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.

Wilmington or somewhere else….

Where was Thomas Donaldson from? It is one of the questions that has been plaguing me for years. Is he from Wilmington, North Carolina, as legend states or did he travel down to Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania, Maryland or Virginia?

My great grandmother, Nannie Donaldson, said in a letter that Thomas Donaldson came from Scotland to Wilmington, NC. Wilmington and Brunswick County were the only places between Virginia and South Carolina where foreign ships could safely come into port in the 1700’s. The rest of the North Carolina coast was to treacherous to navigate because of the Outer Banks. The Highland Scots settled the Cape Fear Region in the mid 1700’s because land was cheaper than in other areas.

Most of Thomas Donaldson’s neighbors in Abbeville came down the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. There was a Thomas Donaldson who came into Maryland in 1716 as an indentured servant. I don’t know if that Thomas Donaldson is related to mine or not. I have contracted with Maryland Genealogical Society to do some research for me to see if my ancestor Thomas Donaldson came through Maryland or if he was born there. I should have a definite answer either way in a few weeks.


Thomas Donaldson Bible first page analysis and more…


The first sentence says ” Come people attend whilst I do retal (retell) my travels? from my sin to my …..(last 2 words are illegible). My best guess is “from my sins to my present state”  because that makes sense according to context. I am pretty sure it is a testimony of Thomas Donaldson’s faith. I am not sure what denomination he was considering I can’t find any church records on him. I do know that most of his children were Baptist.

Thomas says the book is his. His daughter Polly Donaldson (born 1797) practices her penmanship on this page.

Thomas’s son, William Donaldson, wrote the bottom part which is somewhat illegible. The handwriting is distinctly different from Thomas’s handwriting above. It was probably written after Thomas died in 1811.

I have gleaned a few things from this Bible.Firstly, Thomas Donaldson could read and write. He was somewhat educated. Secondly, this particular Bible was published in 1794 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He obtained it after his marriage to Mary Cook Donaldson (they were married 1792/early 1793).

My question is how did Thomas Donaldson come into possession of this Bible? Was it sold in South Carolina to individual citizens or did one of his relatives bring it over from Scotland when he/or she immigrated? Was it a gift of some sort? I want to find out the answers.

Thomas Donaldson Bible Record

This is a record of Thomas Donaldson’s children. The first page was written in William Donaldson’s hand. The rest is written in Polly’s hand and someone else’s hand.  The Bible was printed in Edinburgh in 1794 and is housed at the Lexington County Museum in Lexington, South Carolina.

The letter (Part 2)…

As much as I would like to think the letter that my Nannie wrote was historically accurate, the lack of historical evidence states otherwise.

I cannot find any proof that Thomas Donaldson fought at Kings Mountain. I have checked the roster of soldiers and his name is not on the list. I cannot find evidence that Thomas Donaldson had 2 other brothers. I am pretty sure he had one brother named William Donaldson. William Donaldson was listed in the 1787 tax list in Abbeville along with Thomas. William was also listed in the 1790 census of Abbeville with Thomas.

Thomas Donaldson could have been from the Wilmington area because there was a large Scot Irish settlement in the Cape Fear Region. I think Mary Cook may have been from Sampson County, NC . There is a Cornelius Cook who was in Sampson County, NC in 1790, but he disappears by 1800. A Cornelius Cook (a son?) then pops up in Laurens County in 1794 according to land records. Cornelius Cook was mentioned in Thomas Donaldson’s state record in 1811.