Have you ever attended an estate auction? Sometimes we buy items for personal use. Sometimes we buy items to re-sell in our antique booth. Recently, we held an estate sale for my mother-in-law who has moved in with us. Our personal family event caused me to think about its bittersweet nature. Each item tells a story and has a memory attached to it. Many items remain with family. The money creates a small nest egg for her. In this post, I describe auctions held to settle the estate of a deceased ancestor, John E. Ellerbee, who died in 1884 at Hillsborough county, Florida.
Probate records provide the most information. The term ‘personal estate’ includes livestock, farm implements, furniture and household goods. An appraisal estimates the value of these items. A list of items sold completes the picture. Search local newspapers for notices about impending auctions. These notices present clues about the person’s death and what property may have been left.
To review, here are John’s vital statistics: Born about 1808 at Burke county, Georgia. Married first about 1830 at Houston county, Georgia to [name unknown]; 4 children born to this union- Edward Alexander, Elizabeth, William Green and James John. Married second in 1842 at Randolph county, Georgia to Martha Love; 12 children born to this union- Sandlin, Smith R, Jasper, Damarius Emeline, Martha, Candis, Eliza, Worth (a.k.a. William?) Marion, Isephinia, Osephinia, John Francis and Smithiann. I wrote about John and his family in August 2019.
John E. Ellerbee died on 4 April 1884. Approximately two years later, 20 July 1886 to be exact, W.M. Ellerbee filed a Bond of Administration at Hillsborough county, Florida. Why the wait before filing? Did John’s wife, Martha, die in the interim? (NOTE: Martha Ellerbee was recorded with her daughter, Eliza Ann Carter, in 1885 at Hillsborough county, Florida.  I have not found any record of Martha’s death.)
John Ellerbee’s probate record consists of over 100 pages. On 1 September 1886, W.M. Ellerbee petitioned the court for an ‘order to sell said property at public auction at the late residence of said deceased for cash and for the purpose of closing the settlement of said estate. . . “ The reason? “That said property is liable to perish or be worse for keeping.”  The “said property” included 1 yoke oxen (i.e. 2 oxen), 1 cart, 1 old wagon, carpenter’s tools and furniture.
Results of the auction? The following list tells the story. Note the buyer’s names and the amounts paid for items.
In January, 1887, 160 acres of land owned by John sold at auction. William M. Ellerbee bought the land for $445.00.  Add this to $51.80 from the personal property auction for a total of $496.80. Expenses attributed to the estate included John’s funeral at $10.60 and “hawling oranges” for $2.00.  In 1888, seven persons received payments totalling $195.92 :
- Administrator $48.92
- J.N. Ellerbee $26.40
- Ocea Ellerbee $24.80
- Eliza Carter $24.80
- Jay Stewart $24. 80
- Lewis Sparkman $24.80
- Francis Ellerbee $15.00
The balance due the estate was $300.88. Who received this money? Heirs received annual payments through 1895.
Who were John’s heirs? One document (paper number 9)  in the probate file revealed the names of John’s heirs:
This document listed married names of John and Martha’s six daughters as well as husband’s names for four of them. Also, this verified the residence for nine children, circa 1885-1887.
The document lists ‘residence unknown’ for two heirs – S. L. [Sandlin L. Ellerbee] and Emeline D. [Demarious] Simpson. According to 1885 state census, Sandlin L. Ellerbee lived in Washington county, Florida.  Emeline and her family are recorded as living in Jackson county, Florida in both 1880 and 1900 censuses. For some reason, these two did not have contact with their siblings.
SUMMARY: John E. Ellerbee’s personal property and land sold for about $500 circa 1886-1887. Dishes sold for $1.10, a wagon for $1.20 and two oxen for $30.00. The residence of two heirs was apparently unknown to the other siblings. Documents in the probate file revealed more information than I initially expected.
This post began as simply a review of the personal property auction. I shared other information found among the 100+ pages in the file. I am sometimes amazed at the amount of information, or lack of information, found in probate files. Since we attend auctions regularly, I was particularly interested in the pages having to do with the auction itself. These, and evidence of auctions for the estates of other ancestors, show that estate auctions are not a recent phenomenon.
I continue to add layers to each person’s story. This post adds to the four posts I made last year about John, his wives and his family.
What I learned: Married names for John and Martha’s daughters. The importance of farm animals and farm implements to the 19th century farmer with household goods having less value. More to be learned from this probate record.
What helped: Discovery and printing of some pages last year. Creating pages for 2018 Ellerbee scrapbook. Availability of complete probate record online.
What didn’t help: Incomplete information about several of John’s children. Not all information transcribed to RootsMagic program on my computer.
To-do: Continue to complete Family Group Records and Research Logs. Locate John’s land on GPS. What about the orange grove?
 “Florida, County Judge’s Court (Hillsborough County),” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & printed 5 May 2019), entry for John Ellerbee, File no. 73; citing “Florida, Willas and Probate Records, 1810-1914” [database online], Florida County, District and Probate Courts; administrator: W.M. Ellerbee.
 1885 Florida State Census, Hillsborough county, population schedule, , page 4 D (ink pen); page 105D, family 35, M. Ellerbee, age 67, boarder; 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. On same page are J.N. & Jane Ellerbee and family, LC & SM Sparkman and family.
 “Florida, County Judge’s Court (Hillsborough County),” digital images, Ancestry, entry for John Ellerbee, File no. 73, paper no. 7.
 “Florida, County Judge’s Court (Hillsborough County),” digital images, Ancestry, entry for John Ellerbee, File 73, paper no. 11.
. “Florida, County Judge’s Court (Hillsborough County),” digital images, Ancestry, entry for John Ellerbee, File 73, paper no. 12.
 “Florida, County Judge’s Court (Hillsborough County),” digital images, Ancestry, entry for John Ellerbee, File 73, paper no. 13.
 “ Florida, County Judge’s Court (Hillsborough County),” digital images, Ancestry, entry for John Ellerbee, File 73, paper no. 16. Recorded in Book C of Executors, Administrators and Administration, page 158.
“Florida, County Judge’s Court (Hillsborough County),” digital images, Ancestry, entry for John Ellerbee, File 73, paper no. 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.
 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.
 1900 U.S. Census, Jackson county, Florida, population schedule, Pleasant Hill, enumeration district (ED) 0056, sheet no. 7, dwelling 102, fa ily 103, Emeline Simpson 51; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & downloaded 28 September 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T623.
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