Friday, August 27, 2010

DNA and the “Process of Elimination”

This post is two-fold: It talks about how I used the process of elimination through my focus on the “other” family and how it led to my interest in using DNA to distinguish between individual kinship lines.


I have spent the last several years trying to determine who the parents of my ancestor, Elijah Godwin were.  I got it narrowed down to one couple - Nathan Godwin  and Sarah Latham of Randolph County, North Carolina with little uncertainty. 

In the course of my search I employed what I like to call the “Process of Elimination” technique whereby I study the records of all nearby same-surname families in order to eliminate them as “possible” matches.  In doing so, I came across Nathan’s brother, Etheldred Godwin (1776-1852).  Both Nathan and his brother Etheldred Godwin removed from Randolph Co., North Carolina to Putnam Co., Indiana in 1828 with their children.  However shortly after 1830, the two brothers went their separate ways  and Nathan Godwin removed again to Perry Co., Illinois where he died in 1833, however, many of his children stayed behind in Indiana.

I had to study both families in order to sort through all the Godwin descendants I came across in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana and to place them with the correct ancestor, Nathan or Etheldred.  The fact that the names Nathan and Etheldred were passed down through the generations in both families made it even more difficult to place them into their respective families. 

I was eventually able to trace all seven of Etheldred Godwin’s descendants through deed records recorded by his heirs after his death in 1852.  I wrote a series of posts highlighting this endeavor in:

 Finding the Heirs of Etheldred Godwin

Eliminating these Godwins as possible descendants of the Nathan Godwin I was interested in allowed me to focus on the Godwins who were left over as better candidates;  And to identify them as a significant relationship to my ancestor, Elijah Godwin.

The “cousins”….

While I was focusing on sorting through Etheldred Godwin’s line (which was NOT necessarily a bad thing because after all he WAS a brother of my ancestor, Nathan Godwin), I met several other researchers who were trying to place their ancestors as descendants of Etheldred Godwin

Through collaboration and the deed records I found, as I said earlier, we were able to place their ancestors as children of Etheldred Godwin.  There was one small snag, however.  One of his 7 heirs, Sarah Godwin, who sold off her 1/7th share of his land after his death, was married to her first cousin, Jonathan Godden.  It is still unclear about whether Sarah Godwin was Etheldred Godwin’s daughter or Granddaughter. At this time, however, it is not really a concern. 

The significant part of this relationship is on Sarah’s husband Jonathan Godden’s side.  According to family letters and census records, Jonathan Godden’s father was Enoch Godden, also of North Carolina.  I wrote about Enoch Godden last year and you can read that post here.  In that post, I postulated that Enoch Godden was another brother of Nathan and Etheldred Godwin who moved from Randolph Co., NC to Putnam Co., IN in 1828.  The only difference is that somehow Enoch Godwin changed his name to Godden and moved with his son Jonathan Godden to Boone Co., Iowa in 1852, after the death of Etheldred Godwin, who was possibly Enoch’s brother and Sarah Godwin Godden’s Father or Grandfather.

There are several descendants of the Jonathan and Sarah Godden family who are interested in genealogy.  They have even written some books on this family! So we certainly had plenty to share with each other! They were especially interested in how their surname came to be known as “Godden.”  Before I came into their lives, they assumed this was their original surname.  They were even trying to connect to other Godden families! One family of particular interest is the David Godden family of Fayette Co., Iowa. I had come across this family previously in my research as some of his descendants showed up in parts of Indiana. It was also rumored that this David Godden may have been descended from Levi Godden, also of Ohio.  My pool of “cousins” had now extended from just a few to somewhere in the number of the 30s!

The Big Picture….

Ok, so now in the overall Big Picture, we have three possible brothers, Nathan, Enoch, and Etheldred Godwin from North Carolina.

(1) Nathan Godwin thought to be the Father of my ancestor, Elijah Godwin;
(2) Etheldred Godwin had 7 children, 3 sons and 3 daughters and 1 unknown - reference Sarah Godwin; All of the descendants interested in researching this family are from his daughters.
(3) Enoch Godwin, now Godden, has a descendant, Jonathan Godden who is married to his first cousin, Sarah Godwin; His descendants are interested in verifying Enoch Godden was his father and Enoch Godden’s relationship to Etheldred and Nathan Godwin. They are also interested in connecting to other Godden families from the OH-IN area.


The “Plan”… DNA? Huh?

As you may have guessed, this turned into  quite a big research project that spanned over the course of a couple of years, however not without results.  About this same time, I got involved in the Goodwin Surname Project at ftDNA’s hosted site, There were already some 50+ participants who had submitted their DNA to the combined Goodwin/Godwin project and several “groups” had already been formed by lumping similar results together.  My grandfather took the test and submitted his results to the project and his results matched 10 other participants 100%!!! I was so thrilled by this experience that I wanted to share the excitement with my new cousins.

My first goal was to see just how closely related (if at all) my believed ancestor, Nathan Godwin, was to Etheldred Godwin.  Only one problem:  Out of the 30 or so new “cousins” I had met and started corresponding with, not one of them was a descendant of one of Etheldred Godwin’s sons!  Y-chromosome DNA testing requires a direct male to be tested. Ugh

Ok, so it might not always work out the way you want it to.  But then a descendant of Jonathan and Sarah Godwin Godden’s family offered to submit his DNA to the project.  This descendant could possibly be connected to my own Godwin family in two ways because his ancestors were first cousins, however, his DNA will only represent the ancestry of his male ancestor, Jonathan Godwin, the son of Enoch Godwin.  This test was still significant, though, because it showed that Enoch Godwin shared a common ancestor with my ancestors, Elijah and Nathan Godwin in the last 300 years.  You can read about his results in my last post here.

