A case of mistaken identity

The name on the state death index is the same. The woman died in the same county where my ancestor lived.  If the death date is correct, then she was over 100 years old. Possible?  Yes.  Post the information to online family tree and mark it as tentative. Others copy the information but leave out ‘tentative’.  Add ‘order death certificate’ to my to-do list. Three years later, I finally retrieve her file.  It’s time to follow-up.

Is Martha Catherine Ellerbee, who died in 1929, actually Martha Love Ellerbee?

In 2016, I found this listing on the Florida Death Index[1]:

                Name                                    Place       Sex      Col.         Vol.        Number         Year

Ellerbee, Martha Catharine         Tampa         F           W           459         16971            1929

Tampa is in Hillsborough county, Florida.  Before ordering her death certificate, I reviewed the records and information already in my file about Martha Love Ellerbee.  I remembered that Martha certainly lived in Hillsborough county, Florida.

Martha Love married John Ellerbee in 1842 in Randolph County, Georgia. [2] By 1850, John, age 42, and Martha, age 26, lived in Baker county, Georgia.  [3]  The census record lists 8 presumed children- Edward, age 19; Elizabeth, age 14; James, age 12; Sanderlin, age 6; Smith, age 5; Jasper, age 4; not named female, age 3; and Martha, age 2. Birthplaces ranged from Houston county, Georgia for the first three to Randolph county for Sanderlin and Smith to Baker county for the others.  Given estimated birth years and Martha’s marriage to John in 1842, she would not be the mother of Edward, Elizabeth, and James.  Martha’s estimated birth year of 1824 suggests that she was about 18 years old when she married John.

Note1_May2019_post2 The year 1860 finds John E. Ellerbee, age 52, and Martha, age 36, in Calhoun county, Georgia. [4] Six more children were added to the family.  Ten years later, John Ellerbee, age 63, and 47-year-old Martha lived in Jackson county, Florida with nine children. [5]  The family moved again by 1880, now living in Hillsborough county, Florida. [6]  John’s recorded age was 72 and Martha’s recorded age was 56. Four separate censuses, conducted 10 years apart, reveal  consistent birth information about John and Martha.  John was born circa 1807-1808 in Georgia . Martha was born circa 1823-1824 in North Carolina.

John Ellerbee died in Hillsborough county, Florida, on 6 April 1884.[7] Martha was now a widow.  Individual states, including Florida, conducted a census in 1885. The census taker recorded M. Ellerbee, age 68, boarder, widow, living with the J.L. Carter family in Hillsborough county, Florida in June 1885. [8]  J. L. Carter is Jesse L. Carter, husband of Eliza A. Ellerbee.  Eliza, born about 1855 in Georgia,  is listed on the 1860 and 1870 censuses with her parents, John and Martha. On the 1885 census record,  Martha’s birthplace is reported as North Carolina, consistent with previous records.  The only inconsistency is her recorded age of 68 which suggests birth year about 1817. Although her first name is not recorded, I believe that ‘M. Ellerbee, 68, boarder, widow, born N.C.’ is Martha Love Ellerbee, mother of Eliza A. Ellerbee and 11 other children.

Note2_May2019_post2Worth Marion Ellerbee (1856- 1932) filed as administrator of his father’s estate in Hillsborough county, Florida on 24 July 1886.[9] Why did he delay two years to file?  Did he wait until his mother died?  The probate records do not mention Martha Ellerbee,  John’s widow.  Did Martha die between June 1885 and July 1886?

I have not found any records for  70+ year old Martha Ellerbee after the June 1885 census. Online searches included multiple databases of census and death records as well as newspapers.  I now come  full circle to the 1929 Florida Death Index entry for Martha Catherine Ellerbee.[10]   The answer is obvious – obtain a copy of the death certificate.

Fortunately, a copy of Florida Death Certificate number 16971 for Martha Catherine Ellerbee was available online. [11]  Pertinent information includes:

Martha Catherine Ellerbee. Single.
Date of birth: Feb’y 25, 1911.
Age: 18 years, 8 months, 27 days. 
Birthplace: Pasco county,Fla.
Father: Marion Ellerbee, Birthplace Ga.
Mother: Ruby Kersey, Birthplace: Fla.

