Moving south: Migration of John E. Ellerbee (1808-1884)

Moving south. Those two words summarize the migration pattern of my husband’s ancestor, John E. Ellerbee. John’s story begins at his birth near Georgia’s eastern border with South Carolina.  His story ends on Florida’s western coast.  My last post told about John’s two marriages. This post describes the facts of John’s migration pattern based on census and marriage records.

SOURCE:  “Research our records- Military records-Civil War-Pictures of the Civil War,” digital images, The National Archives ( 25  August 2019), photo no. 200-CC-306, “A refugee family leaving a war area with belongings loaded on a cart, ”  NARA identifier  559267; citing Library of Congress Collection, ca 1905-ca 1909, Series: Stereographs of the Civil War, 1861-1865.

To refresh your memory, I found John, Martha, and 8 children, ages ranging from 2 to 19 years,  in Baker county, Georgia in 1850.[1]  Baker county is in the southwestern corner of Georgia.  Earlier censuses, specifically 1830 [2] and 1840[3],  show John Ellerbee in Houston County, Georgia.  

The 1850 census taker recorded both county and state of birth. Many census takers recorded only the state as birthplace. These unexpected details provided a way to easily trace the family’s migration. Here are the census data with my comments in italics:

  • John Ellerbee, age 42, farmer born Burke county, Georgia about 1808. Presumed head of household.  
  • Martha Ellerbee, age 25. Born North Carolina about 1825. Confirmed as wife by 1842 marriage record for John Elibee and Martha Love in Randolph county, Georgia [4].
  • Edward Ellerbee, age 19, farmer.  Born about 1831, Houston county, Georgia. Presumed son of John Ellerbee and his 1st wife.
  • Elizabeth Ellerbee, age 14. Born about 1836, Houston county, Georgia, Presumed daughter of John Ellerbee and his 1st wife. Same birthplace as Edward suggests that she is Edward’s sister.
  • James Ellerbee, age 12. Born about 1838,  Houston county, Georgia. Presumed son of John Ellerbee and his 1st wife. Same birthplace as Edward and Elizabeth suggests a sibling relationship.
  • Presumed children of John Ellerbee and Martha:
    • Sanderlin Ellerbee, age 6. Born about 1844 in Randolph county, Georgia.
    • Smith Ellerbee, age 5.  Born about 1845 in Randolph county, Georgia.
    • Jasper Ellerbee, age 4.  Born about 1846 in Baker county, Georgia
    • child not named, age 3. Born about 1847 in Baker county, Georgia.
    • Martha Ellerbee, age 2. Born about 1848) in Baker county, Georgia.
    • Ages of the youngest five children suggest birth intervals of 12 months to 2 years which is consistent with spacing during this time period.
  • James Parker, age 15. Born about 1835 in Washington county, Georgia. Possibly not related.

The 1860 census taker found the family in Calhoun county, Georgia.  [5]  Calhoun county was formed in 1854 from northern sections of Early and Baker counties. [6]  The family possibly  lived in the same place from 1850 to 1860.  By 1860, the family expanded to 11 children:   Sandlin, 16; Smith R, 15; Jasper, 13; Damarius, 11; Martha, 10; Candis, 7; Eliza, 6;  Marion, 4; O.Suphena and I.Suphena (twins), 2; “babe”, age 2 months.

By 1870, John had again moved south. John, his wife and 10 children lived in Jackson county, Florida. [7]  Their youngest child, SmithiAnn, was born about 1863 in Georgia. Sandlin married in Jackson county in 1866. [8]  These dates suggest a move between 1863 and 1866. James John Ellerbee, youngest son of John and his first wife, remained in Georgia, where James later died. [9]  During 1872, two daughters, Candis and Martha, married in Jackson county. [10], [11]

Northern Florida still seemed too far north for John. So, he moved his family to Hillsborough county, Florida. [12] His son, Jasper, married in Hillsborough county in 1874[13] so the move probably occurred about 1873.  Hillsborough county is near the middle of Florida on the western coast. You may recognize Tampa, Jackson county seat. John died in Hillsborough county, Florida, in 1884. [14]

After John’s death, Martha Love Ellerbee moved in with her daughter, Eliza Ann Carter, and family. The 1885 census [15] in Hillsborough county, Florida, is the last record found for Martha.

