Last Will and Testament (Part III)

Jonas Griffin

I thought I had found all there was to find on the last will and testament of Jonas Griffin when I found his probate file, but I was wrong! Today I hit a genealogical gold mine (at least for me)! While trying to make in-roads in to the 1860s brick wall of slavery along my Griffin branch, I started compiling a list of all of Jonas Griffin's neighbors, and all persons with the surname of Griffin (regardless of race), living in Jamesville, NC, Martin County, from the 1870 census.

Then I was reading my fellow AAGSAR tribe member's post on her Tracey's Tree blog about how she combed the probate files of the people she believed to be the owners of some of her ancestors, looking for clues. I thought that was a great strategy, and I planned to use the list of Griffins I compiled to perhaps find clues to my ancestors in their wills (a needle in the haystack search, I know, but that's what we have to do!).

I started by heading to Family Search to see what estate-related databases they have for North Carolina. Thankfully they have quite a few, although many are not searchable and you have to look through the microfiche images, page by page. But thankfully they provide filtering by county and sometimes by year, date-range or volume.  It is such a tedious process paging through those files, so I was happy to see that in the North Carolina, Probate Records, 1735-1970, for Martin County, there was a file labeled Wills Cross Index, 1774-1930. It contained an alphabetical list of names and provided the volume and page number on which the will could be found. How wonderful is that!!

I immediately started going through and creating a list of all of the Griffin's listed in the index. But then, I came to an entry that was surprising -- Francis Griffin (the same name as my g-g-grandmother who lived in Martin County)-- and I saw an entry for Jonas! I finished making my list (can't stop a task before it's done!) and then immediately went to find the volume and page number. Low and behold I found this (click for a better view):
Last Will & Testament of Jonas Griffin - 5 April 1897
Wow! Just Wow! To read your great-great-great grandfather's words is an incredible gift. Reading it felt as if I was transported back in time and I was able to catch a glimpse of who he was. I almost could hear him speaking to me. For those of you, like me, who have come into possession of your distant ancestors' letters or other written word only a handful of times, you understand how much of rare gift this is.

But it wasn't all just sentimentality; I found some fantastic new information:
  • that there was a son that none of my living family knew anything about (Gray Lanier - possibly Jonas's wife's son)
  • the names of two of his grandchildren (John Griffin & Joseph Lawrence Griffin - by Fanny Griffin Smith, but not by Mr. Smith)
  • that he and his wife were not on great terms (he left her only $1 and didn't even mention her by name)
  • that he was in poor health right before he died
  • and that he was a believer
There's more there and I'm sure I'll continue to find even more as I read and re-read the document. But my fantastic day of finds didn't end there...

Hardy Reddick

Hardy Reddick is another of my great-great-great-grandfathers (and one of the current terminal points on my tree). Here's a snapshot of my tree to demonstrate where both he and Jonas Griffin fall:

                     Jonas Griffin - Mary Lanier Griffin      Hardy Reddick - Lucinda Reddick
                                          ||                                                         ||
                                     Joshua L. Griffin  --   Mary Francis Reddick Griffin

In my search for an entry for "Francis Griffin," who was listed in the Index of Wills, instead I found the Last Will and Testament of Hardy Reddick (1814-1895):
Last Will & Testament of Hardy Reddick 26 June 1882
1882! Until now, I knew very little about Hardy and Lucinda Reddick. I found them in the 1870 and 1880 census, but that was pretty much it. So this document has allowed me to take an incredible step in my genealogical journey.

Some of the most interesting facts that I learned from the document were:
  • a description of the land holdings he owned and bequeathed to his daughters (he only had daughters!)
  • that he owned not only the land on which he lived, but a tract of land on "Bentleys Island, Martin County" [I have no idea what this is, so if anyone reading this does, please leave a comment with any information you have]
  • that his holdings, real and person, were valued at approximately $600 (roughly $14k, which was economic status equivalent to $133k, and economic power equivalent to $790k! -
  • and that his wife was still living at the time of his death (and that he valued her because he named her as his executor)
Again, I can't wait to pour over this document to continue to savor the connection and to uncover more clues!


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