Her father was Worth Marion Ellerbee, son of John E. Ellerbee and Martha Love.  Big sigh!  This Martha Catherine Ellerbee was NOT Martha Love Ellerbee.

I removed the reference to 1929 death of Martha Love Ellerbee from online family tree.  I added the information to Martha Catherine Ellerbee, daughter of Worth Marion Ellerbee.  Martha Love Ellerbee died after June 1885, probably in Hillsborough county, Florida. The search continues to confirm exact date and place.

To summarize, an entry on the Florida Death Index led to review of previous information found for Martha Love Ellerbee.  A copy of the death certificate, found online, confirmed that Martha Catherine Ellerbee, who died in 1929, was NOT Martha Love Ellerbee.



I was disappointed that I did not find death information for Martha Love Ellerbee.  If she died in 1929, she would have been about 105 years old, which is possible.  Not finding information for her after 1885 means only that she died after June 1885. No mention of her  in husband’s probate suggests that she died before July 1886. Since her husband died in Hillsborough county, Florida, and many of her children continued to live there, I believe that she died in Hillsborough county.

What I learned:  Post information as ‘tentative’ (preferably in BIG RED LETTERS) if not confirmed. Keep copious notes when and where information is found as well as analysis. A Research Log is a good place for this.  New information requires careful review of previous information.

What helped: Previous work on this family from 2010-2011 and again in 2016. Paper copies of documents.

What didn’t help:  Research logs just now being done for this family. Inconsistent notes/ analysis of previous findings.

TO-DO: Keep looking for Martha Love Ellerbee’s death information.  Review previously searched databases again. Look for unusual sources such as newspapers and county history books.

NEXT BLOG:  John Ellerbee’s Probate record


[1]  “Florida Death Index, 1877-1998,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : accessed, printed 23 October 2016), entry for Martha Catherine Ellerbee, 1929; citing Florida Department of Health, Office of Vital Records.

[2]  “Georgia, Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828-1978,” marriage record, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : downloaded & printed 5 January 2018), entry for John Ellibee & Martha Love; citing  County Marriage Records, 1828–1978; The Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia.

[3] 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Baker County, Georgia, population schedule, District 3, p. 49 B (penned), dwelling 1111, family 141, John E. Ellerbee; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, printed, downloaded 3 January 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Roll M432_61.

[4] 1860 U.S. Census, Calhoun county, Georgia, population schedule, District 3, p. 42 (ink pen), dwelling 289, family 289, John E Ellerbee; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed & downloaded 3 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M654_113.

[5] 1870 U.S. Census, Jackson county, Florida, population schedule, Marianna, p. 54 (ink pen), dwelling 586, family 587, John Ellerbee age 63; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed, downloaded, printed 3 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M593_130.

[6] 1880 U.S. Census, Hillsborough county, Florida, population schedule, Precinct 5, enumeration district (ED) 061, p. 33 (ink pen); p. 407C (stamp), dwelling 402, John Ellerbee age 72; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed, printed, downloaded 1 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, roll 128.

[7]  “Florida, County Judge’s Court (Hillsborough County),” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : accessed & printed 5 May 2019), entry for John Ellerbee; citing “Florida, Wills and Probate Records, 1810-1914” [database online], Florida County, District and Probate Courts; administrator: W.M. Ellerbee

[8] 1885 Florida State Census, Hillsborough county, population schedule, , page 4 D (ink pen); page 105D, family 35, J L Carter age 37 head; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed, printed, downloaded 1 May 2019); citing “Schedules of the Florida State Census of 1885”, National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M845, roll 4.

[9]  “Florida, County Judge’s Court (Hillsborough County),” digital images, Ancestry, entry for John Ellerbee.

[10]  “Florida Death Index, 1877-1998,” digital images, Ancestry, entry for Martha Catherine Ellerbee, 1929.

[11] Hillsborough county, Florida, Florida Deaths, 1877-1939, , entry for Martha Catherine Ellerbee, 21 November 1929; digital images, Family Search (http://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FP3Z-FN4  :   viewed & printed 5 May 2019); citing Tampa, Hillsboro Co., Florida, reference volume 435, no. 16971.

©Susan Posten Ellerbee and  Posting Family Roots, 2019

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