Prompt: Sometimes the challenges in life provide the best learning experiences. Can you find an example of this in your own family tree? Which brick wall ancestor are you most thankful for, and how did that person shape your family history experience?
While I would not say that I am “thankful” for this brickwall, I do have a very challenging direct ancestor. James Briley born circa 1800 and died before 1845. His land was auctioned off by the sheriff. He has been the hardest ancestor to trace and I have been piecing together his life little by very little for at least 20 years.
My first introduction to James was as a name on the marriage record of his son, Marcellus. So I started to look for him, and look some more. Marcellus listed his mother as Pennie A., and naturally, she was nowhere to be found either. One day, while looking through the index of deeds (it was either LDS or at Pitt County Courthouse) I came across a deed that listed the local sheriff as the executor of a sale to some Briley men. It was the sale of the property of James Briley. No other Brileys were designated as specific relatives (like sons, or brothers). The description of the land being sold gave me the lead to William Briley.
A few years later, and as my experience at researching grew, I came across the will of Sarah House. She was a House by her second marriage, having been married to and delivered children first to William Brierly/Briley. She mentiioned all of her children in the will, and then designated 4 names as grandchildren, one of them Marcellus. Another stroke of luck. Living children were mentioned. James had died 20 years prior to the will’s date. All the names matched names of siblings that I knew of.
I have basically accepted the fact that I have to build a case with secondary evidence for James. I am convinced that the best evidence lies in deeds and the buying, selling, and swapping of property within the family. I actually now really enjoy researching deeds. They have information that your would never expect. I have set a project for myself for this year of plotting all of the Briley deeds I have from Pitt County. (I have to wait for our house renovation to be done first so I can spread out a little). I hope to be able to use my deed mapping program (DeedMapper) and overlay them on Google Maps and some USGS maps. Look for some Tech Tuesday postings for this in the fall.