spaces between the  numbered provisions for the beneficiaries. It had very few periods to separate sentences and few commas to separate the names of descendants.

However, by going back to the starting point and copying just what was there, I discovered an initial I had not noticed before in a person’s name. This is a small detail, but it might lead to finding more records about that person. Also, I was able to read some words that previously  seemed illegible, and I had skipped them instead of setting them out with brackets or notes. Every clue is important, considering how few records we have of our oldest ancestors.

The revised transcription of the Last Will and Testament of Wright Johnson of Surry County, N. C., my 5th great-grandfather, can be found here: https://8families.blog/2020/02/02/i-wright-johnson-of-the-county-of-surry/

Wright Johnson had eight children and many descendants. His land lay in three counties: Surry, Stokes, and Patrick, on the N. C./Virginia border.

Copyright 2019 by Glenda Alexander.  All Rights Reserved.

Land Records Help Fill Out a Family Tree

I recently learned that records of land sales, taxes, and legal disputes can be as valuable as to a family history as wills and deeds. I found two records that, between them, told a dramatic and sometimes tragic story.

Wright Will (1)

In his will, my 4x great-grandfather, Wright Johnson, left land to seven of his eight children. He had land in three counties: Surry and Stokes in North Carolina and Patrick in Virginia. At his death in 1866, his 460 acres were contiguous and his home was on Archie’s (also called Archer’s) Creek, straddling the state and county lines. The communities of Westfield and Quaker Gap are in that area.

Wright’s son Henderson, my 3x great-grandfather, inherited 100 acres in the northwest corner of Stokes County, containing a small mountain called Archie’s Knob. It was totally wooded with the exception of one cleared field and a road or two that Wright had cut through it.

Henderson first married in 1833, to my ancestor, Amelia Norman Jones, and raised five children, plus a step-daughter, on his father’s land. After about thirty years of marriage, Amelia died, and Henderson remarried in 1865, at about age 60, to Malinda Spangler Hall, who was 21. He soon had four more children, plus a step-son who died young.

Wright died in 1866. His wife, Nancy Wilks Johnson, followed him within about four years. At the time of their deaths, Henderson and Malinda lived with them. In 1873, Henderson, about 70 years old, also died. Malinda was left with four children from one to nine years old, and no means of support.

In the meantime, Henderson had leased his land to a man named Henry Slate, who built a cabin for himself and two other cabins, which he rented. He cleared some land and tried to raise corn and tobacco without much success. He moved out of his cabin, and Malinda moved in. She stayed a brief time, then left for Mt. Airy, where she found work in a factory. She left the cabin rented to a woman named Polly George. Polly and her children had “some trouble,” unspecified, and the family left the area. Malinda then placed an elderly woman named Celia Pringle in the cabin, to take care of “her things,” presumably furniture, and to establish her possession of the property.

Malinda (1)

In the meantime, Henry Slate tried to establish ownership of the property. He nailed the doors of the cabins shut and had a local attorney, John Clark, to take Celia Pringle to the county poor house. Years passed and the dispute went on. Malinda hired an attorney and went to court to assert her ownership, and finally sold the property in 1904.

The grantor deed for the 1904 sale provided a valuable document for my family history, as it listed all the surviving descendants of Henderson Johnson at that time, including children by both wives, grandchildren, and all their spouses.

However, the 37 pages of petition papers concerning the land dispute added even more, such as death dates for Wright, Nancy, and Henderson Johnson, the location of Henderson’s inheritance, and some circumstantial information about Malinda Johnson.

Copyright 2018 by Glenda Alexander.  All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

Will of Wright Johnson, Surry County, NC, Will Book 5: 1853-1868, pp. 25-26, Surry County Register of Deeds, Dobson N.C.

Grantor Deed for Henderson Johnson heirs, filed 22 March 1904, Grantor Book 47 pp. 4-5, Stokes County Register of Deeds, Danbury, N. C..

Account, Petition, and Sales Papers, Probate Records, Stokes County, N. C., 1753-1971; North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998; database on-line at Ancestry.com; (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.)

 

My Intro to DNA

I am not making this up:  I have an ancestor named Isreal White.  When I found his name in an old census book in a library. I laughed out loud.  Then I saw his wife’s name:  Lily White.   The librarian looked at me like he might come out from behind that counter, hoist me up by my shirt collar, and frog-march me out of there.

Ironically, the White family claimed Native American ancestry, but they could not get their names added to a Cherokee census made by the U. S. government in the 1930’s.  The reason was that they had never lived within 150 miles of Cherokee territory.  Nevertheless, that family legend persists.  When Ancestry.com offered to test my DNA and tell me my ethnic background, I whipped out my charge card, spit in a bottle, and sent it off in the mail.

When I received my results, I was shocked to be informed that I am 34% Irish.  The only ancestry for which I have proof is Scottish and English.  The pie chart shows another third of British Isles, which I guess covers that.  The remaining third is countries close to Great Britain, many of whom invaded it or were invaded by it over the centuries.

I am pretty sure my so-called Scotch-Irish ancestors scooted through Northern Ireland pretty fast on their way over here.  I am not well versed in that history, but it has something to do with England’s mistreatment of the Irish, and such an unwelcome reception for Scottish settlers that they remembered it as “the killing time.”   A couple of Irish hitch-hikers on the ship to America could not account for 34%.

