Genealogist at work-Where Do I Go from Here?

In Genealogy we start with what we know and we work to what we don’t know. That is far easier said than done. Mainly because the documents we need may not be readily available to work backwards in a straight line.

But I do know (from previous research) that Manerva Beasley Haynes Turner is my 3rd great grandmother.

Please NOTE: I do not use online trees. I prefer to do original work on my own in wills, deeds and other records.  Yes, I know this family line is WELL documented and probably on millions of Ancestry trees. Please do not post links to those in the comments. Allow me to do this the hard way, yet for me incredibly interesting way. Now back to my post….

In 1860, two of Manerva’s children William Harve and Thomas K Haynes are living with Sally Beasley in Rutherford County, TN. William Harve’s death certificate names Manerva and Nathaniel Haynes as parents.  So now we can assume Sally Beasley is Manerva’s relative.  We can assume that she is her mother for now.

In 1850, Sarah Beasley is living with Thomas W. Beasley.  The assumption is this is her son and daughter-in-law.  Thomas White Beasley married Martha Haynes. 

In 1840, we find a Mrs. Beasley living a few doors down from Thomas K. Haynes in Williamson County, TN. She is 50-60 years old.  This fits with other census birth years of 1785. She has one young male living with her. 

So we still don’t know anything about the husband of Sarah Beasley.

So where do we go from here? 

Step One:  We know that Sarah Unknown Beasley was born circa 1785 and that she was still alive in 1860!  So from what we know of the time period, Sarah Beasley had to have died shortly after 1860 to before 1885.  (Assuming she did not live to be over 100). 

So our first step was to see if Sarah had any probate records.  Luckily for me, Family Search has the Rutherford County, TN Record Books online.  I spend two nights abstracting everyone with the surname of Beasley (all spelling variations) into Evernote.  Once I have done that, I started looking for documents for Sarah Beasley. 

In Nov 1866, John J. Beasley, as Administrator, filed an inventory for Sarah Beasley, Dec’d.  He mentions notes to Thomas Turner for years 1864-1866.  We know that Thomas Turner married Manerva Beasley Haynes in Rutherford County, TN in Feb 1859!  So this Sarah Beasley, Dec’d was renting land to Thomas Turner who was married to Manerva Beasley Haynes, and whose children were living with Sarah in 1860!

Good circumstantial evidence that this is our Sarah!  Looks like our Sarah died intestate between 1860 and 1866.  Most likely around late 1866. 

But who did Sarah marry and who was Manerva’s father?  Since we have already abstracted all the probates of Rutherford County from 1804-1890, we have some candidates. We know Sarah had land, so her husband most likely had a probate.

So let’s see what happened to the land?  Next let’s abstract all the deeds for Rutherford County, TN.  The Deed Index Book is online.  However, all the deed books are not. 

We are interested in Deed records where Sarah Beasley or her children sold land and in Deed Book W and Y, we find Sarah Beasley selling land!  On 28 February 1838, Sarah, John and William Beasley sold to Z H. B Anthony 200 acres of land for $2108.00. It was minus one acre of land for a school and meeting house given to the public by Thomas Beasley. Then on 05 Dec 1838, Sarah Beasley sold to John Redd for $780 110 acres of land.   So Sarah Beasley was selling land around the time we found her living with a young male in Williamson County in 1840.  Perhaps she sold her farm and moved in with a son or grandson just over the county line in Williamson County.  By 1840, Sarah Beasley is a 50-60 year old widow. This certainly makes sense.  And a widow with 310 acres of land in 1840 must have been married to a man with a probate! 

So we know her husband died before 1838 and he most likely had an estate.  A quick look at the Microfilm Inventory for Rutherford County, TN tells us that Record Books 1-10 are going to have the probates of people who died before 1840 in Rutherford County, TN. We are going to assume since the land was in Rutherford County, that this is where her husband died.

So we go back to the probates we have abstracted for everyone named Beasley in Record Books 1-10 and we find Probate records for John, Thomas and William Beasley listed.  We certainly have seen these names before as John and William Beasley sold land with Sarah and her grandson was named Thomas, so any of these men could be contenders. I also noticed in my Deed Book Abstracts that in Book W, Page 138, the Estate of Thomas Beesley was Divided amongst his heirs.  This was just a few months before Sarah Beasley sold land in Rutherford County. She couldn’t sell land she didn’t own free and clear, so Thomas becomes my first choice of being Manerva’s father.  In compliance of an order granted from Rutherford County Court December 1836, the land of Thomas Beasley, Dec’d was divided on 2nd February 1837.The land was divided to provide for the minor heirs of Thomas Beasley.  Lot one was drawn by Thomas Beasley.  Lot 2 was drawn by William Beasley. Lot 3 was drawn by John J. Beasley.  Sarah, John and William are found selling land together just a few weeks later. This is obviously the same land. It is looking like Thomas Beasley is our best choice to look at probate records for.


Thomas Beasley first shows up in the Probate records in Record Book 7.  We find his will, naming his wife Sarah, son William, daughter Rebecca Coleman and several minor heirs!  The will is dated 18 Jun 1828.  Manerva Beasley Haynes Turner was born circa 1823. So if this is her father, she was about 5 years old when he died.  He also states he wants his land and slaves to be rented out to provide for each of his minor children to have at least 8 years of education. If this is Manerva’s father, and she was to receive 8 years of schooling, then this will would be in effect until about her 14th birthday (or later if she had younger siblings).  Thomas Beasley’s land was divided in 1837.  The same year his daughter Manerva would turn 14!


On 16 Nov 1828, an inventory (the first of many) was taken of Thomas’ estate in Rutherford County, TN.  So now we have an approximate death date for Thomas Beasley between June and November 1828!

In 1830, Sarah Beasley was enumerated in Rutherford County, TN, She had 2 males 5-10, one male 10-15, two females 5-10, 1 female 10-15 and one female 40-50.

In 1820, Thomas Beasley was enumerated in Rutherford County, TN.  He had 2 males 0-10, 2 females 0-10, 2 females 10-16 and one female 26-45. He was over 45 years old.

But I still haven’t found anything that ties Thomas Beasley to Manerva Beasley Haynes Turner.  So back to the probate records. Thomas owned many slaves as per the 1820 census and also his will and on 19 Jan 1837, we find the Division of the Estate of Thos. Beasley, Dec’d. Named are his known children, John, William, Thomas and Rebecca Coleman.  Also named is his daughter Manerva who draws “one negro male named Sterling worth Eight hundred and fifty Dollars.” Also is mentioned Adeline Beasly, his daughter. We know that Manerva Beasley named a daughter Louisa Adeline. Just more circumstantial evidence that Thomas Beasley was the father of Manerva Beasley.  Manerva Beasley married Nathaniel Haynes on 20 Nov 1838.  She named children Adeline, Thomas, William and Sarah after her siblings.


Once his youngest child had received 8 years of schooling, the probate of Thomas Beasley could be finalized. His slaves and land were divided amongst his children, with them paying to make everyone equal.  His wife sold her portion of the land with her two sons and moved in with family.  His large land holdings and slaves had provided for his family for over a decade.  His estate stayed in probate for that entire time was finally finalized after the last child was educated.  Never assume that a probate is finished in a few months. The terms of a will have to be accomplished first and that can take many many years.


Obviously there are other records we could look for to further prove this connection. Burial records, Bible Records, etc come to mind. But here is how a problem can be solved with Census, Wills and Deeds.


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