Remember the David Godden family I mentioned above that the descendants of Jonathan and Sarah Godden thought they might be closely related to because they had the same Godden surname?  Well it just so happens that one of David Godden’s (b. 1823, OH) descendants submitted their DNA for testing by last year as well!  I took his results and I put them below the results of my ancestor Elijah Godwin and Jonathan Godden’s descendant’s results (David Godden’s results are listed under “Levi Godden” in the example below). 

Click on image to make it bigger

A screenshot of three sets of marker data for my ancestor, Jonathan Godden’s ancestor, and David Godden’s ancestor. (Some data is missing from Levi Godden’s results because he tested through and the other two tested with ftDNA; the two companies do not test the same markers, therefore making it difficult to make an accurate comparison).

Interpreting the data….

The blue boxes represent markers that do not match.  The markers are listed from left to right no. 1-37. The first marker is 393. The representative value or “modal” is “13 (shown in the solid yellow row).  Below that all 3 sets of testers have 13 as their marker values.  The next value in the modal is 23 for marker 390. Elijah has 23, Jonathan has 23, but Levi Godden has 24 as values. This is the first difference. This is called a “genetic distance.” If you add up the number of blue boxes beside Levi’s name you get 6. However, if you look at marker no. 459a, the modal value is 9, however Levi’s value is 7. This is actually a difference of 2. So you need to add a +1 to the 6 = 7. At this time there are no set standards or rules for determining kinship or how closely related two people are.  The general rule is a genetic distance greater than 3 on a 37 marker test is not genealogically significant, meaning there is probably not a common ancestor within the last 600 years, or since surnames have been in existence.  Therefore, we would not consider Levi Godden to be kin or sharing a common ancestor with Elijah Godwin and Jonathan Godden.

Elijah Godwin and Jonathan Godden do, however, share a common ancestor and it will be up to us cousins to find a paper trail connecting our families. In the meantime, I am on the lookout for male descendants of Etheldred Godwin to participate in the DNA surname project. I am also looking for other male descendants of Jonathan Godden to test because the differences in the marker values between Jonathan Godden’s descendant’s DNA and my Elijah Godwin’s DNA is probably due to mutations that occurred in the last 200 years and the only way to determine when and where these mutations occurred is to look at his other descendants.

Follow Friday

Here are some new and interesting blogs I came across this week:

CeCe left a comment on last week's Follow Friday post I did to let me know that she was also a multiple blogger! It seems there are more and more of us coming out of the woodwork each day. Anyways, thanks to her comment, I clicked over to see what her blogs were all about. I was VERY excited to see that she was a fellow genetic genealogist. Her blog "Your Genetic Genealogist" discusses the basics of taking a DNA test, how to interpret the results, and her own personal experiences with using DNA testing to further her Proctor family research. This is a great blog for both DNA newbies and amateurs alike. (Oh and by the way, she is a moderator for the ISOGG DNA Newbie List). In her other blog "My Tangled Vine," she hopes to do what many of us strive to do: share success stories of genealogical puzzles solved, chronicle research endeavors and tell the stories of her ancestors. This blog is just getting its feet wet, so be sure to check it out and give her great geneablogging welcome hello!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: Death Certificate of Nova Martin

Photo of Nova Martin and great-granddaughter, Ginger R. Smith taken in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1995, privately held by Ginger R. Smith, Durham, North Carolina. 

Nova Lee Peters was my Great-Grandmother on my Mother's Father's side. She was born September 11th, 1908 in the town of West Plains, Oregon County, Missouri to William Edward Peters and Dora King. On November 9th, 1927, she married my Great-Grandfather, Orville Godwin, in Thayer, Oregon County, Missouri. (View their marriage License and Certificate here). Nova died August 22nd, 2000 at the age of 22 in Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas.

Orville Godwin was from the town of Mammoth Springs, Arkansas, just a hop and a skip across the MO-AR border below Thayer, which is where their five children - Lou Ella, Dorthy Mae, Jennie Lee, Lawrence Orville Jr., and Mary (died in infancy) - were born and raised in the 1930s prior to Nova and Orville's divorce sometime in the 1940s. Orville Godwin ended up in Tulsa, Oklahoma working for a sign painting company and Nova ended up in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Orville met an unfortunate death at the hands of his neighbor and his handgun in 1956. You can read about his murder in the Tulsa Daily World here.

Nova remarried to a man named Eddie Martin and stayed in Fort Smith, Arkansas until her death, August 22, 2000. We had just celebrated her 90th birthday two years prior. Eddie had been gone for a long time, but Nova never lost her zest for life.

For this week's Treasure Chest Thursday, I have decided to focus on Nova Martin's death certificate that was obtained from the Arkansas Department of Health, Division of Vital Records. I have one of the original copies given to my Grandfather at the time of her death.

A poor scan of Nova Martin's death certificate, Fort Smith, Sebastian Co., Arkansas, 22 August, 2000, privately held by Ginger R. Smith, copyright 2010. 

