Research in Elbert County, Georgia

Eric’s ancestors, and thus my children’s, lived in Elbert County for over 100 years, from its formation in 1790 to the very beginning of the 20th century.  Representing fifteen different surnames, several were Revolutionary War soldiers, some were wealthy plantation owners, and many were well known and respected in their community.  So I knew that my research in Elbert County would be a bit overwhelming.  With so many prominent ancestors, there would be plenty of records.

I learned about Eric’s Elbert County clan through other people’s research.  I’ve done very little research on these lines myself, except for what I’ve found on Ancestry.com.  So my objective is to confirm these relationships by locating original documents and forming my own conclusions.  Some of this research can be done online, and some must be done onsite.  While I’m physically here in Georgia, I need to prioritize locating the records which aren’t yet online.

After some poking around on the internet, I determined that I should research in land records, so I went down to the Courthouse last week to see what I could find.

Elbert County Superior Court

Elberton, Georgia is a sleepy little town of 4,500 souls, and there wasn’t much going on at the courthouse.  The clerk led me into a vaulted room where all the old deed books are kept, and left me alone all day.

In addition to the usual manual indexes and the many huge deed books, there were three published books which contained abstracts of Deed Books A through W, including an index, which covered the time period from the inception of the county through about 1835.

Deed Abstract Book

These books were a lifesaver.  I didn’t think to check in advance to see whether they existed, but I will from now on for all future counties.  And I wish there were abstracts for deeds after 1835.  The books save a huge amount of time in three important ways:

  1.  The original deed index is very hard to read, so when I initially tried using it,  I wasted a lot of time guessing the book and page numbers for the deeds I needed to scan.
  2. I usually abstract all of my ancestors’ deeds, which is very time consuming.  The abstracts in the book make that unnecessary.
  3. The index includes every mention of the person’s name throughout the book, which means you also get all the deeds your ancestor witnessed, and all the deeds which name your ancestor as a neighbor.  This information helps to put your ancestor in a place and time, and it’s also a huge advantage when you’re trying to identify your ancestor’s relatives and FAN (Friends, Associates, Neighbors) Club. It saves a tremendous amount of time compared to reading every deed yourself.
Example of manual index, which is faint and hard to read

So I used those books to locate all the deeds for ten of our surnames through the first two abstract books, and that’s pretty much as far as I got in that one day.  I took digital pictures of the original deeds and the corresponding abstracts from the books, and I’m in the process of cropping, sorting and filing them in my digital files.  I’m planning to return to Elberton as many times as I need to in order to finish the project.

One of the deeds which an ancestor witnessed is priceless and I had to share.  I’ve only seen the abstract so far:

Deed Abstract for deed witnessed by James Bell, found in the book pictured above

Some things don’t change in 200 years, eh?  She told on me?  It’s little gems like this that make our ancestors really come to life.  And why is this recorded with the deeds??  It certainly gave me a chuckle back there in the courthouse vault.  I’ll have to get a copy of the full deed to see what other details might be there!

It seemed like one of our fifteen surnames was mentioned on just about every page of those abstract books, and I felt like they would be incredibly valuable in my future Elbert County research, as I become more familiar with these families and all the collateral lines.  So I decided to buy them.  I would rather have digital copies, but they don’t exist. I ended up ordering them directly from the author, who lives in Texas.  He’ll be shipping them to my campground here in Georgia by the end of the month!

 

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