Friday, September 30, 2011

My Most Important Encounter with Indirect Evidence

I recently read a couple of blogs in which the authors illustrated their first encounters with indirect evidence. In his post, My First Encounter with Indirect Evidence, Michael Hait talked about a Deed-in-Partition that a researcher told him about in which his ancestor was found selling a piece of land along with another person who was presumed to be his brother. Claudia C. Breland also discussed her experience with indirect evidence in her post, In Which I First Encounter Indirect Evidence. I would like to contribute my own experience with indirect evidence, albeit I’m sure it’s not my first experience, although I would say it was probably my most important one.

I have been looking for the parents of my ancestor, Elijah Godwin for years. He was born in Randolph County, North Carolina in 1801. He entered 200 acres of land in Randolph County, North Carolina in 1822, married Nancy Lewis in Randolph County, North Carolina in 1826, and was enumerated in Putnam County, Indiana in 1830.

Two likely candidates for parents of Elijah Godwin were Dred Godwin and Nathan Godwin who lived in Randolph County, North Carolina from 1800 - 1828 and who also removed to Clay County, Indiana in 1830 (Clay neighbors Putnam County).

Nathan Godwin disappeared after the 1830 census in Clay County, Indiana. Dred Godwin died and his children appeared selling off each of their 1/7th parts of his land in 1852 in Putnam County, Indiana. (See my previous posts on Determining the heirs of Netheldred Godwin via Land Records). I learned that 3 of Elijah Godwin’s children were born in Illinois between 1830 and 1833, so I started looking for Godwins in Illinois and I learned that Nathan had actually died in 1833 in Perry County, Illinois and his widow Sarah was living there in 1840.  

A nice researcher pulled the estate records of Nathan Godwin for me and made copies and sent them to me. In the estate records I learned that Elijah Godwin had purchased several items from Nathan’s estate and that he had signed an affidavit saying that Nathan Godwin had died September 17, 1833 in Perry County, Illinois! 

Although no relationship was indicated in this sworn affidavit, I believe Elijah Godwin to have been the son of Nathan Godwin. There is a lot more information and indirect evidence to support this statement which I have not included in this post for brevity; However this is the only piece of evidence that actually links these two men besides them simply living in the same county at the same time.


  1. Well done. You've reminded me of a bit of evidence I have that fits the indirect model perfectly.

  2. Hi Susan, yes, I think we all have lots of indirect evidence that we use in our research and it's what we do with it that counts.

  3. That is a great example of indirect evidence. Barring the discovery of direct evidence either confirming or refuting this identification, I would say this is as close as it gets!