Early Research. Sloppy Research. Lots of Questions. 52 Ancestors #5: Mary Elizabeth Gillespie

1866-1883 - GrandmotherOver time, we all get better at genealogy.  We learn better ways to search, to analyze and how to prove that which seems unprovable.   The first group of family you work on is most likely to be filled with errors and bad assumptions.

My Gillespie line is that line for me.  I worked on it with my Dad, but neither one of us had a very good idea of what we were doing.

So let’s review.

My cousins and I believe this to be Mary Elizabeth Gillespie Gillespie.  Based on the watermark it was taken between 1866 and 1883 in Tennessee.  Mary would be have been somewhere between 40 and 60 years old.  I’m guessing I can get a better date on this by analyzing the head scarf she is wearing and the clothing.  She looks very serious.

My great aunt, Eva Dold Gillespie, told my father that Mary and Jeremiah, Mary’s husband, were first cousins.  I’ve never proven that, but I have used that to make a lot of assumptions about my research.  I have no reason to doubt my great aunt.  She was very sharp, taught history in Lexington, Virginia and according to my father cared a great deal about family history.  Oh, if I only I had been interested in this when she was alive!

So what do I know about Mary?

  • The marriage register for Mary states that her surname was Gillespie.  It does not list her father; no one had to sign for her, so I’m pretty sure she was at least 18 when she married Jeremiah Gillespie November 21st, 1848.  This suggests that her birthday was before November 21st, 1830.[1]
  • Because she was married in 1848, there is no census record where she will be enumerated by name.
  • In 1850, she is living with Jeremiah and their 6 month old daughter in the Eastern District of Amherst County, Virginia.[2]
  • In 1860, she is still living with Jeremiah and 4 children: Harriet I (10), Jas R (9), Wm H (7), and 8 month old Sarah M.[3]I never noticed it before, but there is a very big gap between Harriet, James, William and then Sarah.  Why where there no children?
    • There is actually I missing child here, George C, who would have been about 4 years old and William was more likely to have been 5.  That makes the ages of the children a bit more believable.
    • The Civil War came and went. I can find no record of Jeremiah serving even those his older brother did and his two younger brothers did.
    • Sarah dies in February of 1865[4]; Wyatt Paul, Jeremiah and Mary’s youngest child is born July 15th, 1865, 5 months later.[5]
    • The 1870 census is very strange to say the least. Mary is listed as Ann.  (I have no reason to believe that Mary had died, Jeremiah had remarried an Ann and then later married a Mary. I guess it’s possible.)  They own $100 worth of real estate. And the entire family is listed as not being able to read and write.[6]


  • In 1880, they are living in the Pedlar District of Amherst. Jeremiah “Jese” and Mary are living with Harriet, George and Paul.  This time Jeremiah is listed as 60 and Mary as 40. [7]


The difference in Mary’s age does support the Jeremiah has possibly married two different Mary’s, but why would the children who would be the wife of the first Mary be listed as the heirs of the second Mary’s estate in 1893?  It seems that it should be the same woman.

  • I do not have an exact date of death for her, but I have a deed where her heirs sell their inheritance to Wyatt Paul Gillespie, my great grandfather and her youngest child in 1893.[8]

So who were Mary Elizabeth Gillespie parents?  Jeremiah’s parents where Tarlton Gillespie and Mahala Reynolds.  There were two other possible Gillespie families in the Amherst area that are possibilities.  Willis Gillespie and Roland Gillespie.  Both had daughters named Mary.  Roland’s daughter Mary married James S Camden.[9]  Willis had a daughter Mary who is listed in his will as Mary Gillespie (no husband given).[10]

Willis had a son, Wyatt who died May 15th, 1865 in the Prisoner of War camp in Elmira, New York.[11]Jeremiah and Mary had a son Wyatt who was born July 15th, 1865.[12]  Was they younger Wyatt named after the older?  Does this show a relationship?

Then there is the Bedford County connection.  Tarlton and Mahala, Jeremiah’s parents, were married there.[13]  There are other Gillespie’s there.  They need to be considered.

