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10 June 2014

#23 Surprise in the Old Will (James Putman)

#23—52ancestors

The Surprise in the Old Will
James Putman (1743-1811)

Beginning genealogists are often warned to be prepared because you never know what you will find when you start probing in the past. Not all of our ancestors were perfect. Of course, they don’t listen. I didn’t. In fact, finding a number of family skeletons early-on in my digging only whetted my appetite to know more and the “real” story of my ancestors.

My paternal side is mostly Dutch, French and German, winding back to 17th century in this country and to early settlements in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. However, my mother’s ancestors (mine too, of course) are something else.

They all arrived years before the Revolutionary War with a mix of ethnicities — Swiss, Scots-Irish, Irish, French, Swedish, Scottish, Welsh, more Germans, and a purported English line or two. Most of them came through Virginia or the Carolinas and eventually headed west and kept on going.

A big surprise has been the diversity of occupations and economic levels among them — some were dirt poor, while others were well-fixed. They participated in all of America’s wars, some whole-heartedly and some were drafted. During the War Between the States, some fought for the Union, others were Confederates, some traded sides back and forth and a few headed to the Far West to escape it all. But the most difficult thing for me to deal with has been the discovery that a number of them were slave owners.



I’ve read my share of wills, probate records and inventories and spent plenty of time trying to figure out the name of some old implement or piece of furniture. While this information can be interesting and historically educational, usually the main reason for a search in these records is to ascertain genealogical relationships and to “prove” that your ancestor is the son or daughter of a certain person.

Recently a cousin sent me a note about a South Carolina will that named our common ancestor — Elizabeth (who was called Betsy). Another unknown cousin had found the information and posted it online. Our Elizabeth “Betsy” Putman married Hezekiah Ray about 1802 probably in Union County, South Carolina. They had four or five children before she died about 1811. Hezekiah soon remarried (see my earlier blog about Mean Patsy) and removed to Tennessee. According to this will, Betsy’s father was James Putman. Thanks to Bill Putman for finding this will and sharing it.

Will of James Putman of Union County, South Carolina
(Recorded and probated 6 January 1812; citing Will Book A, p. 269)

. . . to my beloved wife Joice, the Negro Lucy, a list of items . . . the land and plantation to be rented, all that is not rented to Ralph Jackson, to my son Amos Putman my Negro child Jerey that now sucks his mother, to my son Joseph Putman thirty dollars, to Hesekiah [sic] Ray's children had by his wife Betsy my daughter thirty dollars to be equally divided when they come of age, to my 3 grandchildren Bazel Putman, Jensey Putman and Zadock Putman ten dollars each when they are capable of taking care of it. My children William, Jesse, James, Jabel, Amos, Daniel Putman, daughter Nancy Lawson fifty dollars each. After the death of my wife, what she leaves of the Negroes and other property to be sold and equally divided amongst my children.
My sons William and Jabel Putman to be executors.
Dated: 11 December 1811

Well, there goes my summer of leisure. Research at the library calls loudly. The other day on Facebook I saw someone announce they had finished their family tree. I’ve been researching more than four decades, and with this new discovery that supposedly goes way back in England, I may be digging another 40 years, so pardon me if I LOL.


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