Native American ancestry might still show up in my siblings’ DNA, as each child gets 50% of their DNA from each parent, but not exactly the same stuff, unless they are identical twins.   This explains why I look like my maternal grandmother and my sister looks like our paternal grandmother, and therefore, we don’t look like we come from the same family.  A White descendant says one of our great-great grandmothers came from the Powhatan reservation in Virginia.  The Powhatan tribe lived on the coast, where our English ancestors entered the American continent.  This sounds more likely to be true than Cherokee ancestry.  Pocahontas might be our cousin.

No one in this country should be surprised, considering what we know about American history, to find multiple races in their DNA pie chart.  I was ready to embrace it all, as I love the diversity of my nation, and I was disappointed to find out how vanilla I am.

However, I got the results right before St. Patrick’s Day, so I thought I should celebrate my Irish heritage.  I went online looking for events.  I learned that Savannah has a parade and Chicago dyes a river green.  Sadly, closer to home, I found one activity:  drinking.  Many people do that every day, so to make it special, they dye the beer green. 

If I was going to choose a cultural stereotype, I would choose something better for my people.  Drinking for its own sake is an addiction.  Drinking green dye is just reckless.  However, drinking to relax your inhibitions so you can sing and dance in public is a party, and I guess that’s okay.  I love Celtic music and have been known to sing and dance with no alcoholic support whatsoever.

So, I am quite happy to be Celtic-American.  With my real-whiteness and my reddish hair, green is my best color.

Learning to Be a History Detective

I knew my grandmother was important. She was a modest little lady, even considering that she could put anybody in the family in their place with a sharp remark or a stern look. She never had her hair cut or wore a skirt any higher than mid-calf. She ignored the doctor’s advice to take a walk every day because she thought it unladylike to go walking down a public street like that. She preferred to stay out of the sun and do needlework, read her Bible, and watch the soaps and country music shows.

Fannie Johnson Oakley was a middle child, with four older siblings and five younger ones. She used to keep up with her siblings by letter. Remember snail mail? Born in 1892, she passed in 1976, when Bill Gates was barely out of high school.

Important to my research, I have been able to use her collection of photographs, and the list in her handwriting of her family’s birthdays, in lieu of a family Bible. I recall sitting in on conversations between her and my mother and Aunt Opal, who all remembered the family’s life in Surry County, N. C. The hints I remember from those conversations have been important clues for me in playing history detective.

However, once sister Fannie was gone, no one kept up with the Johnson family. There was no one to send an obituary to or share pictures of the grandchildren with. Now they’d be posted on Facebook or Instagram for everyone to see. I find pictures from my own Facebook albums whenever I go searching for clues on the web.

In 1976, Grandma’s sister Mary also died, without any of her nieces, including my mother, knowing. The last of the Johnson family, the youngest brother, Elijah, passed about eight years later, as I learned from a Social Security record on Ancestry.com.

Ancestry.com’s DNA tests and website helped me connect with a grandson of Mary, but Elijah had no children, and he moved to an area far from the rest of the family. I didn’t think that a long drive to his last known home town would accomplish anything.

Then I discovered that Rootsweb had a message board for Russell County, Virginia, where Elijah died. I joined and posted a message about my search and got an immediate reply that someone found a listing for Elizah Johnson in a cemetery book. I searched the web to see if such a book was available to me and found that it was in a number of far-away libraries.

Further inquiries on the board were lost in a flurry of messages saying the moderator of the list had died, which he then informed the group, he had not, and that was followed by apologies and people unsubscribing because irrelevant posts were filling up their email. In the meantime, I called the cemetery, and a helpful young woman found my kin in the records and confirmed that Grandma’s brother and his wife were indeed buried there. This gave me a record that qualified as genealogical proof.

I posted a message on the board to thank them and let them know that I had found Elijah with a “J.” No one lol-ed or even tehe-ed, and I know, being genealogists, they are at least as old as I am, and they should get the reference. I will excuse them, however, as most of them have unsubscribed and moved over to the Facebook page. Message boards are apparently becoming history, too.

 

Copyright 2018 by Glenda Alexander–except the Liza image–All Rights Reserved.

Valentine’s Day

How did your grandparents meet?  You might find clues in the census.

William Franklin Alexander married Loula Isabella Richardson on July 13, 1910, in Moore County, N. C.  (On the left is their wedding portrait.)  In May of that year, the census said he operated a shingle mill and was a boarder in the John D. Richardson household.  John Richardson was a farmer, and other records indicate that he  owned a saw mill.  His daughter Loula and her sisters were employed on the farm at the occupation of “chopping,” while their brothers did plowing.  Adjacent to the Richardson household on the census page was George Morgan, who was a laborer in the shingle mill.  In the same year, Loula’s sister Pearl would elope with George.  Two of her nieces told me that she slipped out of the house at night, with the help of some female cousins of the McDonald family.  George drove his buggy to Virginia, where they married across the state line.

Like many contemporary couples, these people met at work.  The shingle mill was located on the farm, and Frank actually lived in the household of his future wife.

Last fall, at the North Carolina State Fair, I saw a steam-powered saw mill in operation, which was probably similar to the one used by Frank and George for cutting wooden shingles for roofs and siding for buildings.

Source:  1910 U. S. Census, Greenwood Township, Moore County, N. C., E. D. 7, p. 9A; Family Bible records of the Alexander family in possession of Glenda Alexander.

Copyright 2018 by Glenda Alexander.  All rights reserved.