How a “misfiled” court case broke down a brick wall
By J. L. Starkey
My mother is an amazing storyteller; I can listen for hours as she describes her childhood in Chicago, Illinois. A favorite family story was first told to mom by her grandmother, Gertrude Baugh, who described “visiting Grandpa Baugh and playing with Confederate money” as a child. To be sure, we were not a southern family (or were we?), so hearing a story that hinted at southern roots piqued my curiosity. But the search for Grandpa Baugh, with his apparently abundant supply of Confederate currency, resulted in a series of dead ends.
Finally, by casting a wider research net, I discovered the man behind the story: my third-great-grandfather, Everett Wingfield Baugh.
Historical Surname, Southern Roots
Research of Colonial Virginia confirmed that the Baugh surname did indeed have deep southern roots. The family can be found there as early as the 1600’s, during an era noted for headright grants and settlements with names such as Bermuda Hundred and Jordan’s Journey . Genealogists generally agree that William Baugh (abt. 1610 – aft. 1687) is “The Immigrant” from whom almost all Baughs in that area are descended . Given that background, I knew that Everett was probably one of William’s descendants. But where did he fit into the massive Baugh family tree?
Everett Baugh was born about 1832 in Powhatan County, Virginia . The 1850 census shows him living with his mother, Ann, in Chesterfield County, and an 1854 probate record lists him as executor of Ann’s small estate .
In the early 1850’s, Everett married Ann Eliza Bass, and by 1860, they were living in Chesterfield County with their two children . The 1860 census gives a clue to Everett’s extended family, as three additional residents with the Baugh surname were living in his household . Though their relationship to Everett was unclear, their ages indicated they could not have been his children.
A Long-Lost Nephew?
Armed with initials, a surname, and approximate years, I turned to a favorite resource: the newspaper. While newspaper research can be tedious and frustrating, a bit of patience, coupled with some creative searches, can lead to a wealth of information. One such search revealed an amazing clue in a February 1908 Richmond Times Dispatch. An article described West Virginia resident William H. Baugh’s search for his family and included a transcription of a letter written to his brother. The Richmond Baughs assumed that William died in the Civil War. In reality, he left the Confederacy in 1861 to start a new life in Union territory. In 1908, perhaps fearing he would die without seeing his family again, William reached out to his brother . The text of his letter follows:
“My name is William H. Baugh. My father’s name was John Balding Baugh. I had a brother by the name of Robert Archer Baugh; two uncles, Edward Winfield and George Baugh. Please let me know if you are Robert Archer Baugh, or let me know if you know anything of the man I name here. I left Manchester in 1861 and have since heard nothing of my relatives since then.”
Based on the letter and article, I theorized that Edward Winfield Baugh was actually Everett Wingfield Baugh, and that George and John were Everett’s brothers. A recheck of the 1860 census confirmed that two of the individuals in Everett’s household were, indeed, R. A. and W. H. Baugh. It seemed likely that those individuals, and the third mystery resident (a female), were his niece and nephews .
A Theory of Kinship
To prove or disprove my theory, my next stop was the Virginia Memory website with its wealth of chancery court documents. There, I found Amelia County Chancery Cause 1856-010, a guardianship/estate case that proved the additional residents in Everett’s 1860 household were his niece and nephews . According to the case documents, Sallie F. Baugh was placed under the guardianship of Everett after the death of her father (Everett’s brother), John B. Baugh, around 1854. Although Sallie’s brothers had a different named guardian on paper, the siblings all lived with Everett’s family in his 1860 household.
The implications were shocking in retrospect. Everett, barely an adult and a new father himself, suddenly found himself in the role of stand-in parent to his brother’s grieving children. He assumed that responsibility while he dealt with his mother’s death and the settlement of her estate, all the while facing the looming threat of civil war.
A clearer picture of Everett began to emerge, and based on the information I had collected, I created a profile of his father. I theorized that he was born in Cumberland or Powhatan County prior to 1800, and that he was married to a woman named Ann prior to 1820. Additionally, he had died (possibly intestate) prior to 1850.
I then searched Cumberland and Powhatan County records and identified a man named George Baugh who fit the profile . Born in Cumberland County around 1785, he married Ann Toney in 1816 . He died (probably intestate) in Powhatan County between 1842 and 1849 .
George Baugh seemed to match the profile perfectly, but I still lacked definitive proof that he was the father of Everett and his brothers.
Casting a Wider Net
The search for Everett’s father is an excellent example of why a researcher should expand the focus area when facing a brick wall. Although Everett died in 1902, I adjusted my search date range to include the decade after his death, and then I looked again at court records .
Suddenly, a potential waste of time led straight to the missing pieces of the puzzle.
Those pieces were buried in Powhatan County Chancery Cause 1909-070, a case involving the estate of John N. Baugh, a brother of Everett’s probable father, George . John and his wife died within a few years of one another prior to 1840, leaving an estate to be divided among dozens of heirs. The case dragged on for decades as more and more heirs surfaced, each looking for a piece of a dwindling pie.
