Oh, Maryland….

I have a friend who found some information through the Maryland Archives about a Thomas Donaldson in Maryland. There were actually 2 Thomas Donaldsons. There was a Thomas Donaldson who came to Maryland in 1716 as a Jacobite prisoner from England.

The Thomas Donaldson I am interested in served as a private in the 3rd Maryland during the Revolutionary War. He was in Worchester County which is on the eastern shore of Maryland. Also in his regiment was a Jesse Gray, William Davis, John Donaldson and Samuel Donaldson. There was a Jesse Gray and William Davis in Abbeville, South Carolina in 1787. In my great grandmother’s letter, she said that Thomas was a private in the Continental Army. She said that he was from Wilmington, NC. Worchester County is on the coast of Maryland. Both cities start with “W” and are on the coast. There a several similarities between the letter and the muster roll but no conclusive evidence. I will have to see what information the Maryland Genealogical Society finds for me.



I sit here trying to get inspiration to write something genealogically important. My inspiration today is the soundtrack from the 1992 movie “Last of the Mohicans”. I used to listen to this soundtrack while writing history papers in college. It seemed to make the process go by faster. Little did I know the music that I listened to was of Scot Irish origin, the same as my ancestors…..haunted memory coming back I guess.

I am still waiting for the Maryland Genealogical Society to email me their findings on Thomas Donaldson. Regardless of them finding anything or not, I will have an answer. That means looking at other possibilities if he wasn’t in Maryland…..New York, Pennsylvania, Charleston, the old family lore favorite Wilmington….possibilities of arrival or actual birth location for this man called Thomas Donaldson.

Meanwhile, I head back to Abbeville via Ancestry.com and cruise around. I found several important wills- James Kinman died 1816, Thomas Kinman died 1822, Benjamin Mattison died 1830. James Kinman was Cornelius Cook Jr’s father in law. Thomas Kinman was Cornelius Cook Jr’s brother in law. Benjamin Mattison was someone Thomas Donaldson knew. All 3 wills had the same names on them….one community of neighbors. They formed business alliances through farming and marriage. They formed friendships.

I am finding that several families on these wills immigrated from the same place in Virginia to the South Carolina backcountry in the 1790’s. Families and friends would often immigrate to new places together as opportunities and open land presented themselves. There was also incentive to travel as a large group for safety reasons. Many people traveled the Great Wagon Road from Virginia to South Carolina and onward west to Georgia as lands became available.

I already know some of my ancestors…..Peirson, Hoke, Furman….traveled the Great Wagon Road south to North Carolina and South Carolina.I am hoping that the Donaldson and Cooks did as well.


I am waiting to here back from the Maryland Genealogical Society.  I made a request for them to find my ancestor Thomas Donaldson born 1750 for me. I want to know if he was in Port Tobacco with the Maddox family before the families were in Abbeville together in the 1790s. I wrote the MGS on December 22. It takes 6-8 weeks for them to respond. I sit here and wait.

I found out that Nimrod Donaldson built a coffin to house the body of David Cowen. He was paid $15 to build the coffin which was a good amount of money in the 1800s. There was a James Donaldson who lived in Charleston in the 1790s who built coffins. I wonder if Nimrod and the James Donaldson from Charleston were relatives? I have to research further.

Wills and Estate Records….

I absolutely love the fact the Ancestry.com added wills and estates to it’s list of sources. It makes my life easier because I don’t have to order wills and estate records from the South Carolina Department of Archives of Archives. Ordering a will or estate record can be very expensive depending on how many pages are in record and time involved in finding the record.

What can wills and estate records tell the researcher?  First, they can tell who is in the family. Most wills and estate records have either the wife or son as the executor/administrator.  Some wills and estate records have a son in law serving as executor/administrator. Others may have a close family friend serving as executor/administrator. Children and other family members are often listed in wills and estate records as recipients of items in the estate. Children can also be cut out of estates entirely if they were ungrateful or  have shamed the family in some way.

Secondly, a researcher can find out who the neighbors of his/her ancestors are from the will or estate record. Neighbors were usually allies through business dealings and intermarriage or they had dealings within the community. A researcher can check the appropriate census record against the will and find out who the neighbors were. I have done that before and it is extremely helpful. I have also checked certain estate records of neighbors and found my ancestor’s name.

Lastly, a researcher can find what occupation his/her ancestor held. Estate records usually have an itemized list of household furnishings, products, tools, etc. If there are animals, cotton, foodstuffs and/or farming tools listed then he was farmer. If an ancestor owned slaves, sometimes the names of slaves are listed in estate records. Most of my ancestors in the early 1800’s were farmers because I found hogs, cow, bales of cotton, corn, reaphook, scythes, and hoes in the estate records.

In conclusion, wills and estate records can hold a variety of information and can possibly help the research solve certain family mysteries.

What they thought was right…

I found a letter to my father from his grandmother in a volume of “Lee’s Lieutenants”. It was dated January 11, 1963, a few months after he married my mother. The 3 volume set of “Lee’s Lieutenants” was probably a late wedding present.

A few sentences in the letter that struck me….”These books which portray those who fought and died for things that they thought right. Men of ideals, courage, who thought of those who would come after them, and not of themselves.”IMG_20160104_130828~2

“Lee’s Lieutenants” refers to the men who fought with General Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War between 1861-1865. Some say the Civil War was fought to protect the institution of slavery, others say it was fought for the protection of states’ rights. Whatever position these men fought for, they fought for what THEY thought was right.

Men enlist as soldiers for various reasons. They might need monetary funds. They may enlist because  other members of their family did. They may enlist because of certain beliefs they hold dear. Whatever the reason, a soldier knows that death is a possibility when he goes off to war. He is willing to risk his life in order to save someone else’s. Sacrificing your life for a cause you believe in is the ultimate act of courage, whether others agree with you or not.

It is comforting to know that whatever my ancestors did in their lives, be it fight in a war or toil day to day in life, they did it with me in mind. They may not have been alive to see the result of their decisions but it is passed down generation to generation. Our personalities, character traits, and DNA are the result of people who came before us. We need to honor the sacrifices they made in our own lives.