Information provided in this death certificate:
Name of deceased: Nova Lee Martin
SS#: 431-16-8832
Date of birth: 11 Sept 1908 in West Plains, Howell Co., MO
Date of death: 22 Aug 2000 in Fort Smith, Sebastian Co., AR. Died in the Fort smith Rehabilities facility in Fort Smith, Sebastian Co., NC.
Marital Satus: She was widowed.
Occupation: a Federal Employee with the US Government
Residence: 1504 Bluff Ave in Fort Smith, Sebastian Co., AR, 72901
Parents: Her father was William Peters, mother was Dora King
Informant:  Lawrence Godwin, Jr. of 1504 Bluff Ave, Fort Smith, Sebastian Co., AR 72901
Undertakers: Putman Funeral Home at 4300 Jenny Lind Rd., Fort smith, Sebastian Co., AR, 72901
Burial: 24 Aug 2000 at Mt View Cemetery in Hackett, Arkansas (View her tombstone here)
Cause of death was "Cerebral Vascular Accident"

This death certificate was instrumental in determining who Nova Peters' Mother was. It clearly lists her parents as William Peters and Dora King. Up until seeing this death certificate no one in the family had any idea what her Mother's name had been. But upon hearing that her Mother's name was Dora King, the family immediately recognized the name and remembered that Dora had died young from a snake bite, around 1912, and William Peters had remarried two or three times after.

I was also able to check off another box in my "My Great-Grandparents" post I published last year in order to help me see what I had and what I was missing in terms of obituaries and death certificates in my collection. I had hoped to have it 100% completed by the end of this year, but i'm not sure if that will still happen.

Monday, August 23, 2010

DNA Results of Jonathan and Sarah Godden of Boone Co., Iowa ARE IN!!!

We have been very fortunate that 1) there have been many willing Godwin participants who have submitted their DNA for testing and 2) many of our Godwin DNA samples have come back similar or closely matched.

The latest batch of DNA results came back from a descendant of Jonathan Godden and Sarah Godwin. According to family history, they were first or second cousins.

This family interests me because Sarah Godwin was a descendant of Etheldred Godwin. She was either his daughter or granddaughter.  In 1852, Sarah Godwin and her husband, Jonathan Godden, sold off her 1/7th share of land she received as legacy from Etheldred Godwin’s estate.  I included her family in a series of posts I wrote last year entitled “Finding the Heirs of Etheldred Godwin” using deed records from Putnam County, Indiana. 

I believe this Etheldred Godwin to be the brother of Nathan Godwin; and although I have not officially “proven” it yet, I believe Nathan Godwin to have been the father of my ancestor, Elijah Godwin of Lawrence County, Arkansas.

Ok, so you’re probably wondering why is this DNA test so significant if I’m only interested in Sarah Godwin’s family???  The DNA test, after all, only follows the male descendant’s line, which would be Jonathan Godden’s line. 

Remember when I said that Jonathan and Sarah were cousins?  Well, according to my research, it is possible that Jonathan’s father Enoch Godden was a brother to Etheldred and Nathan Godwin as well!
So my goal was to compare the DNA results from Jonathan Godden’s descendant to my grandfather’s DNA which I presume to have come from Nathan Godwin, Jonathan Godden’s uncle. If Jonathan’s father Enoch Godden and Nathan Godwin were brothers and Nathan Godwin was truly my ancestor, Elijah Godwin’s father, then their DNA should be exactly the same, barring no mutations or non-parental events took place. 

So far there are about 30 Godwin/Gooden/Godden family participants in this DNA study. Of those 30, there are 3 primary groups to which most of them (19 total testers) have been assigned. The remaining do not match to anyone other than themselves. The group to which my ancestor, Elijah Godwin and Jonathan Godden of Boone Co., Iowa’s descendant have been assigned (Lineage II above) is by far the biggest group with 12 members.  Jonathan Godden’s descendant’s results vary slightly from the other 12 members. These differences are represented by the blue blocks. A difference of 3 markers is called a “genetic distance” of 3. You see on the 12th marker, all 11 participants have a value of “29,” however, Jonathan Godden’s descendant has a value of “30.” On the 13th marker, all others have a value of “16,” however he has a “15” and on the 31st marker, he has “15” and all others have a “16.” Alexander Godwin’s descendant also has a genetic distance of 3 with varying values on markers 24, 25, and 35 in this 37 marker test.

At least one of these markers, no. 13 is known to be a rapidly mutating marker, so the difference in its value could be due to a mutation. The other two marker differences would also be due to mutations. Mutations do not hinder or lessen the closeness of two families or the number of years back to the common ancestor. They can actually be a good thing because they can be used to separate lines from each other.  In this instance, the next step would be to find a descendant of another son of the oldest known ancestor to submit their DNA for testing to see where the mutations first show up. 

In this example, the oldest known ancestor would be Jonathan Godden (husband of Sarah Godwin).  The male that we tested was a descendant of Jonathan Godden’s son, Elias GoddenIn order to determine where the mutation occurred, we need to test a descendant of one of Elias Godden’s brothers.  According to my notes, Elias Godden had 4 other brothers: (1) Sion, (2) George Washington, (3) William, and (4) Newton. I have sent emails to all known descendants of these lines asking them to keep a look out for male descendants of these 4 Godden brothers. I hope we can find someone to test.

In the next post, I will talk about interpreting the possible results and what the mutations might mean for distinguishing between lines.  I would like to thank and acknowledge Emily Aulicino of Genealem’s Genetic Genealogy for helping me work through these results and for offering suggestions on how to move forward. Thank you so much!

