Monday, August 2, 2010

Estate Records of Jonathan Godwin of Sampson Co NC

This week I have chosen to focus on the probate record of Jonathan Godwin of Sampson County, North Carolina who died intestate about 1791. He left behind a widow, Rachel Godwin, who is believed to be the sister of Thomas Bullard and daughter of Jeremiah Bullard. His estate record, however, was only a single page and did not mention either his widow Rachel, or any of his children. The only clues I was able to glean from this record were the following:

  1. Richard Godwin was the administrator of the estate 
  2. There was only 50 acres of land in the possession of the estate

Estate records are housed at the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh, North Carolina. They can be requested by call number in the form of a two digit county code (Sampson County's code is 87), followed by a "508" which is the 3-digit code for estate records, followed by the number of the box in which the folder is housed that contains the surname of interest. The box number is not  know when you request the file, but should be noted for future reference.

The estate file of Jonathan Godwin[1] contained only a single page with writing on both sides. One side stated that it was an inventory of his estate recorded in that court's term; The other side is an actual inventory taken by the administrator, Richard Godwin. Here are the scans of the front and back copies of the single page. (Click on the image to make it bigger). The transcript follows below:

Estate Records of Jonathan Godwin of Sampson County, NC - 1

Back side:

"Inventory of the Estate of John Godwin dec’d, May Term 1791"

Estate Records of Jonathan Godwin of Sampson County, NC - 2

Front side:

"Sampson County the 15th of Feb 1792

An inventory of the Estate of Jonathan Godwin Deceased
50 Acres of Land
3 Head of Horses
1 Heifer
12 Head of Sheep
48 Head of Hog
3 Beds and Furniture
4 Dishes, 5 Basons
6 Spoons and 4 Plates
3 Knives and 7 Forks
2 Pots and 1 Kettle
2 Spinning Wheels
2 Pairs of Cards

1 Chest 12 Bottles
2 Jugs 1 Hackle
2 Chairs 2 Ploughs
2 Axes 1 Iron wedge
3 Weeding Hoes 1 Grubbing Hoe
2 Augers 1 chissel and Gouge
1 Griddle and fire Tongs
1 Box Iron and Heater
1 Mares Saddle

Richard Godwin" (signed)

[End of Transcript]

There was actually another document included in this file at one time pertaining to Jonathan's widow. Supposedly, it got lost when it was sent off for microfilming [2] 

In an estate record of 15 February 1791, Rachel Godwin, the “widow of Jonathan Godwin, deceased,” was allowed to keep the estate in her hands, "she entering into bond with good security for 250 pounds." Tenders Richard Godwin and Philip Tew were approved as sureties. This is a crucial piece of evidence tying both Jonathan and Rachel together as husband and wife.  

Jonathan actually owned two tracts of land, both 50 acres a piece, however only one of these tracts of land was included in his estate inventory. He may have given the other tract of land to one of his sons prior to his death.  Nathan Godwin, presumed to be a son of Jonathan and Rachel Godwin, sold a 50 acre tract of land to Elizabeth Bagley in 1801, it being a tract of land "granted to Jonathan Godwin by patent bearing the 10th day of July 1788." So this could be the other 50 acre tract of land. 

The 50 acres tract of land that WAS included in his inventory above was sold by his widow Rachel Godwin, along with Nathan and Dred Godwin, in 1795 to John Dormond. I believe the Nathan and Dred Godwin who were included on this deed with Rachel Godwin were sons of Jonathan and Rachel Godwin. This land was a "parcel...granted to Jonathan Godwin by patent bearing date July 1788." Jonathan Godwin was only granted a total of two tracts of land and the descriptions match up, so I believe these two tracts of land to be those originally belonging to Jonathan, one of which was given to his son Nathan prior to his death and the other passed down to his widow Rachel and sold between Rachel and her sons Dred and Nathan to John Dormond after Jonathan's death. 

I had to use a combination of several original records and some abstract books in order to start piecing together this family. The family of Jonathan and Rachel Bullard Godwin is a very controversial one and my construction of their family is actually very different than what has been previously portrayed and accepted as fact by other researchers. However, I am confident that I have sufficient evidence and I have already written up several proof statements backing up my claims. Living in North Carolina where my Godwin family originated from has been very helpful; in addition, having such easy access to the North Carolina State Archives has also been a tremendous help in my research. 


[1] Estate Records of Jonathan Godwin, 1791, North Carolina State Archives, Sampson County, NC, Series of Original Loose Documents of Estate Records, 1784-1923; Call No. 087.508.23; Copied 20 January 2007;

[2] Bizzell, Oscar. Sampson County Court Minute Abstracts, 1784-1800, p. 117. This information was included in Bizzell’s Abstracts, however, the Raleigh archives does not have the actual documents from 1784 to 1794. The microfilmed court records start at 1794. Jerome Tew said these records were removed from Clinton for publishing, however, they were never returned, thus lost. Bizzell copied this abstracted information from an earlier typed abstract of the court minutes. 


  1. Ginger. Fascinating story! Why is it that it is almost always the record we need that is lost? Good going on your reconstruction.

  2. Thank you Lorine. I hope the document shows up one day, even if it is on ebay!