In 1909, a long-lost heir attempted to reopen the case. That person was advised that all money from the estate had long since been allotted, and the inquiry was closed almost immediately. That event, however, would have a lasting effect on the case’s accessibility to researchers. When the documents were archived, the entire case file was saved under the reference year 1909, seven years after the death of Everett Baugh.
The case is 145 pages long and filled with information on family connections, but it took only two of those pages to solve the mystery of Everett’s paternity.
The first piece of evidence was a chart of the siblings named in the case. The chart includes full names of Everett and his siblings, and notes that Robert A. Baugh (the individual mentioned in the 1908 Times Dispatch article) was a son of Everett’s brother, John B. Baugh.
The chart was helpful when evaluating the other key document, a sworn statement attesting to the paternity of the Baugh siblings. Written and signed by Everett himself, it states: “G. W. Baugh, E. W. Baugh, Ann E. Richardson, Mary R. Blankinship are living children of George Baugh. William Baugh, John B. Baugh being now dead. Those were all the children of George Baugh. Robert A. Baugh is a son of John B. Baugh and grandson of George Baugh.”
A Mystery Solved, and a New Perspective on Grandpa Baugh
The court case was an amazing find, and it proved that George Baugh was indeed Everett’s father. As researchers, we often say that our ancestors are speaking to us, and we just need to listen closely for the answers we seek. It is wise advice, but I never expected Everett Baugh to speak to me in that way!
For the researcher in me, it was time to document, update, and move on, continuing along the paper trail linking Everett to William “The Immigrant” Baugh.
But the family historian in me saw things differently, for genealogy is so much more than facts and dates. As a child, I pictured Grandpa Baugh as an elderly southern gentleman with a beard and a pipe, doting on his granddaughter during her visits to Richmond. Perhaps he laughed or smiled as she discovered the amazing “fake” money in his home, and watched as she played with that money, an item from a bygone era.
How very wrong I was, and how differently I see Grandpa Baugh now. A southerner who grew up in the shadow of what would become the capital of the Confederacy, Everett was saddled at a young age with enormous responsibilities born of family tragedy and discord. Facing an uncertain future after the war, still he persevered. He rebuilt his life, raised a family, and became a beloved community leader whose life was chronicled in a heartfelt obituary .
Yes, perhaps he smiled as his granddaughter found that money, but I will always wonder what pain that smile was hiding.
- Boddie, J. Bennett. (1967). Historical Southern Families, Vol. XI, pp. 229-249. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co. (See also: Salmon, E. J., Bermuda Hundred during the Colonial Period. [27 Oct 2015], Encyclopedia Virginia, retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Bermuda_Hundred_During_the_Colonial_Period.)
- Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents. (1900). The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 7(4), 423-424. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4242288.
- Ancestry.com, 1850 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009), Year: 1850; Census Place: Lower, Chesterfield, Virginia; Roll: M432_940; Page: 153B; Image: 311.
- Will Books, 1749-1873, 1928-1931, 1967; Index, 1749-1958; Author: Virginia. County Court (Chesterfield County); Probate Place: Chesterfield, Virginia, Vol. 20-21, 1852-1858, p. 71.
- Ancestry.com, 1860 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009), Year: 1860; Census Place: Manchester Northern District, Chesterfield, Virginia; Roll: M653_1340; Page: 446; FHL Film: 805340.
- The Times Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia, 2 Feb 1908, p. 18, col. 1-2, retrieved from newspapers.com.
- Amelia County (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1738-1939. Sallie Baugh and her next friend Everett Baugh, v. William Baugh et. al and their next friend Holt, 1856-010. Local Government Records Collection, Amelia County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
- Ancestry.com, 1820 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2010), 1820 U S Census, Scottville, Powhatan, Virginia; Page: 79; NARA Roll: M33_135; Image: 36.
- Ancestry.com, Virginia, Compiled Marriages, 1740-1850 (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1999).
- Ancestry.com, 1840 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010), Year: 1840; Eastern District, Powhatan, Virginia; Page: 166. (See also: 1850 United States Federal Census, Lower, Chesterfield, Virginia; Roll: M432_940; Page: 153B; Image: 311.)
- Ancestry.com, U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012). Ancestry.com, Virginia, Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1917 (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011).
- Powhatan County (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1782-1938. George W Baugh, etc. v. Archibald B Baugh, etc.; and Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia v. George W Baugh, etc., 1909-070. Local Government Records Collection, Powhatan County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
- Obituary, The Times, Richmond, Virginia, 23 Jan 1902, Page 6, col. 4. Retrieved from newspapers.com. (See also: “A Good Man Gone,” Richmond Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia, 23 Jan 1902, Page 5,col. 4. Retrieved from newspapers.com.)