Except for an occasional acquisition of bounty land or promise of cheap land during periods of western expansion, our ancestors did not move around very much. Many of my ancestors died in the same county where they were born. That is why a death recorded far from familiar territory always raises a red flag.
Segourney Shiflett Eppard was my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandmother. She was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, in 1850. At least by 1870 she was a resident of neighboring Rockingham County where she married George Harvey Eppard.
George and Segourney lived on a farm in McGaheysville and raised 5 boys and 1 girl. The two oldest died as young adults. One son became a doctor and moved to Washington DC, one moved to West Virginia, and one moved to Georgia. It is no wonder then that after Segourney was widowed, she lived for a time with her daughter.
What IS a wonder, though, is why Segourney died in a hospital in Washington D.C. She had been living with her daughter in 1925 when she filed an application for a widow’s pension due her thanks to her husband’s service during the Civil War. Had she traveled to Washington D.C. to visit her son George Jr and grandchildren? Was she living with them? Did George send for her knowing she was ill and that perhaps the hospitals were better equipped?
Even though Segourney seems to have died “out of place,” I can make sense of it since there are several logical explanations. However, there is NOTHING to explain why my 3X great-grandmother Sarah Jones Herndon would have left Virginia to die “out of place” in Iowa. She had no children there. One was in Illinois, but the others were in Virginia.
Sarah Jones was born about 1794 in probably Orange County because MUCH of Virginia was Orange County at that time. She married Ezekiel Herndon in 1821. Ezekiel died about 1845. If Sarah were still alive, she should have been enumerated as head of household in the 1850 census or possibly as a member of the household of a son or daughter, but there is no sign of her in Virginia.
However, there was a Sarah Herndon in Iowa in 1860 and in the Mortality Schedule for 1869. Date and place of birth all seem to match my Sarah Jones Herndon. Trees on Ancestry and on FamilySearch all show her dying “out of place” in Mahaska County, Iowa, July 1869.
A search of the children listed in Sarah Herndon’s household in 1860 led to a Findagrave memorial for son Adolphus Herndon. The person contributed more than a photo; he gave the parents’ names as Carter and Sarah DAVIS Herndon.
Lesson to be learned: A person's record of dying “out of place” should serve as a red flag demanding genealogists and family historians to question the “facts.”
Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.”
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