(Update) I’m going to have to look for these graves in the woods, aren’t I?

Well this is exciting!

The thing about being a genealogist/historian is that there is no way you’re never going to be able to know everything about every location, every time period, or every research methodology. All you can do is attempt to keep educating yourself. And if you stick at it, you can reap wonderful rewards.

Years ago, I wrote about searching for the graves of my fourth great-grandparents and some of their family members. (You can see my original post from 10 years ago below.) Back then, I knew they lived somewhere in northwest Forsyth County, Georgia but that was about as far as I could go. And that’s a lot of territory to search for some graves.

But that’s where furthering my education comes in.

I’m currently working on a YouTube video series about the last three Georgia Land Lotteries in 1832 and 1833. But to do that, I had to get down and dirty into Georgia land records. This meant learning about Georgia’s unique way of dividing up what was formerly Cherokee territory. 

Cherokee territory was divided into four “sections” running from east to west, then each section was divided into districts. Each district was further subdivided into land lots of 160 acres or gold lots of 40 acres. The land was then divided into 10 counties in 1832. 

(I know this is confusing. My forthcoming video series explaining how all this works should be out soon. if you have any questions about the Georgia Land Lottery system, especially the 1832 Cherokee Land Lottery, the 1832 Gold Lottery an the 1833 Fractional Lottery, please let me know in the comments or by contacting me!)

Photo Credit: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division (displayed under Fair Use)

To make a long story short, it turns out that I always had access to which Section, District and Land Lots my ancestors lived on. It’s not only in things like their land records, but also on their tax rolls and in the probate when my 4th great-grandfather passed away.

In fact, at the height of their landowning, the West owned two non-contiguous lots of land. But upon reexamining every piece of evidence I had, and analyzing selling patterns, I was able to conclude exactly which of those two plots they lived on.

Combine that with searching some of today’s tax records, and I know exactly where they owned land. I don’t know exactly where their house and their alleged cemetery was located on that plot of land (it’s about 160 acres – oooof) but I am that much closer!

Long story short, I had the information to find out where my ancestors lived all along. I just didn’t have the understanding of that evidence yet. The exciting thing is, there are so many more opportunities to analyze existing evidence in new ways and find out even more!

My next step is to send some letters to homeowners in the area. I’m lucky that some people with “old names” still live in the area. In fact, at least 3 family names who lived in the area all the way back in the 1870s still have (I’m assuming due to the names) descendants living in the area. As someone who lives on land that my ancestor bought back in 1874, I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

Now I wait to hear back from my letters. I’m fairly vibrating with excitement at the chance to perhaps solve this old mystery!

Original Blog Post from May 6, 2013

Dang it.

Last night I found another missing West grave. Grr.

First, a little back story. The graves of my infuriating brick wall ancestor George W. West (b. about Jul 1817 in Spartanburg, SC – d. 1895 in Forsyth County, GA) and his wife Jennett Cowan West have eluded me for a long while. They both died in Forsyth County, Georgia and had ties to both Concord Baptist Church in Forsyth County and Hightower Baptist Church just across the line in Cherokee County. But I’ve been unable to find their graves at either location. Their daughter, Elizabeth West (who I learned from a heartbreaking family letter died from tuberculosis in 1882) is similarly missing.

Now, I’ve been tracing forward the family of his son and reluctant estate administrator George W. West (1848- abt. 1920) and discovered that his wife, Margaret C. Redman, is similarly missing. She’s alive in census records in 1880 and gone by the time George W. Jr. shows up as “widowed” in Yell County, Arkansas in 1900. Was she buried in the black hole where the rest of my Wests are laid to rest? Or did they divorce and he just skirted around that issue by saying he was widowed? (He never remarried as far as I can tell. But it seems unlikely that he would pick up and take all the children to Arkansas with a living ex-wife back in Georgia.) I know George W. Jr. was in Georgia after his father’s death in 1895, and that a lot of West’s succumbed to something in 1891. Nope, I think Margaret C. Redman West died and I think she’s buried with the other missing Wests.

Where the heck are those Graves?

Maybe George W. West’s estate case provides some clues. By this time, unless the mysterious Elizabeth was still around, George W. West, Jr. is the only child of my 4th great-grandfather George W. West still living in Forsyth County. Sarah Jane West McClure and Paschal were already in Arkansas. My 3rd great-grandfather Lightner West and his 3-year-old sister Mary Ann died during the Civil War. William R., Edith West Harris, Leander West and Monroe West all died in 1891 (with William R potentially dying in 1893). (Oh btw, the graves of William R. and Leander are missing, too. Argh!)

After old George’s death, George W. Jr. was all set to administer his estate, but in the intervening months something happened and George W. was relieved of his obligation. (In a bit of a haughty manner, I must say!)

