#52Ancestors – Where there’s a will…

[O]r even where’s there is none, there is a lot of information to learn.  In African American research, finding enslaved ancestors before 1865, usually requires research into the potential slave owner’s records, of which the probate records are particularly useful.  Such was the case when I was attempting to determine the relationship between “Maria Green,” my great grandfather’s (Randel Farnell) mother, and her likely owners.

Randel Farnell
Randel Farnell

I had learned Maria’s name from my great grandfather’s death certificate;[1] I also had some oral family history. The oral history said that he had a half-brother, who was white, named “Gus Farnell.” It also mentioned another half-brother, this one a person of color, named Henry. Randel’s death certificate named “Jack Farnell,” as his father.[2] Finding documented relationships among all these individuals would hopefully lead to the name of Maria’s owner, as well as confirm family oral history.

Doc C-Randel Farnell DC
Randel Farnell Death Certificate

My great grandfather’s 1928 death certificate said he was born in Hawkinsville, Georgia. However, my great grandfather lived much of his life in Florida. From 1880 to 1920, he can be found listed in the census in Live Oak, Suwannee County, Florida.[3]  In 1870, he was living in Lake City, in neighboring Columbia County.[4] There were several white Farnell family groups in Columbia County at that time as well, but no “Gus.” In 1860, John, Daniel, and James Farnell, along with their probable families were living in Hamilton County, which is just north of Suwannee County.[5],[6] Georgia was the place of birth recorded.  In James Farnell’s household a Mary, and an Augustus were recorded. He was a potential candidate for the “Gus” in our family’s oral history. In 1850, only James Farnell and his family were found in Hamilton County.[7] The others were found in Dooly County, Georgia, a neighboring county to Pulaski.

When looking in the 1840 census for Pulaski County, Georgia, where Hawkinsville is the county seat, I found the James Farnell family.[8] There was an older enslaved woman and an enslaved child included in the enumeration. This would have been before my great grandfather was born. Farnell was a singular surname in Pulaski County. The only person identified as old enough to be James’ father in earlier censuses was Elisha Farnell. I surmised that somewhere in the records of either Elisha or James, or both, I would find information about Maria.

I had seen Elisha’s name in an on-line tax record dated 1818.[9] According to it he was a substantial landowner with 24 enslaved persons. The 1820 census recorded 26 enslaved persons.[10] He was not found in any census records after 1820. Turning to the minutes of the Court of the Ordinary, I was able to determine that Elisha died sometime before May 1823. Knowing that he had married a second wife, Priscilla Biggs, in February of 1823,[11] it could be determined that he had died sometime between February and May 1823. In May, a probate was opened, but there was no will. Elisha had died intestate. On 6 May, Letters of Administration were issued with the posting of a bond in the extraordinary sum of $30,000.[12]

005778373_00365 (2)
Elisha Farnell Letters of Administration

Regardless of the existence of a will, property and debts must be addressed. One of the first acts of the probate is to inventory the property. Included in Elisha’s inventory were the enslaved. On the inventory was an enslaved girl, “Mareah, $325.”[13] That confirmed that a Maria/Mareah was owned by Elisha.

005778373_00390 (2)
Elisha Farnell Inventory

Now I needed to link her to James, and thereby to Augustus “Gus.” To do that I looked for the final distribution of the estate. In the distribution, Elisha’s widow Priscilla, and his supposed children, Mary, William, Benjamin, Daniel, John and James, are mentioned. Each, as part of the distribution, received one or more enslaved persons. James received “Mareah.”[14] His brother John received another female enslaved person in the distribution, a girl named Fanny.[15] That was interesting because Randel’s reported other, half-brother, Henry Farnell’s mother was listed in the 1880 Suwannee County census as Fanny Fuller, “widow,” born in Georgia.[16] They were both persons of color.

