Pearls in a Probate Record

Census records are not the only documents that tell about a person’s children. Following sons through the years via census records is usually not too hard, especially if the son remained in or near his birthplace. Daughters are more challenging.  If the daughter married, what was her husband’s surname?  A marriage record is the record of choice to discover that information. What if you can’t find a marriage record?  Answer:  Look for  probate records of one or both parents. This post discusses what I found, and did not find, in the probate record for John E. Ellerbee who died in 1884.

probate def

What does a probate record include?  “Probate records are court records generated after someone’s death.”[1] Wills and estate papers are usually part of these files.  Property assessments show the value of real estate and personal property owned by the deceased.  In a will, the person describes how his or her property is divided—who gets what.  Discern the strength of relationships from the will.  “To my son, Elias, I give $5.00 and a mule” suggests a different relationship between Elias and his father than “To my son, Elias, I give 50 acres of bottom land near Nancy Creek, 1 bull, 2 milk cows, a wagon, and 2 mules.”  Proceeds of a property auction offers glimpses of item values at the time.

A probate record often includes the names of family members and relatives as well as their current residence.  Of particular interest are the married surnames of daughters and, sometimes, the names of their husbands. A daughter may be listed as “Mrs. Mary Townsend”   or “Mrs. Joe Townsend”.  The 2nd example requires further analysis to determine which of the three daughters married Joe Townsend. A list of daughters, their married surnames and/or names of husbands helps to confirm information found earlier but listed as ‘tentative’.

The probate record for John E. Ellerbee[2] provided answers to some questions, confirmed some previously discovered information and generated more questions.  John’s son, Worth Marion Ellerbee, filed as administrator for his father’s estate in July, 1886.

Question 1:  When did John E. Ellerbee die?

Answer: John was alive in 1880[3]. The marital status of his wife, Martha, was recorded as ‘widow’ in 1885.[4]  John died between 1880 and 1885. The probate record gave a specific date:  “John Ellerbee, late of the County aforesaid [Hillsborough County, Florida] died on the 6th day of April A.D. 1884. . . . “[5]

Question 2:  Where were John’s children at the time of his death?

Page 21 of the probate file provides a list of 11 children: [6]

“The following persons are heirs of said Estate to wit:
S.L. Ellerbee, residence unknown
J.N. Ellerbee, residence Hillsborough Co, Fla
Emiline D. Simpson, wife of Samuel Simpson, residence unknown
Heirs of Martha Edenfield, deceased, residence Jackson Co. Fla
Candis R. Dudley, wife of Geo Dudley, residence Jackson Co. Fla
Eliza Carter, residence Hillsborough Co. Fla and
W.M. Ellerbee, petioner [sic]
P.A. Stewart, wife of John Stewart, residence Hillsborough Co. Fla
Ocea P.A. Ellerbee
Lewis Sparkman, husband of Smithiann, his deceased wife,
residence Hillsborough Co. Fla
and John Francis Ellerbee."

One son, Smith R. Ellerbee, 2nd oldest child, is missing from this list. Smith was recorded with his parents in 1850[7] and 1860[8].  I wonder if Smith R. Ellerbee died between 1860 and 1884?

What about children listed in the probate record?

  1. “S.L. Ellerbee, residence unknown”. The 1885 census records Sandlin Love Ellerbee and his wife, Mary Jane (Grantham), living in Washington County, Florida.[9]
  2. “J.N. Ellerbee, residence Hillsborough Co, Fla.” Identified as Jasper N. Ellerbee. Married and living with wife, Jane (Hanna), and their two children in Hillsborough County, Florida according to 1885 census.[10]
  3. “Emiline D. Simpson, wife of Samuel Simpson, residence unknown.” A.K.A. Damarus E. Elerbee on 1860 census.[11] Given name spelled Demarius Emeline. They lived in Jackson County, Florida in 1880[12].
  4. “Heirs of Martha Edenfield, deceased, residence Jackson Co. Fla.” Implies that Martha died before her father. Richard F. Edenfield and Mattie Ellerbee. Married in 1872. [13] Last recorded census for Mattie was 1880. [14]
  5. “ Candis R. Dudley, wife of Geo Dudley, residence Jackson Co., Fla.” George Dudley and Candis Ellerbee married in 1872. [15] 1885 census confirms this family’s residence. [16]
  6. “Eliza Carter, residence Hillsborough Co. Fla.” Married Jesse Carter.  1885 census confirms this family’s residence. [17]  Also listed with them is “M. Ellerbee, female, white, age 68,  boarder” who is presumed to be Eliza’s mother, Martha Love Ellerbee.
  7. “W.M. Ellerbee”. Worth Marion Ellerbee. Living in Hillsborough County per 1880 census.[18]
  8. “P.A. Stewart, wife of John Stewart, residence Hillsborough Co, Fla”. K.A. Icey P.A. Ellerbee, twin sister of Ocea P.A. Ellerbee.  Her marriage information was new to me.  Married between 1880 & 1885.
  9. “Ocea P.A. Ellerbee”. Twin sister of Icey P.A. Stewart. Icephenia and Osephenia, aged 21, were still with their parents in 1880.[19]
  10. “Lewis Sparkman husband of Smithiann, his deceased wife, residence Hillsborough Co. Fla.” I didn’t know about Smithiann earlier.  Smithiann, her husband, and 2 children lived close to her brother, Jasper, in 1885.[20]  I estimate Smithiann’s death date as between 30 June 1885 (census date) and October 1886 (date on probate record, page 9).
  11. “John Francis Ellerbee.” No records found after reference in probate record.

