Check the Original Documents!

While researching and writing the draft for tomorrow’s story, I came across yet another reminder to always seek out the primary source – the original document – when researching your family.

I love abstracts because they are often easy to find in books that have been digitized and I can figure out right away if I am looking for an actual will or a probate administration. However, I never stop at the abstract or even a full transcription of a will and here is why:

DavidLewisWillAbstract1822
Abstract of the Will of David Lewis, 1822

I’ve researched in South Carolina in the past and know it can be tricky finding documents, particularly vital records, so I was pleased to see that David Lewis actually had a will filed in what is today Anderson County, South Carolina. I needed a list of his children. This abstract names ten children:

Isaiah
Priscilla Field
Neriah
Benjamin
Elizabeth Alexander
Cozby Woodall
Tarleton
Hannah Narton
Widow Penelope
David
Rosannah

Other online sources state that David Lewis had thirteen children and, more importantly, my Joab Lewis, who is reputed to be his son, is not mentioned, even though he was alive and living nearby Isaiah and Neriah in Kentucky in 1830.

Hmm, this might be a real problem in proving Joab’s parentage. However, South Carolina probate records have been digitized by FamilySearch and are online. Next step – pull up the image of David Lewis’s will.

DavidLewisWill1822
Actual Image of David Lewis’s Will, 1822

The clerk that recorded this will had very nice handwriting and the image is very legible.

Here are the heirs, in order,  that I find named:

Isaiah
Priscilla Field
Jacob
Joab
Neriah
Benjamin
Elisabeth Alexander
Cozby Woodall
Tarleton
Hannah Norton/Narton
Widow Penelope
David
Rosannah

There are only twelve children listed, not thirteen, but the point here is that the abstract omitted two sons – Jacob and my Joab!

Also, given the order of the children and the fact that widow Penelope is mentioned and then two more children after her, including unmarried Rosannah, I suspect that David named his children in birth order.

Joab was, indeed, a son of David Lewis and his first wife, Ann Beeson. If I had only looked at the abstract and not dug any deeper, I would have wasted who knows how much time looking for the father of Joab Lewis.

Moral of this story: Seek out the original document.

 

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