Doc B3-Division of Elisha Farnell estate Mariah to James Image 377
Elisha Farnell Distribution of Estate: Maria & Fanny

With the advent of the Civil War, Gus would serve as a musician with the Confederate Army.[17] He was captured and held at the prison in Farmville, Prince Edward County, Virginia. He was released after taking an oath of allegiance 24 June 1865.[18]  His father James, would also see active duty, he died from gunshot wounds in a hospital in Winchester, Virginia.[19] What happened to James’ wife, Mary? It is assumed she died since she is not found in census or other records identified after the war was over. After the war Gus returned to Hamilton County, where he could be found marrying Mary Johns in 1867,[20] then again in 1870 to Georgia Vincent Goodbread, most likely in Columbia County where she lived.[21]  However, he was found living alone in Orange County in the 1870 census.[22] He would marry a third and final time in 1874 to Nancy Elizabeth “Nelly” Wheeler in Orange County.[23] He died in 1911, in Oviedo, Seminole County (formerly Orange County), Florida.[24]

Augustus P Farnell Confederate Jacket
Confederate Jacket of Augustus P. Farnell

What about Maria and Randel? Maria was found with her presumed husband, Frank Green, in the 1870 census in the Lake City area of Columbia County,[25] where Randel had also been found. Randel was listed with his wife, Sallie (Sallie Jacobs). There were four children named in the household, Anna, Richard, Maryland, and Joshua R.[26] My grandmother Lela wasn’t born yet; she wasn’t born until 1876.

Sallie Jacobs
Sallie Jacobs Farnell

About 1877, Randel and his family moved to Suwannee County, where his wife Sallie’s parents and siblings were living, coincidentally next to my paternal Williams great grandparents and grandfather in 1870.[27] Randel and family, including my grandmother Lela,[28] along with Henry and his mother could be found on the 1880 census living there.[29] Randel would apply for and acquire property in Live Oak, the county seat, through the Homestead Act.[30]

RHUSA2007B_FL0750-00489
Randel Farnell Homestead Certificate

He would raise his family in Live Oak, including my grandmother Lela, eventually dying there in 1928.[31]

Lela Virginia Farnell
Lela Virginia Farnell Williams

Thus, the probate of Elisha Farnell has established that a girl Mareaha (Maria) was listed among his enslaved property on his death. Additionally, there was a girl named Fannie on the inventory. Mareaha was distributed to James and Fannie to John. They were Elisha’s presumed children, based on the distribution, even though not explicitly so designated. James had a son Augustus, presumably the same “Gus,” that Randel’s family said was his half-brother. Fannie was presumed to be the same Fannie, who was mother of Henry, another half-brother, but more likely his cousin. Thus, even without a will, I was able to establish a relationship between my great grandfather, his mother Maria, his half-brother Gus, Gus’s father James, and finally to James’ father, Elisha Farnell.

[1] Florida Death Index, 1877-1998 [Database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Randel Farnell, 1928. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7338/VRDUSAFL1877_0802-0043?pid=5021868&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D7338%26h%3D5021868%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D66453873%26pid%3D36156388330%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=66453873&personid=36156388330&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[2] Florida State Certificate of Death, Live Oak Suwannee County. Certificate No. 16372. Randel Farnell, 27 Oct 1928. Certified original in possession of the author.

[3] 1880 US Federal Census; Precinct 1, Suwannee, Florida. Randel Farnell, head. NARA Roll: 132; Family History Film: 1254132; Page: 282A; Enumeration District: 145; See also: 1900 US Federal Census; Live Oak, Suwannee, Florida; Randel Farnell, head. NARA Roll: 177; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0109; FHL microfilm: 1240177. See also: 1910 US Federal Census; Live Oak, Suwannee, Florida; Randell Farnell, head; NARA Roll: T624-168; Page: 18A; Enumeration District: 0148; FHL microfilm: 1374181. See also: 1920 US Federal Census; Live Oak, Suwannee, Florida; Randel Farnell, head. NARA Roll: T625-231; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 149; Image: 783.