Exactly which Godwin ancestor or how far back we intersect at a commonality is not yet known. I have two long term goals going forward from here.  The first is to prove or disprove the theory that this line is somehow connected to the David Godden line from Ohio.  This was done and discussed in my "Process of Elimination Post" done in August. The second goal is to find a male Godwin descendant of Etheldred Godwin (Sarah Godwin’s ancestor) to submit DNA as well as a proven male Godwin descendant of Nathan Godwin’s line to compare to my own line to test my own theories that 1) my ancestor Elijah Godwin was the son of Nathan Godwin (I have a substantial amount of evidence supporting this theory) and 2) that Nathan and Etheldred Godwin were brothers.

This schematic is just a rough sketch of what we believe to be the ancestry of the Jonathan Godden and Sarah Godwin family of Boone County, Iowa. I thought it might help my readers to keep track of everyone. The one problem I have with charts like this is what do you do when the Enoch Godwin and Etheldred Godwin above are brothers? Shouldn’t they be on the same vertical line? According to this chart, it looks as if they are separated by a generation.  I tried to change a few things in my RootsMagic software, but I couldn’t get the chart to display correctly.  If anyone has any suggestions, please send them my way.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cobblestones and Trolley Tracks exposed in Downtown Durham

Exposed cobblestones and Trolley tracks on Mangum St, in front of City Hall, downtown Durham. Photograph taken 21 August, 2010 and is copyright Ginger R. Smith, 2010. 
 A few weeks ago, I came across this post on the Endangered Durham blog about some cobblestone and trolley tracks that were exposed on Kent Street in Durham during a repaving project. I made plans to drive around until I found them before they were paved over.  I never did accomplish this. However, a couple of weeks ago, we were driving through downtown Durham on the motorcycle and my partner pointed out to me the exposed cobblestone and trolley tracks on Mangum Street in front of City Hall. I couldn't believe my eyes. I told her we definitely had to come back and photograph it before they completed the repaving project.

Yesterday we managed to photograph the exposed cobblestone and trolley tracks. It wasn't an easy feat because this is actually a heavily traveled road. Luckily my photographer is great with lighting and centering and took a great picture on the first try. I'm not sure what the passerby's thought of my standing in the middle of the road.

Back to the photo....

Notice how the cobblestones on the left of the picture are laid kind of diagonally but the ones under my feet are laid in a straight line. We were curious to know why this was. Was there originally some kind of aesthetic pattern in the road? Gary actually created a map of the trolley line as it originally went through Durham in the early 1920s here.

I had first heard of this in Raleigh in front of NC State University on Hillsboro Street. There was a big discussion about whether the City was going to rip the tracks up or leave them down and "rebury" them again with the new paving project. They seem to be able to remain intact whilst buried, and I think it's a very cool sight to see when its uncovered! I'm glad we were able to get a glimpse of this part of Durham's history!

Exposed cobblestones and Trolley tracks on Mangum St, in front of City Hall, downtown Durham. Photograph taken 21 August, 2010 and is copyright Ginger R. Smith, 2010. 
This picture was taken a little further up the block. These cobblestones all seem to be going diagonally. The trolley track is on the left hand side of the picture.

How about in your area? Have you noticed any exposed cobblestones or trolley tracks during your city's repaving projects?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Follow Friday

I haven't done much blog reading this week, however I did find some really interesting blogs to read and follow this week. Here's some blogs I was introduced to this week and added to my reader:

Leslie Ann has two very neat blogs - One blog called Ancestors Live Here chronicles her and her husband's ancestors' lives. She has everything from family photos, stories, obituaries and newspaper clippings to name a few; Another very interesting blog is all about those Lost Family Treasures that she comes across at flea markets and antique stores. She anxiously posts pictures of things she finds with hopes of reconnecting the items with their owners.

Another great blog I found that has a good mix of family stories, memes and technology related posts is the Bayside Blog. I especially liked Missy's post on using the Gist software to manage contacts. I even started following her on Twitter!

I'm really delighted to see more people out there who have more than one blog. I was beginning to feel like I was a blog hog or something because I had two blogs. I was also thinking that people were getting my two blogs confused - of course it was easy to do because they had similar names, but I've fixed that problem now. Anyways, most of the people I came across this week also have multiple blogs. I think that's great! Sometimes we just have way too much information.

Meet Kristin Williams - She has two blogs - One is called My Cleages and Reeds. She follows her paternal line in this blog. What I like most about this blog are the picture collages she includes in her posts, like her Then and Now Wordless Wednesday post from July 14, 2010. Her other blog is called Finding Eliza and focuses on her research on Eliza Williams Allen of Montgomery, Alabama. Her goal is to eventually write a book about her ancestor. I would like to read her blog and follow her endeavors in achieving this goal. I hope to learn a lot about collecting, compiling, and telling family stories through reading her blogs.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Endangered Durham blog that Taneya sent to me last week. This site is truly amazing. The author publishes old pictures of various houses and buildings around Durham, North Carolina (where I currently live) and then publishes new photos of the buildings as they exist today. Many of these places I drive by on a daily basis. It's amazing to see their transformations. What a great find!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: Marriage License of T J Benson and Lulu Bullington

The following copies of the marriage license of Tinie BENSON and Lulu BULLINGTON were made from a microfilm of the Washington County Court House Circuit Clerk's office in Greenville, Mississippi located at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. 

Transcript, Page 1
The State of Mississippi Washington County, To Any Judge, Minister or Justice lawfully authorized to celebrate the Rites of Matrimony: You are hereby Licensed to Celebrate the Rites of Matrimony between Mr. Tinie J Benson and Miss Lulu Bullington Given under my Hand and Seal of Office, this 5th day of July 1878, LPU Watkins, Clk, and By W [unreadable name] JP.