Later on in the case, it’s reported that George W. West’s “home place” of 160 acres has been sold to pay off debts. I wonder… were George W. West, his wife and some of his children and maybe even a spouse or two buried on that land in a family plot?

I think maybe they were, and that that plot is somewhere right in here:

Why I Think My Ancestors are Mouldering in the Forest 🙁

If my ancestors were going to be buried anywhere except in a family plot, I would think they would be buried at Hightower Baptist Church or Concord Baptist Church. If they’re at Hightower, I haven’t found them, and neither have some church members who made a detailed map and listing of burials there. (Available or lookups!) They could be at Concord, buried with their two daughters, Edith West Harris and Mary Jane West. I’ve been relying on FindaGrave.com to tell me they aren’t there, and that just isn’t good enough.

They COULD be at Hightower or Concord in unmarked or poorly marked graves. But I just don’t think that’s the case. For one, Mary Jane West died in 1863 – before her parents – and her gravestone is very readable to this day.

How am I going to find these graves?

Fortunately, there are plenty of things I can do to find these graves. I just need to actually make time to DO them.

I need to:

  • Call or go to Concord Baptist Church and actually look around for graves with deteriorating markers. Two of the daughters in the family are buried there, maybe George, Jennett and family are there, too and just haven’t been counted as they should be.
  • For pete’s sake, just make time to get to the Forsyth County Clerk of Court’s Office already and look up where exactly the family land was. From there, I could find out who owns the plot(s) now and even *gulp* make cold calls or knock on doors and find out if anybody knows about a stray graveyard out back.

I just wish I had a guide every time I try to look at land records. I get overwhelmed, I get a headache trying to read the old handwriting, and I’m never sure I’m looking in the right place. What I need is a Land Records Guardian Angel.

So I leave it at that. I have a feeling my ancestors and collateral ancestors are buried in the woods somewhere on 160 acres of land that was sold off for taxes in 1895. Huzzah…

Happy Detecting!


10 thoughts on “(Update) I’m going to have to look for these graves in the woods, aren’t I?”

  1. I]Jennifer, it has been a while. I appreciate your work on finding these graves. George and Jennette are a mystery. George remarried shortly before his death. Maybe his second wife had him buried at a place of her choosing. That maybe why George the son declined to be executor. In 2018 i was in Atlanta and visited several cemeteries including those where the children of George West 1779-1860 are buried. Here are some of my findings.
    Concord Baptist Church, Cumming, Forsyth County, GA 6905 Concord Rd, Cumming, GA 30028
    Edith”Eddie” West Harris 1847-1891 Mary Ann West 1860-1863 Monro West 18??-1891

    Old Hightower Baptist, Cherokee County, GA
    3444 Hightower Rd (Highway 369) Ball Ground, Cherokee County, Georgia, 30107-5302
    Lightner Leander West 1863-1927 Walter Linton West 1883-1928
    An extensive study of the history of this church was published in 2015 in the book: Hightower Baptist Church, Cherokee County, Georgia: An Early History Woven with a Strong and Abiding Faith in Jesus Christ, 1834-1950. The book includes 400+ pages, 200+ pictures, and 100+ years of history; church minutes, membership lists, cemetery records, pastors, deacons, local history, family stories and more.

    Talking Rock Baptist Church, Talking Rock, Pickens County, GA 429 Old Blairsville Hwy, Talking Rock, Ga Rev. Willis West pastored Talking Rock Baptist Church

    Antioch Baptist Church, Talking Rock, Pickens County, GA 2149 ANTIOCH CHURCH RD, TALKING ROCK, GA Directions: From the intersection of Georgia State Hwy. 515 & Antioch Church Rd., go west on Antioch Church Rd. 1-3/10 mile to the intersection with Jordan Rd. (on the left)
    Rev. Merrick West 1821-1862
    Rev. Merrick West was the pastor of the Antioch Baptist Church until about 1857. He was a soldier in the Civil War and died of jaundice in Tennessee during the war. Eber (his brother) traveled to Tennessee to bring his body home for burial.
    Sarah Mullinax West wife of Merrick West 1826-1914
    William M. West 1855-1857

    • Hello! It’s so good to hear from you, cousin! And yes, that’s a good theory on Nancy having George buried near her. I’m wondering if they were in such dire financial straits by the time he died, too (despite both being big landholders they were mortgaged quite heavily when she died) that maybe they didn’t want to spare the expense to buy a marker for him.

      Also, there are a lot of depressions near where the Wests are buried at Concord, and I’m thinking that those are most likely gravesites. I have some pictures and there is quite a lot of space around Monro, Mary Ann and Edith Harris West. I’m thinking perhaps the other family members who are unaccounted for (George, Jennet, their children Elizabeth and William Russell) are buried there. Apparently there is a way you can probe the ground to see if there is a coffin beneath. I’d like to do that! I’m just not sure the cemetery would take too kindly to it!


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