MAP SOURCE: Bonner, W. G. (1851) Bonner’s pocket map of the state of Georgia. [Milledgeville, Ga.: Wm. G. Bonner] [Map] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,      Retrieved 31 July 2019. County names and dates for John Ellerbee’s migration added by Susan Posten Ellerbee.

Combining information from census and marriage records yields this migration timeline: 

  • 1808:  John Ellerbee born Burke county, Georgia
  • 1st marriage, about 1830, possibly Houston county, Georgia; distance about 150 miles.
  • Circa 1831 – 1840:  Houston county, Georgia
    • Edward, Elizabeth and James born in Houston county; estimated birth years 1831, 1836, 1838, respectively
  • Circa 1840 – 1842: Death of 1st wife. Location: unknown; either Houston or Randolph counties
  • 1842:  Randolph county, Georgia (marriage to Martha Love). Distance: about 100 miles.
  • Circa 1844: Randolph county, Georgia
  • Circa 1846-1850: Baker county, Georgia. Distance: about 20 miles
  • 1860: Calhoun county, Georgia (possibly same place as 1850 since Calhoun county was formed in 1854 from parts of Early and Baker counties)
  • Circa 1865:  Jackson county, Florida. Distance: about 75 miles
  • About 1873:  Hillsborough county, Florida. Distance: about 340 miles
  • 1884:  John Ellerbee dies in Hillsborough county, Florida
  • After 1885:  Martha Love Ellerbee dies, probably in Hillsborough county, Florida.

Taking only hours today, these moves would have taken days or even weeks. The last move of over 300 miles must have been especially grueling for John, in his late 60s, and Martha, in her mid to late 40s. John and Martha moved at least 4 times during their 40+ years of marriages. At least 9 of their 12 of their children remained in Florida.   

Why did John move south?  Much of southwestern Georgia originally belonged to the Creek Indians. [16]  The opening of Indian land for settlement is a likely reason for John’s moves. This discovery adds an historical perspective to John’s story.  I need to explore this further.  

Why did John choose to move south rather than west? Some of my husband’s ancestors trekked to Texas after the Civil War. Other white Southern families moved to Mexico and South America after the Civil War. Many black families moved to Northern cities and towns. (See “For more information” at end of post).   Although John did not serve in the Confederacy, at least three of his sons (Edward, James John and Sandlin) did. The Ellerbee book presents one clue: “According to family tradition, he converted his life savings into Confederate money during the Civil War. One of his younger sons kept the trunkful of worthless money for many years.”[17]  Were there too many memories and hardships in Georgia?  What was offered in Florida that enticed him to move? Did he just want to start over in a new place? And, again, why south?

For more information:

Shari Eli, Laura Salisbury, Allison Shertzer. “Migration responses to Conflict: Evidence from the Border of the American Civil War,” Working paper 22591, National Bureau of Economic Research, (  : accessed 25 August 2019).

Kendra Taira Field, Growing up with the country: Family, race and nation after the Civil War. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2018.

Katie Vernon, “The Mass Exodus of  Confederates to Brazil after the Civil War,”  The Vintage News,  13 August 2018 ( :    accessed 25 August  2019).

Todd W. Wahlstrom, The Southern Exodus to Mexico: Migration across the Borderlands after the American Civil War. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2015.

Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The epic story of America’s Great Migration. New York, NY: Random House, 2010.


This post began as part of last week’s post about John’s wives. I realized that the post was just getting too long and had 2 different topics. Separating the topics helped me focus.