Page 2
State of Mississippi, Washington County, Personally appeared before me Circuit Clerk in and for said County Tiney J Benson who makes oath that he is over and above the age of 21 years as required by law in this State for males to marry. 
 Sworn to and subscribed before me this 5th day of July 1878, Tinie J Benson; L P M Watkins, Clk and By [unreadable name] JP. 
State of Mississippi, Washington County, Personally appeared before me Clerk of Circuit Court in and by said County Tiney J Benson who makes oath that Lulu [unreadable name] over and above the age of 18 years as required by law in the State for females to marry. Sworn to and Subscribed before me this 5th day of July 1878, Tinie J Benson,
LPU Watkins Clk
B [Unreadable name] JP

I found it interesting that males had to be at least 21 years of age to marry but females only had to be 18 years of age to marry. I wonder why this was? And who initiated this law? Also, note the groom's name of "Tinie" Benson - this was presumably a nick name that carried him to the grave. No one knows what his real name was. I tried to evaluate all of the documentation and determine for myself what it was in my "What's In A Name?" Post but I wasn't able to come to any conclusions. Any suggestions? He is one of my BRICK WALLS 

Photos of the Marriage book are privately held by Martha Chernibi, Oklahoma. She obtained copies of the certificate from the Salt Lake City Family History Library but noted that the index said "Colored Marriage Records," because apparently, that's what the clerks in the office called the book. Martha's cousin travelled to Greenville, Mississippi, saw the book for himself and verified that the book does not say this on it at all. Martha sent me scanned copies of the certificate in October of 2008 in addition to copies of the folder titled "Colored Marriage Records."

Related Posts:
1. T. J. Benson - What's In A Name Post
2. Grave Marker of TJ "Tinie" and Lulu Benson in Lamar Co., Texas

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Things to watch out for with DNA testing

In January of 2009, I was contacted by a fellow Godwin researcher I met at the NC State Archives. She wanted to know how to get involved in the Godwin Family DNA testing; she had found a male Godwin descendant who was willing to participate.

I was very excited and sent her off all of the testing details and told everyone that another piece to the puzzle was about to be solved. Her family actually contained a very important piece to the puzzle: she was descended from Nathan Godwin of Sampson County, North Carolina who died in 1821. Her Nathan Godwin is often mistaken for my own Nathan Godwin, born about 1774, who left Sampson County and moved to Randolph County, North Carolina about 1800.

Many researchers believe that her Nathan Godwin was the son of Jonathan and Rachel (Bullard) Godwin – however, I disagree. I have already started posting information about Jonathan Godwin – his estate file here and a deed between him and Abigail Lee here – in an effort to illustrate a strong relationship between Jonathan Godwin and my own Nathan Godwin.

DNA analysis would help us to determine which of the two Nathan Godwins was the real son of Jonathan and Rachel Godwin. First we would need to find a proven descendant of Jonathan and Rachel who has a paper trail, to compare our DNA to.  Then we would need two additional samples – one from my colleague’s line and one from my own line. My family’s DNA has already been submitted and has matched up with 8 other NC Godwin lines. How exactly they are related is yet to be determined. I got my colleague to agree to submit her family’s DNA.

But then I remembered something:  Although my colleagues’ ancestor was a male with the surname of “Godwin,” he was actually the son of Nathan Godwin’s daughter, Tressie Godwin. Tressie Godwin was cited in court for a total of 4 children she had out of wedlock, one of which was my colleague’s ancestor. So in a nutshell, we are not really sure who her ancestor’s father was. One of the men listed in Tressie Godwin’s court documents was a Godwin and one was a Draughton.

When finding family members to participate in DNA studies you must make sure that they are a true descendant of that surname. In this case, meaning their father must have been a Godwin. It is not enough that my colleague’s ancestor, Handy was a Godwin. He had been given his mother’s surname.  We don’t know who his father was. Of course, if my colleague were interested in finding out who Handy’s father was, she could go ahead and get the DNA submitted and compare it against possible surnames (perhaps against the two other men mentioned in the court cases).

So now I need to locate another heir of the older Nathan Godwin’s line to compare my family’s DNA against in order to prove or disprove relation to him and/or to Jonathan and Rachel Bullard Godwin. In addition, we need to find a descendant of Jonathan Godwin and Rachel Bullard to compare to in order to determine if Nathan was a son of Jonathan and Rachel Bullard Godwin.

Any takers?

Related Posts:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: Letter from Grandma

On March 15, 1963, Sue Lasiter Godwin received a birthday card in the mail from her maternal grandmother, Eva (Dennis) Benson. It was addressed to Sue at the home of her parents: "Mrs. Sue Godwin, 3720 Park Ave, Ft Smith, Ark." and the sender's address was "602 S. 2nd St., Marlow, Okla." It was postmarked "Marlow, Okla, Mar 12 1963" and had a 5 cent stamp on it.

The card was textured and slightly discolored, even though it had remained in the envelop for the past 47 years. The front cover displayed a nice flower bouquet and greeting of "For Granddaughter on Her Birthday." The back of the card displayed the card manufacturer to be Laurel Cards, Inc out of Waukegan, Illinois, USA.

Inside the card the left side boasts another smaller flower display and the right side with an inscription of the following: "A Birthday "Hello" To a girl who's so dear She's loved a whole lot Every day of the year! Happy Birthday." Sue's grandmother Eva added in her own hand, an address "To Sue" and "Loads of Love, Grandmother" with a small note at the bottom "over."

