23 May 2012

Finding Connections in the Final Episode of 'Who Do You Think You Are?'

     I was excited to watch the final episode of 'Who Do You Think You Are?,' knowing that Paula Deen's episode would cover Georgia genealogy. I was surprised at how closely the story shown in this episode mirrored a branch of my own family tree.

     Paula's 4x Great Grandfather, John Batts, had a lot in common with my 5x Great Grandfather, Willis Craft. The most remarkable connection: they both served in the Georgia House of Representatives as pro-slavery Democrats from 1857-1858. Paula did some research at the Georgia Archive, similar to what I've done, including using their General Name File. Here's a photo I had taken of my ancestor's card, as well as a screenshot of Paula's ancestor:

     Paula learned that after the war John Batts suffered, due to his politics pre-war and a bad economy. The listing for Willis Craft in the 1870 census lacks estate and property value information and I have not seen tax information from this time. However I imagine that my ancestor suffered much like Paula's did.  He lost his ten slaves, which were valued at $8,800 in a 1860 tax record. If he managed to maintain his land during the war, it would now cost him a lot more to cultivate it.

     Due to their political activity, both John Batts and Willis Craft, would have needed to seek a pardon from the post-war government to participate in certain activities, such as voting. John did this, and can be found in ancestry.com databases for a pardon and voter registration. For some reason Willis chose not to seek a pardon and never re-registered to vote, though his sons were registered.

     John Batts died in 1879 of suicide after economic ruin. Willis Craft died in 1874 at age 64, only a few months after selling 320 acres of his property, on which he lived, to his son, John. In the land deed, it is specified that Willis and his wife, Martha, will live on and cultivate the property until they died.  I always thought it a bit strange that Willis didn't just will the property to his son, though Willis actually left no will at all. Perhaps he needed the money to pay off personal debts? Somehow, I am under the impression that Willis was in financial difficulty.

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