What I learned:  My husband’s family migrated to Texas after the Civil War. I accepted their movement West as a well-known fact. I did not realize that other Confederate families went to Mexico and South America until I searched for additional sources for this post. I remember hearing briefly in history class about the Great Migration of Black families to the North. The impact of those decisions did not directly affect me or my family but I want to learn more. John Ellerbee occupied land that originally belonged to the Creek Indians.

What helped:  Digital and paper file clean-up almost complete for John & Martha. Scrapbook done last year for father-in-law. Online interactive county formation maps.

What didn’t help:  Finding, then losing, digital 1850 Georgia map. Laptop death at end of July.  

To-do:  Continue research on John & Martha’s children. Prepare research logs for each child. Locate death date and location for Martha Love Ellerbee focusing on Hillsborough county, Florida.  Locate and read Isabel Wilkerson’s book. Locate information about Indians in southwestern Georgia and the loss of their lands.


[1] 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 (  : accessed, printed, downloaded 3 January 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Roll M432_61.

[2] 1830 U.S. Census, Houston County, Georgia, population schedule, page 291, John  Ellerbee; digital images, US Gen Web (   : viewed, downloaded, printed 6 February 2016); page 291, line 14, John Ellerbee; citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M19, roll 18.

[3] Abstracted by Lorraine H. Robinson, “1840 Federal Census Houston County, Georgia (file 2 of 5),” database, US Gen Web (    : downloaded & printed 29 August 2016), page 10 sheet no. 376, line 20, John Ellerbee; citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M704, reel 43.

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

[5] 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 ( : viewed & downloaded 3 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M654_113.

[6]  “Maps of Georgia,” Map of US (  : accessed 15 August 2019).

[7] 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 (  : viewed, downloaded, printed 3 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M593_130.

[8] “Groom Index to Jackson County, Florida,” database, US Gen Web Archives (  : accessed, printed 25 August 2019), entry for Ellaby, Sanderlin and Jane Grantham, 3 Dec 1866; citing “Florida Marriages, 1848-1900, DU-HA”; Book B, Page 208.

[9] 1870 U.S. Census, Miller County, Georgia, population schedule, , p. 15 (penned), family #120, John J. Eleby, age 31; digital images, Ancestry  ( accessed, viewed, downloaded 8 March 2017); National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

[10] “Florida, County Marriage Records, 1823-1982,” database, Ancestry (  : accessed 6 January 2018), entry for George Dudley & Candis Ellerbee, 14 January 1872; citing Marriage Records. Florida Marriages. Various Florida County Courthouses and State Archive, Tallahassee, Florida.

[11] “Florida Marriages, 1837-1974,” database, FamilySearch (  : 10 February 2018), Richard F. Edenfield and Mattie Ellerbee, 27 Jun 1872; citing Jackson, Florida; FHL microfilm 0931955 V. D-E.

[12] 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 ( : viewed, printed, downloaded 1 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, roll 128.

[13] “Florida, County Marriages, 1823-1982,” digital images, Ancestry (  : viewed & downloaded 3 January 2018), entry for Jasper Ellerbee and Jane Hanna, 17 December 1874; citing various Florida County Courthouses and State Archive, Tallahassee, Florida.

[14] Probate record for John Ellerbee. “Florida, County Judge’s Court (Hillsborough County),” digital images, Ancestry ( : 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.

[15] 1885 Florida State Census, Hillsborough county, population schedule, , page 4 D (ink pen); page 105D, family 35, J L Carter age 37 head; M. Ellerbee, 68, boarder; digital images, Ancestry ( : viewed, printed, downloaded 1 May 2019); citing Schedules of the Florida State Census of 1885, National Archives microfilm publication M845, roll 4.

[16] ).  “Georgia county creation and parent counties,” Family Search Wiki ( :  accessed 25 August 2019).

[17] Ronald William Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History (Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, Inc., 1986), p. 14-41.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots, 2019.

One thought on “Moving south: Migration of John E. Ellerbee (1808-1884)

  1. Pingback: Moving south: Historical and financial clues to John Ellerbee’s migration | Posting Family Roots

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