[4] 1870 US Federal Census; Columbia, Florida; NARA Roll: M593_128; Page: 396A; Image: 799; Family History Library Film: 545627. Randel Farnell, head (barely legible). Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4263354_00799/2270561?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/36156388330/facts/citation/221436181427/edit/record

[5] 1860 US Federal Census; Hamilton, Florida; NARA Roll: M653-107; Page: 623; Image: 63; Family History Library Film: 803107. John Farnell, head; Daniel Farnell, head. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4211366_00063/10590249?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/36265394957/facts/citation/221964730387/edit/record

[6] 1860 US Federal Census; Hamilton, Florida; NARA Roll: M653_107; Page: 580; Image: 20; Family History Library Film: 803107. James Farnell, head. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4211366_00020/10587170?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/36156400968/facts/citation/221528135693/edit/record

[7] 1850 Us Federal Census; District 1, Hamilton, Florida; NARA Roll: M432-58; Page: 226B; Image: 445. James Farnell, head. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4193083-00445/18449607?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/36156400968/facts/citation/222369565079/edit/record

 

[8] 1840 US Federal Census; Captain Baldwind’s District, Pulaski, Georgia; Roll: 49; Page: 172; Family History Library Film: 0007046. James Farnell, head. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8057/4185983_00353/1832324?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/36156400968/facts/citation/960340791792/edit/record

[9] Some early tax digests of Georgia, Pulaski County, 1818 [Database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Elisha Farnell. Retrieved from: Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/25650/dvm_LocHist010509-00060-1/78?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/36156402732/facts/citation/222332731361/edit/record

[10] 1820 US Federal Census; Pulaski, Georgia; Page: 67; NARA Roll: M33-9; Image: 107. Elisha Farnell, head. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7734/4433224_00107/1480873?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/36156402732/facts/citation/221436747163/edit/record

[11] Georgia, Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828-1978 [Database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Elisha Farnell and Priscilla Biggs, 6 Feb 1823. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/4766/40660_307945-00020/926612?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/36156402732/facts/citation/221962935325/edit/record

[12] Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992 [Database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Elisha Farnell, Letters of Administration, 6 May 1823. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8635/005778373_00377#?imageId=005778373_00365

[13] Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992 [Database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Elisha Farnell, Inventory, 22 Dec 1823. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8635/005778373_00377#?imageId=005778373_00390

[14] Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992 [Database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Elisha Farnell, Final Distribution of the Estate, 30 Dec 1823. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8635/005778373_00377#?imageId=005778373_00377

[15] Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992 [Database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Elisha Farnell, Final Distribution of the Estate, 30 Dec 1823. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8635/005778373_00377#?imageId=005778373_00377

[16] 1880 US Federal Census; Precinct 1, Suwannee, Florida; NARA Roll: 132; Family History Film: 1254132; Page: 287A; Enumeration District: 145; Image: 0340. Henry Farnell, birthplace, Florida; Frances fuller, mother, birthplace, Georgia. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4240124-00340/5113466?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/330004895943/facts/citation/960023926435/edit/record

[17] U.S., Confederate Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861-1865 [Database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Augustus Farnell, Musician (Fifth Infantry), Enlisted 14 Mar 1862, Jasper (Hamilton County), Florida. Retrieved from: https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=2322&h=119118767&ssrc=pt&tid=66453873&pid=36265288846&usePUB=true

[18] U.S., Civil War Prisoner of War Records, 1861-1865 [Database on-line]. Ancestry.com. A. P. Farnell, Confederate, 5th Infantry. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1124/M598_107-0072/644879?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/36265288846/facts/citation/960026071717/edit/record

[19] U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [Database on-line]. Ancestry.com. James Farnell, Confederate, Private, F Company, 5th Infantry; Survived the war: no; Mustered out 15 Oct 1862, Winchester, VA. Retrieved from: https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=1555&h=425480&ssrc=pt&tid=66453873&pid=36156400968&usePUB=true; See also: Compiled Service Records, Confederate States Army, [Public Photo on-line]. Ancestry.com. James Farnell, 16 Oct 1862, “Died from a Winchester gun wound.” Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/mediaui-viewer/tree/66453873/person/36156400968/media/acd3f9c2-24c6-48d5-9083-02693855c18b?usePUBJs=true

[20] U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 [Database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Augustus P. Farnell and Mary I. T. Johns, 1867. Retrieved from: https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=7836&h=398880&ssrc=pt&tid=66453873&pid=36265288846&usePUB=true