You might have guessed by now that this was one of those cards that was folded over and comprised a total of 8 pieces instead of just the 4 you see in most cards today. Grandmother Eva took advantage of this to add a letter to her card. She wrote the following:
Dear Sue - How are you and Marilyn getting along? Sure wish you send a line my way some time and give me your address. Hope to see you all sometimes this summer. Yet don't no what time but should real soon. Say Hi to your Bud & all rest for me tell Louise I love her. Also give me add & name Company you work for. Love you all. 

My Grandmother Sue was married to a Marine in 1956. She decided military life was not for her or her little girl, so they moved back home to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Her grandmother might have tried writing to her in the middle of all this when Sue had not yet settled down which is why she mailed her card to her parents' house. The "Louise" she told her to say hello to above is Sue's mother and Eva's daughter.

Eva Benson lived until 1983. In fact she was still around until I was 6 years old. You can see 5 generation pictures of us here. She had several grandchildren and great-grandchildren who lived near her in Oklahoma to keep her busy enough, but she still found time to come to Fort Smith to visit with my family. I was fortunate enough to connect with this part of my family in OK via email and Facebook, even though they are somewhat scattered throughout the world.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - David Orr Godwin

David Orr Godwin, b. 10 May 1854, d. 24 Oct 1928 - Personal collection of Ginger R. Smith, photograph taken May 1, 2006 by Ginger R. Smith, Saddle Cemetery, Saddle, Fulton County, Arkansas

David Orr Godwin was the son of Agrippa Sprinks Godwin and Eliza Ann Orr. He was born 10 May 1854 and died 24 October 1828, one year before his mother Eliza Godwin died. Eliza lived in Ash Flat, Arkansas and was buried at the Old Baptist Church Cemetery in Ash Flat, Arkansas. Her headstone was pictured here.

David Godwin and his wife, Zilphia Ann Pulley (headstone pictured below), raised their 15 children in Saddle Arkansas, then they sold their farm and moved to a smaller farm in the town of Mammoth Springs, Arkansas where they ran a boarding house in the 1920s.

Zilphia A Godwin, b. 13 Aug 1858, d. 22 July 1930 - Personal collection of Ginger R. Smith, photograph taken May 1, 2006 by Ginger R. Smith, Saddle Cemetery, Saddle, Fulton County, Arkansas
However their roots were still firmly planted back in Saddle, so that is where they were buried, along with several of their children. I will be presenting tombstones of their children in future Tombstone Tuesday posts, so check back here often.

This post is part of the daily blogging theme hosted by GeneaBloggers.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sampson County NC Deed of Jonathan Godwin to Abigail Lee

Last week I posted about the estate records of Jonathan Godwin, 1791, from Sampson County, North Carolina. According to the inventory taken from his estate, he had 50 acres of land in his possession when he died. I'm going to talk about this mysterious tract of land in a later post.  

For today's post, I want to highlight a tract of land containing 150 acres of land that Jonathan Godwin purchased in 1771 from John Strickland and sold in 1787 to Abigail Lee. I have included a copy of the deed below and a transcript of the deed itself. 

Scan of Sampson County deed from Jonathan Godwin to Abigail Lee, 7 July 1787, from the Sampson County Record of Deeds, 1774-1792, Volumes 5-8 (Microfilm call no. 087.40002) from the North Carolina State Archives, 109 E. Jones Street, Raleigh, NC. 

The following is the transcript of the deed:

North Carolina
Sampson County

To all people to whom these presents shall come know ye that I JONATHAN GODWIN at the county and province aforesaid Know ye that I the said JONATHAN GODWIN for and in consideration of the sum of Sixty pounds specia money to me in hand paid by ABAGAIL LEE of Sampson County and province aforesaid Planter the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged myself hisword truly satisfied contented and paid and have given granted bargained sold conveyed and enforced confirmed assigned and set over unto the said ABAGAIL LEE her heirs and assigns forever.  A certain tract or parcel of land containing one hundred and fifty acres of land lying and being in the county of Sampson and province of North Carolina on the East side of Black Mingo Beginning at a Red Oak thence South 05? East 115 poles to a Black Oak thence North 40 East 155 poles to a pine thence North 50 West 155 poles to a pine on the Swamp side thence the courses of the swamp to the beginning including MATTHEW STICKLAND's improvements it being a tract of land that was granted to TIMOTHY LEE bearing date the 23 day of April in the year of our Lord and was conveyed by deed from TIMOTHY LEE to JOHN STRICKLAND and from JOHN STRICKLAND to ABAGAIL LEE to JONATHAN GODWIN and from GODWIN to ABAGAIL LEE to have and to hold the said tract or parcel of land together all orchards gardens Jenning’s timbers and trees thereon standing or growing all woods waters much all proffits and other things unto the same belonging or in any manner of ways appertaining unto the said ABAGAIL LEE her heirs and assigns forever for and clear form all in cumbrances whatsoever and the said JONATHAN GODWIN for himself his heirs executors administrators doth covenant promise grant and agree to and with the said ABAGAIL LEE her heirs and assigns in manner following that is to say the said JONATHAN GODWIN at the sealing & delivering of these presents that a good sufficient Right and title and estate of inheritance in the premises and that in full power and lawfull and authority do bargain and sell the same in manner as aforesaid unto the said ABAGAIL LEE her heirs and assigns forever and the said JONATHAN GODWIN for himself his hears Executors and administrators doth further promise and warrant that the said land and promises is free from the lawful claim and demands of any pursuant persons whatsoever and the same will warrant secure and forever defend the aforesaid lands and premises unto the aforesaid ABAGAIL LEE her heirs & assigns forever the Quit Rents due to the State Executed.
I on witnesses whereof I the said JONATHAN GODWIN have hereunto set my hand and seal this the Seventh day of July one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven 1787.

