The strange tale of the Craven County woman who gave birth AND signed a deed in Pitt County in the years after her 1816 death

by | Articles, Craven County, Genealogy Basics and Items of General Interest, Marriage Records, Miscellaneous Records, Mysteries | 3 comments

According to publicly-accessible family trees at Ancestry.com, a Craven County woman named Jemima MILLS, said to be a daughter of Nasby MILLS and Keziah HUNTER or Keziah WALLACE or Keziah Hunter WALLACE, was born about 1760, then married a Craven County man named Gideon PETTIT. Some trees record this happened sometime around 1812, while others do not give a date.

A variety of children are named as their progeny: Nasby PETTIT (born about 1780), William PETTIT (born about 1802), Cinderella PETTIT (born about 1819), and Keziah PETTIT (born about 1825).

It is also mentioned in some of these trees that Jemima MILLS PETTIT signed a deed along with her husband, Gideon PETTIT, and other “heirs at law” of Isaac MILLS in 1817 in Pitt County.

But the most remarkable fact found in these trees is hidden in plain sight—that Jemima MILLS PETTIT actually died in 1816, but apparently rose from the grave to give her husband two more heirs and to sign that 1817 deed!

Online trees reveal giving birth after death is not unique

This reporter spent countless hours on Ancestry only to learn that there are many women recorded as giving birth after their own death, as well as when their husbands weren’t even born yet.

Simply astonishing!

Other incidents were recorded of men fathering children with their wives after their deaths, as well, such as occurred in the case of Rachel BUTLER who married James SPEAR(S) of Craven County. Rachel went on to have at least two daughters in the years after her husband died.

Genealogical “old guard” throws water on remarkable claims

One researcher, who asked not to be identified, wouldn’t stop shaking her head and tsk-ing at the assertions that Mrs. Mills was resurrected to carry on family business.

“Jemima MILLS is said to have been born in 1760,” she argued, “which would make her 59 years old when she gave birth to her daughter Cinderella and 65 when she had her daughter Keziah!”

Willing to offer some wiggle room to these groundbreaking claims she added, “Perhaps it would be inaccurate to say this is impossible — after all, with God, all things are possible — but I think any rational person would agree that it’s at the very least unlikely.”

Another researcher named Stubby Curmudgeon had his own complaints against the seemingly miraculous claims. “They’re claimin Ol’ Jemima died in 1816 in Craven County. They give reference to an estate record for a Jemima MILLS for that year and county. You follow?”

I nodded. He continued. “Let’s just skip the part where she supposedly signed a deed in Pitt County a year later. Now, you tell me why in the world she’d be using her maiden name, MILLS, in her estate documents. Don’t you reckon she’d have had her husband’s last name — PETTIT?”

When asked what he made of the situation, he was quick to answer, “Well, now, there ain’t no question there was some woman called Jemima MILLS who died in Craven County in 1816, but I’m gon’ argue that she ain’t the same one who was married to Gideon Pettit, else how would she’ve signed that 1817 deed?”

Fact checking said to be beneficial

The two skeptics agreed on one point: One must always check the dates and established facts of anyone or anything added to a family tree — especially on a site like Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org, where Mr. Curmudgeon claims, “bad information travels fast.”


If anyone has factual information about Gideon PETTIT or Jemima MILLS, or anyone named above, please send a letter to the editor via the comment box below.

3 Comments

  1. barb.may

    There is a Facebook page dedicated to this type of thing, called Ancestry.com Believe it or Not … It makes for some hilarious reading!

    Reply
    • Sara Whitford

      Haha! Thanks for sharing that. I’ve not visited that FB page, but now I’ll have to make it a point to do so. 😀

      Reply
  2. Teresa

    Interesting to note how this story reminds me of what’s happening with the 2020 election.

    Reply

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