As we know the history of America has many blemishes; whether it was the treatment of Native Americans, Japanese Americans, or slavery, they tend to haunt us from time to time in your genealogical research. However, my father always told me that if you “own” the mistake and not justify it, you can learn from them. So, it is in that spirit that I approach some of the dreadful things I encounter as I explore backwards.
You cannot think about the land in Georgia without realizing these lands came to be inhabited by Anglos due to the removal of the Cherokee Indians. According to the Georgia Encyclopedia,
“In 1838 and 1839 U.S. troops, prompted by the state of Georgia expelled the Cherokee Indians….The removal of the Cherokees was a product of the demand for arable land during the rampant growth of cotton agriculture in the southeast (Garrison, 2017).”
What happened as a result was a number of land lotteries. Between 1805 and 1833, Georgia directed eight land lotteries. The reason this is important to my family is that my 2nd great-grandfather, George Wiley Whitehead, was the county surveyor for Oglethorpe County for several years (between 15-20 years). It is likely he stepped down as surveyor and became county commissioner in 1885.
In the archives found at the Carlton Home are dozens of deeds and plats. Some of them represent his purchases of land. While others seem to be plats that he drew in his occupation. Others predate his life and are family records for property we owned at one point in time. I wish there was an easy way to align the dimensions of the plats with GPS coordinates. However, since the plat was first drawn the rocks, the persimmon tree and other boundary items have been forever altered. In this post, I have included a couple of examples and how we can use them to further our genealogical research.
Example 1 (plat of Charles O’Kelly land)
The first example of some of the documents uncovered is this plat of the Charles O’Kelly Land. You can see that some of the boundaries listed are a dogwood tree, sweet gum and chestnut tree. I doubt that this property could be relocated today. However, since Charles O’Kelly was my 4th Great-grandfather, and I happen to know where he was buried, we might be able to infer the relative location of his land. Charles O’Kelley was born about 1756 and died about 1810.
Example 2: (1785 Land Grant)
The oldest document that we uncovered is from 1785. That is 232 years ago! I am going to let that sink in for a minute….
This document is a Land Grant Warrant from Wilkes County for John McLeroy a tract of 400 acres. Apparently the land grant did not go into effect until 1792.
The language on the deed gives it such special meaning.
“Given under my Hand, and the Great Seal of the said State, this ninth Day of April in the Year of our LORD One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety two, (unreadable) Sixteenth Year of American Independence.” How cool is that? This document was discovered in what I am calling the Whitehead Archives (AKA the Blue Rubbermaid Tub).
When I was in Georgia last, my cousin Charlie and I were going through this box while the others on our expedition were resting up. I have to admit that Charlie and I got pretty excited about this document. We made some assumptions that have not been proven. I am not sure if we will ever be able to determine the relevance to the Whitehead lineage. We have our ideas. Is this the location of the original homeplace for the Whitehead’s? Why was this document in this box? In my family tree, I have a male ancestor, Anderson McElroy who married Nancy Whitehead in 1826. I think the names Mcleroy and McElroy could easily been get mixed up. So many questions.
Example 3: (1843 Deed Mary O’Kelly to Polly Crowder Whitehead)
I selected this document because it is more legible than some of the others but it also gives us lots of names. This document was a Deed of Gift. In it reads that Mary O’Kelly, the mother of Mary “Polly” Whitehead is giving to her and her children [Martha A Suddeth formerly Martha A. Whitehead wife of Seaborn M. Suddeth, Dilley Whitehead, Susan Whitehead, Samuel Whitehead, Sarah F. Whitehead, William F. Whitehead, George W. Whitehead, Mary L. Whitehead, Elijah D. Whitehead, James D Whitehead, Elizabeth E. Whitehead, Charles E Whitehead] the following property: One hundred acres of land, a slave named Sydda, 3 feather beds and all of her household stuff. In addition she gifts, 8 heads of cattle with their future increase and upon her death to be equally divided amongst her children.
However, where it gets interesting it says “To remain in the possession of the said, Polly C Whitehead and be under her sole and separate control and is in no event to be subject in any manner to the contracts, debts and liabilities of her husband Joel Whitehead. Now I haven’t explored this part of the tree as much but I do know that Mary O’Kelly’s husband (Charles O’Kelly) died in 1810. Additionally, I know that Polly had siblings. So, I wonder if other property was given to them. I do know that historically married women were not entitled to own and manage property until later unless their spouse of incapacitated. I will have to do more research on the specifics, but a cursory internet search stated that Connecticut was the first state in 1809 and it wasn’t until 1866 that Georgia women were legal allowed to own property. Regardless, this document is over 170 years old.
Well, there are more deeds to explore. Until later, I will be exploring backwards.
Garrison, Tim A. “Cherokee Removal.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 06 June 2017. Web. 08 June 2017.