Signed sealed and
delivered in the presence of
John Fields

             JONATHAN GODWIN {Seal}
Then the deed was proved in open court and recorded by the County Clerk:

State of North Carolina
Sampson County August Term One thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty seven 1787 then was the within deed from JONATHAN GODWIN to ABAGAIL LEE was proved in open court and ordered to be registered.
State of North Carolina
Curtis Ivey Clk Court
Sampson County represented in the Registers Office of the aforesd county in Book letter M Pages 16 and 17 the 16th day of April Anno domini 1789.  April 10, 1789.  By Owen Holmes Register

This deed provided me with a lot of valuable information. However, first I want to point out what I believe to have been a recording error. The deed mentions that the land was conveyed from Timothy Lee to John Strickland to Abigail Lee then to Jonathan Godwin. There is NO record of this land ever going to Abigail Lee prior to Jonathan selling it to her in this deed in 1787. In fact I can tract the ownership of this land easily through Land Grants and Deed Records. Update: upon further scrutiny, I can see that Abagail Lee was actually crossed out in this copy of the deed. 

The deed says this tract of land was originally a land patent granted to Timothy Lee, 23 April.  I used the NC State Archives online catalog system - MARS - too look up the original land patent going to Timothy Lee.  I found a land grant given from "The Crown" to Timothy Lee, 23 April 1763 for 150 acres on the East side of the Black Mingo, joining the swamp, including Matthew Stricklin's improvement, in what was at that time considered Duplin County, North Carolina. 

On the 17th of February, 1770, Timothy Lee sold this tract of land to John Strickland for 10 pounds. James Godwin and Duct Dees witnessed the deed. 

This tract of land came into Jonathan Godwin's hands in October of 1771, when John Strickland sold the same 150 acres on the East side of Black Mingo to Jonathan Godwin, of Edgecombe County. William Godwin and James Godwin witnessed the deed. That Jonathan Godwin was from Edgecombe County in 1771 was an important piece of the puzzle. This places him in an entirely different familial group and possibly distinguishes him from the Sampson County Godwins. I'm not sure what he did with this 150 acres of land in Duplin/Sampson County. He might have given it to a family member for them to build and live on, or he might have just sat on it. Unfortunately, I have found record of a Jonathan Godwin in both Edgecombe and Sampson Counties from the time he bought this land in 1771 to the time he sold it in 1787. I need to compile my findings into a spreadsheet and see where the overlap is in order to distinguish between the two men, if they are, in fact, two different men. 

This leads us to the land transfer described in the deed above in 1787 when Jonathan Godwin of Sampson County sold this 150 acres on the East side of Black Mingo to Abigail Lee on 7 July 1787. This deed was witnessed by Nathan Godwin and William Godwin. This tract of land was sold right before Jonathan died (his estate was settled in 1791). 

The two 50 acre tracts of land that Jonathan Godwin was granted in Sampson County in 1788 and what happened to them when he died are discussed in the following posts:

The Distribution of Jonathan Godwin's Estate, Part 1
The Distribution of Jonathan Godwin's Estate, Part 2
The Distribution of Jonathan Godwin's Estate, Part 3

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cemetery Signs

 Today Midge Frazel on her blog at Granite In My Blood talked about the importance of taking pictures of cemetery signs when you visit them. The sign she focused on in her blog post advised cemetery patrons to do their part in keeping the cemetery clean by not digging in the ground, bringing dogs on the grounds, and removing trash upon leaving the cemetery.

I left Midge a comment on Facebook this morning telling her that we had taken a photograph of a sign we passed in a small church cemetery we passed on our way to a friend's house in rural Burke County, Georgia. The sign stood on the side of the drive at the entrance to the cemetery. Here's a picture of the sign.

As you can see, this is also a well-kept and clean cemetery, most certainly due to the fact that people are NOT opening the graves!

Treasure Chest Thursday: Happy Birthday

This is a Birthday Card my great-grandmother Novi Peters Godwin gave to her son (my grandfather) Larry Godwin - she called him "Junior" - on his 6th birthday in 1940.

It doesn't look too different than any card we would buy today except I think card manufacturers stopped putting flowers on cards that were addressed to boys and the books have been replaced with video game consoles and sports memorabilia and dinosaurs.

In fact I'm surprised my grandfather still has this card as I wouldn't think it was very typical for boys to keep sentimental items such as cards and letters from their Moms. Of course it could have been his Mother who actually kept the card for him. And he found it amongst her belongings. I guess it's a question I should email to him soon...

Birthday card  privately held by Larry Godwin, Fort Smith, Arkansas. Digitally scanned by Ginger Smith 2005.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Weekly Genealogy Rewind - August 3, 2010

School Break is Over - 

My summer break is coming to an end and school is about to start back up in approximately 3 weeks. I'm slated to take 3 classes again. I tried this my first semester and I struggled a bit, but I think this time around I will be ok. I've got a great support system at home now, so I'm fairly confident that I will do well again this semester. I hope, however, that my class schedule will not interfere with my work schedule too much. This semester I'm taking two classes on campus, both of which are scheduled on Tuesdays which cut into my work day a bit. I have therefore agreed to work extra on other days.