What if Mary Gillespie was a Gillespie because she married another Gillespie before marrying Jeremiah?  Not as likely, but it’s possible.

I need to start with doing some deed work and hoping I can find the connection between the land Mary and Jeremiah might have owned and someone else.  Or find something useful in neighbors.  Or tax lists. Or chancery records.  Or order books.  Lots of places left to look.  Lots of work to do.

[1] Amherst County, Virginia, “Register of marriages, Amherst County, Virginia, 1763-1853”, index and images, Virginia State Library, Richmond, Virginia, p. 408, entry for Jeremiah Gillaspie and Mary E Gillespie, bond date 21 Nov 1848; FHL microfilm 30273. Parents or Guardian of Husband: Talton Gillaspie; Security and Witnesses: James Gillaspie; J Powell Jr; Richd Waugh.
[2] 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule, Eastern, [unnumbered], dwelling 340, family 340, Jeremiah Gillaspie; digital images,  Ancestry.com  (http://www.ancestry.com accessed : 18 Jul 2012);  citing NARA microfilm publication, M432, roll 933.
[3] 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule, p. 132 (penned), dwelling 979, family 977, Jaremiah Gillispie;  digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com accessed : 18 Jul 2012);   citing NARA microfilm publication, M653, roll 1332.
[4] Virginia, Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1917, database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 Jul 2012), entry for Sarah Gilispie, daughter of Jerry and Mary Gillespie, Feb 1865, Amherst, Virginia.
[5] Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery (Main Street, Lexington, Virginia), Wyatt Paul Gillespie marker; personally read, 2013.
[6] 1870 U.S. Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule, Peddler, p. 497 (stamped), dwelling 218, family 210, Jeremiah Glasby;  digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com accessed : 18 Jul 2012);  digital images, citing NARA microfilm publication, M593, roll 1633.
[7] 1880 U.S Federal Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule, Pedlar, enumeration district 19, p. 215A (stamped), p. 13 (penned), dwelling 118, family 125, Jese Gilaspie;  digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com accessed : 14 May 2010);  digital images, citing NARA microfilm publication, T9, roll 1353.
[8] Amherst County, Virginia, Deeds, UU: 393-4, Mary Elizabeth Gillespie heirs to W.P. Gillespie, recorded 10 Nov 1893, Clerk of Circuit Court, Amherst.
[9] Virginia, Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1917, database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 Feb 2014), entry for Mary E Camden, daughter of Rolin and Lucy Gillaspie, 16 Apr 1881, Amherst, Virginia.
[10] Amherst County, Virginia, Will Book 19:253, Willis Gillespie, Dec.18,1865; Clerk of County Court, Amherst.
[11] Find A Grave, digital images, database and images (http://findagrave.com : accessed 24 Aug 2012), memorial page for Corp Wiatt Gillespie  Find A Grave Memorial no. 35296331, citing Mount Olivet Cemetery, McGaheysville, Rockingham County, Virginia, USA.
[12] Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery (Main Street, Lexington, Virginia), Wyatt Paul Gillespie marker; personally read, 2013.
[13] Virginia Marriages, 1740-1850, database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 Feb 2014), entry for Tatton Gillaspie and Mahala Reynolds, 27 May 1816, Bedford, Virginia.

2 thoughts on “Early Research. Sloppy Research. Lots of Questions. 52 Ancestors #5: Mary Elizabeth Gillespie

  1. jade

    You are right to point to deed work needed. Was there no estate record for Jeremiah?

    The 1893 deed by children of Jeremiah might have been selling their interests in Mary’s dower (was she dead or had she remarried?). Their right to this was as heirs of Jeremiah — his widow’s life interest in her dower was not outright possession, and no matter how many wives were mothers of Jeremiah’s children they each had an interest in the widow’s dower by inheritance from Jeremiah.

    On the other hand if the 1893 deed states inheritance from Mary the widow, that could indicate that she did indeed have land in her own right, perhaps by purchase, or by inheritance. If you follow subsequent sales of the land, someone might tell more of the story. And in this case there are estate records (including of possible siblings of Mary) and other deeds to locate.

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