[21] U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 [Database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Augustus P Farnell and Georgia Vincent [sic], 1870. Retrieved from: https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=7836&h=398881&ssrc=pt&tid=66453873&pid=36265288846&usePUB=true

[22] 1870 US Federal Census; Division 17, Orange, Florida; A. P. Farnell, head. NARA Roll: M593-33; Page: 438A; Image: 11; Family History Library Film: 545632. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4263359_00011/3446040?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/36265288846/facts/citation/223425741958/edit/record

[23] U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 [Database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Augustus P Farnell and Nancy Elizabeth Wheeler, 1879. Retrieved from: https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=7836&h=398882&ssrc=pt&tid=66453873&pid=36265288846&usePUB=true

[24] Find A Grave [Database on-line]. Augustus P. Farnell, 5 Mar 1911, Oviedo Cemetery, Memorial 31836248. Retrieved from: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/31836248

[25] 1870 US Federal Census; Columbia, Florida; Frank Green head; Maria Green, age 40. NARA Roll: M593-128; Page: 383A; Image: 773; Family History Library Film: 545627. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4263354_00773/13827089?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/36156401066/facts/citation/221868130047/edit/record

[26] 1870 US Federal Census; Columbia, Florida; NARA Roll: M593_128; Page: 396A; Image: 799; Family History Library Film: 545627. Randel Farnell, head (barely legible). Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4263354_00799/2270561?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/36156388330/facts/citation/221436181427/edit/record

[27] 1870 US Federal Census; Subdivision 9, Suwannee, Florida; William Jacobs, head. NARA Roll: M593-133; Page: 686A; Image: 507; Family History Library Film: 545632. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4263359_00507/448439?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/36156400719/facts/citation/221857436539/edit/record

[28] 1880 US Federal Census; Precinct 1, Suwannee, Florida. Randel Farnell, head. NARA Roll: 132; Family History Film: 1254132; Page: 282A; Enumeration District: 145. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4240124-00330/3564452?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/36156388413/facts/citation/221436181735/edit/record#?imageId=4240124-00330

[29] 1880 US Federal Census; Precinct 1, Suwannee, Florida; Henry Farnell, birthplace, Florida; Frances fuller, mother, birthplace, Georgia. NARA Roll: 132; Family History Film: 1254132; Page: 287A; Enumeration District: 145; Image: 0340. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4240124-00340/5113466?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/66453873/person/330004895943/facts/citation/960023926435/edit/record

[30] Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior, General Land Office Records; Washington D.C., USA; Federal Land Patents, State Volumes, Randel Farnell, Gainesville Land Office, Documents 4776 & 5637, Suwannee County, Florida, Issue Date 10 Feb 1885. Retrieved from: https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=FL0750__.489&docClass=STA&sid=x3bedxve.zyx

[31] Florida State Certificate of Death, Live Oak Suwannee County. Certificate No. 16372. Randel Farnell, 27 Oct 1928. Certified original in possession of the author.

 

7 thoughts on “#52Ancestors – Where there’s a will…”

  1. I have found probate records to be even more complete than a will when looking for my enslaved ancestors, unless they are mentioned by name in the Will. I like the way you looked at everybody and tied them together.

    Like

  2. Very well done!!
    The slaveholding family of my ancestors has been confirmed by DNA. I have copied the Wills n Distribution lists and made a chart for each probate, listing the enslaved, their value n their purchaser in an effort to keep track of the enslaved until 1865. In my case, I have quite a few probable owners confirmed by DNA which consists of the father who died in 1823, his three sons, three adult grandsons n daughters who were given property at his death. It’s been time consuming n mind boggling but after reading your blog, at least now I know I am on the right track n need to continue studying each probate. Thanks for the confirmation and again, job well done!

    Like

  3. Great website and great story that opens up a side of my past I never expected to find. I’ve recently started digging into my Davis family history and it led me here. My great great grandmother Theresa Williams was from Live Oak and married Sam Davis there in 1885. Theresa was the daughter of Ben and Mary Williams, who moved from South Carolina to Suwannee County. From what I can tell, Sam and Theresa had 12 to 13 children and by 1910, had migrated to Plant City, FL. Theresa remarried twice after Sam’s death before passing in 1938.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s