Thursday, March 3, 2011

Godwin Research at the NC State Archives

Last weekend I spent a few hours at the North Carolina State Archives to check out some Godwin family wills, estate files and deeds in Sampson and Johnston Counties. Researching Johnston County is new to me.  This is the first time I have crossed over from Sampson to Johnston County.  Many of our Godwin families are from both Sampson and Johnston Counties. It seems, however, that one family in particular may have jumped over from Sampson to Johnston County - that of James Godwin

In 1801, James Godwin died in Sampson County, North Carolina, leaving a widow, Elizabeth and several heirs. In 1827, the widow, Elizabeth Godwin shows up in Johnston County Court Minutes! Evidently her estate is now being administered by a William Godwin. Even though mention of the estate of Elizabeth Godwin is made in the Johnston County Court Minutes, no record of a will or estate has been found. I searched through the original wills and loose papers of estates of Johnston County at the Archives this time when I went, but did not find anything.

I was able to take a new inventory of what Godwin wills and estate files were on hand in both Johnston and Sampson Counties at the Archives while I was there. As you can tell, there's no will for Elizabeth Godwin in either Johnston or Sampson County, around 1827.

 This particular James Godwin family is not even really a part of my Godwin family as has been determined by DNA testing. I have been working with some descendants of this line of Godwins, however, to help determine ancestry of this line.

Negative evidence can be positive evidence after all in most cases, especially in the case of all of these Godwin families who even to this day dominate these parts of North Carolina. The more Godwins I can identify as belonging to this family, the more I can eliminate as belonging to my own family. This is what I mean by negative evidence.

So five hours later I located and reviewed several Johnston County deeds for William, Elizabeth, and James Godwin in order to determine approximately when they removed from Sampson County to Johnston County in the early 1800s. I brought along a friend with me who was interested in learning how to locate records at the Archives. She caught on super fast and was going through microfilms and printing off deeds like she'd been doing it for years! It's so much more fun to have friends there with you!

I really enjoyed my time at the Archives, but it pretty tiresome. I was happy to hear that they no longer close their doors during lunch. They remain open now instead of uprooting us and kicking all of us out at noon and then letting us back in at 1pm. They also seemed to have more staff on hand than the last time I went (when was that again? like over a year ago? Maybe two years ago?) I even saw a guy named Chris who had talked to my Public History Class last semester about what it was like working in an Archives. I remember him because he was one of the brave souls who had made a career change late in life and had gone to school while working full time.

I'm also enjoying working with my Godwin researchers - they are so full of ideas and smart as whips! There are 5 of us in the ring now. And they are great researchers, so I don't have to worry or fear that their research is flawed or biased. And everyone is chipping in which is great because there is so much work to be done. We are collecting deeds, wills, estate records, scanning them, and transcribing them and sharing all of this info and then trying to make sense of it all via email discussions. I am very thankful and fortunate to have met such a great group of researchers. Even if DNA does divide us in half. Well I never heard of that stopping anyone! 

Photo by Ginger R Smith, taken 28 Feb 2011, Raleigh, NC.
Oh yeah, did you like the little labels I used to put the lists of wills and estate files in? Well I got these graphics from rubyblossom's FLIKR page. 

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