When doing genealogical research, it’s important not to just rely on will abstracts. If you do, you’re liable to miss some important information.

The good folks who do will abstracts for various county genealogy books undertake an enormous task in trying to extract the key data from old, handwritten, hard-to-read documents. It can’t be expected that they will include everything in their summaries.

Such is the case with the abstract of my 4th great-grandfather John Holmes. (I descend from him twice, by the way, through his daughters Sarah and Jane.)

Here is the abstract from the wonderful Beaufort County, North Carolina Will Abstracts 1720-1868 by the Beaufort County Genealogical Society:

HOLMES, John

Pages: 351-4. Original. Date: 27 Dec. 1861. No probate. Daughter: Betsy Wiggins, cow and calf and bed. Son: William Holmes, cow and calf, loan of all my land laying on South side of Middle Branch and East side of Horsepen Branch… where he now lives. Daughter: Jane Edwards, cow and calf, bed, loan of land adjoining Noah Spears. Daughter: Sally Morris, cow and calf. Daughter: Sophia Morris, cow and calf. Wife: Selia, cow and calf, bed and furniture; everything else I possess I lend to my wife Selia during her lifetime or widowhood… at death of my wife Enoch Avory son of Stephen Avory and Livina Wiggins shall have one cow and calf each. Executors: Alexander Edwards, Wm. W. Galloway. Signed by mark. Witnesses: Isaac Buck, Wm. W. Galloway. Remarks: Proved in Probate Court Oct 28 1872 by oaths of Wm. W. Galloway and Isaac Buck. Will produced by John Edwards. Request from Celia Holmes, wife of John Holmes, to appoint her friend and neighbor John Edwards as administrator.

I had been perplexed about the statement “at the death of my wife Enoch Avory son of Stephen Avory and Livina Wiggins shall have one cow and calf each.” I realized he was talking about Enoch Avery, who is living in his household on the 1860 census (and also shows up on the same census in his father Stephen Avory’s household just a couple of houses away), but I wasn’t sure if he was saying that Enoch was the son of Stephen Avory and Livina Wiggins and that he was to get a cow and a calf or if he was saying that Enoch should get a cow and a calf and Livina should get a cow and a calf.

Turns out the question is easily answered by reading the full will:

Will of John Holmes

In the name of God Amen

Know that I, John Holmes of North Carolina and County of Beaufort do make and ordain this my last Will and Testament

First: I recommend my soul to Almighty God and my body to the earth to be buried in a Christianlike manner at the discretion of my friends.

And as touching worldly estate in which it has pleased God to give me I give and dispose of in the following manner

First: I give and bequeath to my daughter Betsy Wiggins one Cow and calf and bed which she has already had.

Second: I give and bequeth to my son Wm Holmes one Cow and Calf which he has had

Third  I give and bequeth to my daughter Sophia Morris one cow and calf which she has had

I wish all my just debts paid if any it is my wish and desire that my wife Selia Shall have one cow and calf and one bed and furniture to dispose of as she may think proper. And the balance of my property my lands stock of horses and Cattle and stock of all kinds my house hold and kitchen furniture and farming utensils and everything else that I may be possesed with at the time of my death I lend to my wife Selia her lifetime or widowhood and at her death or marriage it is all to be sold except the land and two cows and calf and equally divided among the heirs of my body.

And at the death or marriage of wife Selia it is my wish and desire that Enoch Avery the son of Stephen Avery shall have one cow and calf it is also my wish and desire that Livinia Wiggins shall have one cow and calf.

And I lend to my son Wm Holmes after the death or marriage of my wife Selia all my land lying on the south side of the Middle Branch and east side of Horsemen Branch the same where he now lives during his lifetime and at his death to be equally divided between the lawful heirs of his body.

I also lend to my daughter Jane Edwards fifty acres of land at the death or marriage of wife Selia adjoining the land of Noah Spear and running from the Horspen Branch with the ditch that now divides us to the Newborn road so as to include fifty acres during her life time and at her death to be equally divided between the lawful heirs of her body.

The balance I wish sold and equally divided between my other three daughters, My daughter Betsy Wiggins, My daughter Sally Morris and my daughter Sophia Morris, and I nominate and appoint Alexander Edwards and Wm M Galloway Executors to this my last will & Testament in testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand seal This 27th Decr 1861

           his
John { x } Holmes
         mark

Attest
Isaac Buck
Wm M Galloway

Explanation of names mentioned above:

Children of John HOLMES & Celia AVERY:

  • Elizabeth “Betsy” HOLMES m. Dennis WIGGINS
  • William HOLMES m. Alpha MORRIS
  • Jane HOLMES m. Harvey EDWARDS
  • Sarah “Sally” HOLMES m. Levi MORRIS
  • Sophia HOLMES m. Rowland MORRIS

Regarding Stephen and Enoch Avery: We can now know with certainty that Stephen AVERY was Selah AVERITT’s illegitimate son from before her marriage to John HOLMES. His father was apparently Thomas HARDY, who was named in Selah’s bastardy bond from November 1824. Stephen was born by May 1825. From what it looks like to me at this time, it seems like Enoch is the only child who survived from Stephen AVERY’s marriage to Nancy GARDNER. After she died, he married Nancy Ada FOY.

While there were a few Lavina/Louvinia WIGGINS around at the time John HOLMES wrote his will, it turns out that his daughter Betsy, wife of Dennis WIGGINS, had several children, one of whom was named Louvenia WIGGINS.

Here are images of a transcription of his will in the Beaufort Wills Book 1, 1868-1893.