In summary,  I found 1885 residence for one child (Sandlin), confirmed residences for 6 children (Jasper,  Emeline, Candis, Eliza, Icey, Smithiann).  Two children (Martha and Smithiann) died before their father.  The circa 1885 residences of four children  (Demarius, Worth Marion, Osephenia, John Francis) need to be discovered as well as the residence of Richard Edenfield.

Missing from the probate record:

  1. John’s widow, Martha. Did she die between June 1885 (date of census) and October 1886 (date on probate record, page 9)?  Place item on To-do list.
  2. John E. Ellerbee’s 4 children (presumed) with his first wife.  None of their heirs were mentioned.  Were the families notified about John’s death? At least 3 of the 4 children died before their father. Perhaps distance and the step-sibling relationships proved too much?   William Green Ellerbee’s widow and her family lived in Louisiana. Edward Alexander Ellerbee’s widow lived in Randolph County, Georgia with her children. James John Ellerbee’s widow moved to Cherokee county, Texas, about 1881 with her children. I haven’t found any records for Elizabeth Ellerbee after 1850.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

Reflection

I initially found John’s probate record on Ancestry in 2016 but didn’t take time to read all pages.  I had copied a few pages for my paper files.  Genealogy Do-over efforts for this year are the Ellerbee and Johnson families, my husband’s ancestors. I was pleasantly surprised at the list of children even though I have seen such lists on other probate records.  Using the probate list, I learned about two daughters (marriage of Icea P.A.; existence and marriage of Smithiann) and confirmed information about others.  I am very tempted to follow descendant lines.

What I learned:  Look at all pages in a record!  Continue to use published family history as a base only. Acknowledge contribution of book’s author and recognize that it may have errors.

What helped: Previous work done between 2010 and 2016. Familiarity with RootsMagic database and revised research log format.

What didn’t help:  Lack of documentation for specific items. Little or no record of previous analysis.

To-do: Continue search for death location and date for Martha Love Ellerbee. Focus on Hillsborough County, Florida records between 1885 and 1900. Confirm death of Mattie Ellerbee Edenfield between 1880 and 1886.  Confirm death of Smithiann Ellerbee Sparkman between June 1885 and October 1886. Create research logs for children of John & Martha Ellerbee.   Set searches for information about Smith R. Ellerbee as BSO for now.

SOURCES: 

[1] Kenyatta Berry, The Family Tree Toolkit (New York City, Skyhorse Publishing, 2018), p. 81.

[2] Probate record for John E. Ellerbee. “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, Willas and Probate Records, 1810-1914” [database online], Florida County, District and Probate Courts; administrator: W.M. Ellerbee.

[3] 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.

[4] 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 microfilm publication M845, roll 4.

[5] “Florida, County Judge’s Court (Hillsborough County),” digital images, Ancestry, entry for John Ellerbee, page 4.

[6] “Florida, County Judge’s Court (Hillsborough County),” digital images, Ancestry, entry for John Ellerbee, page 21.

[7]  1850 U.S. Federal Census, Baker County, Georgia, population schedule, District 3, p. 49 B (penned), dwelling 1111, family 141, Smith Ellerbee, age 5; digital images, Ancestry  (http://www.ancestry.com       :  printed, downloaded 3 January 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Roll M432_61.

[8] 1860 census.   1860 U.S. Census, Calhoun county, Georgia, population schedule, District 3, p. 42 (ink pen), dwelling 289, family 289, Smith R. Elerbee, age 15; digital images, Ancestry ((http://www.ancestry.com     : viewed & downloaded 3 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M654_113.

[9] Sandlin Ellerbee, 1885 State Census, Washington County, Florida, population schedule, , [no page number] D, dwelling 139; microfilm publication M845_13, National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

[10]  1885 Florida State Census, Hillsborough county, population schedule, , page 4 D (ink pen); page 105D, family 33, J.N. Ellerbee 39, 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 microfilm publication M845, roll 4.

[11]  1860 U.S. Census, Calhoun county, Georgia, population schedule, District 3, p. 42 (ink pen), dwelling 289, family 289,  Damarus E Elerbee, 11.

[12]  1880 U.S. Census, Jackson county, Florida, population schedule, Precinct 7, enumeration district (ED) 69, p. 8 (ink pen), dwelling 68, family 68, Samuel Simpson; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, downloaded 29 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C .microfilm publication T9, roll 559.

[13]  “Florida Marriages, 1837-1974,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org  :   February 2018), Richard F. Edenfield and Mattie Ellerbee, 27 Jun 1872; citing Jackson, Florida; FHL microfilm 0931955 V. D-E.

[14] 1880 U.S. Census, Jackson county, Florida, population schedule, , Martha Edenfield age 31; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, downloaded 29 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C..

[15]“ Florida, County Marriage Records, 1823-1982,” database, Ancestry  (http://www.ancestry.com:  accessed 6 January 2018), entry for George Dudley & Candis Ellerbee; citing Marriage Records. Florida Marriages. Various Florida County Courthouses and State Archive, Tallahassee, Florida..

[16]  1885 State Census, Jackson county, Florida, population schedule, , p. 9A (ink pen), dwelling 71; microfilm publication M845, National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D. C.

[17] 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 microfilm publication M845, roll 4.

[18]  1880 U.S. Census, Hillsborough county, Florida, population schedule, Precinct 5, enumeration district (ED) 061, p. 406A (stamp), p. 33 (ink pen), dwelling 383, family 387, Worth M. Ellerbee; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, downloaded 4 June 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, roll 128.

[19] 1880 U.S. Census, Hillsborough county, Florida, population schedule, Precinct 5, ED 061, p. 33 (ink pen); p. 407C (stamp), dwelling 402, Osephenia Ellerbee, age 21; Isephenia Ellerbee, age 21.

[20] 1885 Florida State Census, Hillsborough county, population schedule, , page 4 D (ink pen); page 105D, family 33, L C Sparkman 30.

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