Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tom Bergeron's Episode of WDYTYA? and How it helped me!

 WDYTYA Logo, Images, Free and Clear to Share License,


As I sat watching the WDYTYA episode (DVR'd too) with Tom Bergeron I listened very carefully as he learned the life of his grandmother, Marguerite Ardion who was born La Rochelle, France in 1636. No, my children are not related to Tom Bergeron or his family but there was information there that I needed to know and I knew that La Rochelle was important in my children's family history.

Why was Tom Bergeron's journey important to my research?

South Carolina was the final destination for many of the French Huguenot families who fled France. One such person was Benjamin Simons,one of my children's 8th paternal great-grandfathers, who was born in La Rochelle was born in 1672. 

Thanks to Tom Bergeron's episode I now know where to go and/or who to write to find the crucial records of the early years of Benjamin's life. I would love to find birth records for Benjamin Simons in La Rochelle. Hopefully, there is still a record which could lead me to the answer of who are Benjamin's parents.

A Brief History of Benjamin Simons 

Benjamin was orphaned at an early age and adopted by his aunt Martha DuPre and her husband, Huguenot minister Josias DuPre. From France they fled to Middleburg, Walcheren Islands, Province of Zeeland, Netherlands. From the Netherlands Benjamin and the DuPre's crossed overed to England and then by ship across the Atlantic Ocean to arrive in the Colony of South Carolina in the late 1690's.

There is much more to research on Benjamin Simons and his family. By all accounts he was a very affluent man, owning a great deal of land in the South Carolina low country.  Roughly 1545 acres at the time of his death in 1717. His home, Middleburg Plantation is the oldest wooden home in South Carolina having been built in 1697 and is now privately owned. His primary his crops were timber, turpentine, pine tar and cattle. He was also a slave owner and I hope one day to find out who they were so that names can be added to the Slave Name Roll Project.
I have not found his will and I expect that it may be long gone but all hope for the will is not lost because it is possible that the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston may have a as well as the Huguenot Society. I am also sure that there many land records and for me to find among other documents on the life of Benjamin Simons.

"Middleburg", Wikipedia Contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia ( : 1 September 2015).

Middleburg - The Oldest Wooden Home in SC, Milligan ( : 1 September 2015).
Notes on the Simons Family, Milligan ( : 1 September 2015)

Genealogy of the Simons Family of the Low Country of SC, Descendants of Benjamin Simons, 1st Generation ( : 3 September 2015).

Research Catalog, The Huguenot Society of South Carolina ( : 1 September 2015).
WDYTYA Logo, Images, Free and Clear to Share License, ( : 3 September 2015).

"Tom Bergeron", Who Do You Think You Are?, Season 7, Episode 6, The Learning Channel (TLC), Air Date: 30 August 2015.

Middleburg Plantation, Wikipedia Contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia( : 1 September 2015).

Middleburg Plantation, South Carolina Plantations, South Carolina's Information Highway [SCIWAY] ( : 1 September 2015.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

6 Colonial Wills Found in the Georgia Virtual Vault

Photograph by Jason Baker, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

Have you tried looking for genealogy records in the Georgia Virtual Vault? I have been very fortunate to find many documents in this online database. Click here to start searching for your Georgia ancestors here at the Georgia Virtual Vault.

While working on my children's 6th paternal grandmother, Mary Esther Maxwell recently, I found 6 colonial wills through the Georgia Virtual Vault (GVV). Here are the names on the wills I have found thus far, Captain Robert Nichols (1746-1775), Mary Ester Maxwell (1732-c.1774), Audley Maxwell (1697-1768), John Maxwell (1735-1768), Mary Simons Maxwell (1701-1774) and Morgan Sabb (?-1760).

I started with Mary Simons Maxwell in hopes of identifying how all the Maxwell's fit together. Mary Esther and John Maxwell are her children and named in her will. Note that John is listed as deceased. Morgan Sabb is the first husband of Mary Esther Maxwell and Captain Robert Nichols is her second husband. At this point I believe that Audley Maxwell may be the brother of her husband James Maxwell (1697-1768).

After going line by line in her will, I then made a list of her children by name and then proceeded to list her grandchildren by name. Next I made a list of the slaves she named. Listed among the slave names, I did find several who were listed with their mothers. To see my post about Mary Simons Maxwell and the releasing the names of her 16 slaves go here, The Slave Name Roll Project - Releasing the Names of 16 Slaves.

When I started my search on this branch the family I wanted to know the full name of Mary Simons Maxwell husband, however that answer is not going to be an easy one. My search of public trees on was uneventful because not one person seemed to have any place for me to use as a springboard. It seems that everyone wants her husband to be James Audley Maxwell. James Audley Maxwell appears to be the name of every James Maxwell I could find in South Carolina and Georgia. Then I ran across a picture of Mary's will in someone else's tree. Of course, there were no notes, comments or any source listed as to where this person found her will. That's a blog post for another day!

The first thing I did was to go directly to the web to see what, if anything would come up in a search.  One the first things I discovered was a short summary of Audley Maxwell at Liberty County Historical Society. The short summary also includes the names of Audley and Hannah's children. They are listed as Audley Maxwell, Jr., Mary Maxwell, Elizabeth Maxwell and Rebecca Jane Maxwell. The next source I found was Audley's will in the GVV which clearly states that Hanna Maxwell is his wife. I believe that Audley married Hannah Powell in Massachusetts or possibly Pennsylvania but as of now I have not been able find any marriage records to confirm this. 

However when I signed into Ancestry this morning what did I find? A whole new database of Wills, Probate and Estate Records! Hopefully, this new database will allow me to find more of the Maxwell family so that I can make better connections and find new information to support my theory (not every James has Audley as a middle name) or it will disprove my theory. I will let you know what happens once I extracted all of the information I can from from my research of this database.

Bank Vaults under Hotels in Toronto,Ontario, image by Jason Baker from Surrey, British Columbia, Canada Commons Wikipedia image database, (,_Canada_-_3_June_2013.jpg : 21 August 2015)

Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992, Ancestry, database with images on-line ( : 2 September 2015); citing Estate Records, 1775-1892;Author: Georgia. Probate Court (Liberty County); Probate Place: Liberty, Georgia