New Laptop and Digital File Organization - 

Another thing that will help pull me through school this semester (I hope) is the purchase of a new laptop!!! The laptop I've been using is 6 years old and has held up surprisingly well, however it is quite slow. I will be going from a 17 inch screen, but heavy laptop to a 14 inch screen ultra lightweight under 5 pounds laptop. It has a Pentium i5 processor with 4 MB ram and 500 MB hard drive, built in web cam, 5-in-one card reader, CD drive, and a 6.5 hour battery life!!! It seems too good to be true. All of this for under $1000!!! I can't pick it up until Friday when the tax free weekend starts.

One concern I have is transferring my files over to the new laptop. I have almost 400,000 files on my older laptop. This week I spent some time thinking about how to reorganize my files in order to make them more efficient and easier to find and get to. However, I didn't come up with any new ideas. Last year I tried to follow Miriam's suggestions in her post Organizing Your Digital Files by creating a folder for each surname and then creating a "Documents" folder to go in each surname folder. However, I found that awkward because under each surname folder I had additional folders for each person with that surname. When I clicked on the Godwin_Jonathan folder I wanted to see his estate record in that folder. I didn't want to have to go back to the Godwin surname folder then to the Documents folder and then find it that way. If a file belongs to a specific person, it should be in his or her folder. I also don't like the idea of putting a Documents folder in each person's individual folder because that's just way too much work. I have too many individual folders! So this is my dilemma. I would love to hear more about how people organize their digital files. I was hoping to have this settled before I transfer all of these files to the new laptop.

Database - Place Name Consolidation

Last week I took Randy Seaver's advice in his post Will I Ever Finish My Family Tree about taking time in between research and other genealogy driven activities to clean up our Family Tree databases. I started working on resolving place names. I should have done this in Family Tree Maker 2009 prior to transferring to RootsMagic 4 as it was very easy to do so in FTM. However, I didn't do it, so now I'm working on it in RootsMagic 4. One of the things I've had to do is strip the Place name of Cemetery Name and put this in the Details field instead. When I imported my FTM file into RM4 it appended the Cemetery Name to the place name. Although this is really not that big of a deal, I prefer to have it in the details field.

I am standardizing the place names with city, county, state, Country (abbreviated USA) to look like this:
Ash Flat, Sharp, Arkansas, USA. However, I am not comfortable leaving either the city or the county out of the equation. If I left out the city for example, then the place name should look like this: ", Sharp, Arkansas, USA." Having it start with a comma or a space makes it difficult to search on or to auto fill if I do not know there is not already a "Sharp, Arkansas, USA" already in the Place name database. I have therefore spent most of my time finding the cities and counties of each place and adding it to my database in order to avoid this. I use the Naco county locator website for most of this.

Jonathan Godwin Research Puzzle -

I've also been busy writing and scheduling blog posts for various memes in order to get back into the blogging community: Amaneusis Monday, Tombstone Tuesday, Wordless Wednesday, and Treasure Chest Thursday.
This week for Amanuensis Monday I featured a document outlining the inventory of the estate of Jonathan Godwin. I also somewhat touched upon a controversial issue about who Jonathan's children were. I got a lot of good support about this issue, so I hope to be able to post more information about this family and maybe go back to the source of the controversial information and see if we can resolve some of these issues. Also, I would like to write more about the progress of the DNA testing. I was supposed to be taking over the DNA surname project, however, I'm not sure where I stand in that endeavor right now.

I have also reconnected with a researcher I worked with back in 2006 who is also interested in this family. Like me, he is either trying to connect or eliminate Jonathan and Rachel Bullard Godwin as his ancestors. I'm very excited to have someone to work with closely on this project.

Winnie Barefoot and Silas West Connection to Enoch Godwin Family of Sampson County, North Carolina - 

I received a comment on a post I wrote last year about Enoch Godwin of Sampson County, North Carolina. The comment originated from a descendant of a young girl who was enumerated in Enoch Godwin's household. She had married a young man by the name of Silas West. She had questions about why I had written that Silas West was a "Negro slave" as that had not been mentioned in any documents she had in her possession or in any of her family's oral history. I was able to pull up and email to her the death certificate of Silas' son that mentioned Silas West was a "Negro slave" next to the place where you fill in the father's birthplace. This was, however, only mentioned on 1 of the 4 death certificates I found for Silas and Winnie's children, so it could have been a mistake. I removed this from my post and my commenter and I have both agreed to keep each other informed if we come across any information linking Winnie Barefoot to this Enoch Godwin family.

I think that sums up the past week for me. I've also been catching up reading the blogs I follow and I've been trying to make time to leave comments on blog posts I find helpful and interesting as well.

Tombstone Tuesday - Louise and James P Lasiter

J Putman
Nov 20 1908
May 31 1974

T Louise
Jan 1 1908
Dec 27 1996

Last week, for my Wordless Wednesday post, I posted two pictures of my great-grandparents who are buried here in this plot. They were buried in Forest Park Cemetery in Fort Smith, Arkansas. They weren't buried with the rest of the Putman and Lasiter family, however. That family plot might have been filled up by the time James Putman Lasiter had purchased this plot for him and his wife. Afterall, there were at least 8 people buried there by the time James Lasiter died in 1974! I never got to meet him because he died before I was born. He died of heart failure. He worked for the news paper and my great grandmother worked for a couple of department stores. She was one of the few women who finished high school during that time. We were not a family that visited our loved ones' graves, so this was the first time I had ever been to this cemetery and visited the grave of my great-grandfather (and his parents and grand-parents) - when I took this picture - 06 May 2006.

- Photograph privately held by Ginger R. Smith. Photographed by Ginger R. Smith, May 6, 2006 at Forest Park Cemetery, Fort Smith, Arkansas.

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.