The Saga Continues: Sleuthing Around in the Library and Courthouse

Hi, all! This is Zack. This afternoon (technically, at the time of this writing, yesterday afternoon), Erin and I went to the library to try to find some deeper information on Alice Williams. Like Eli and Sapana, we found Alice’s obituary, which listed her death date as 16 Jun 1936. I’ll try not to repeat anything that’s been said, but I want to give a brief rundown of our thought process.

While Erin was looking up the obit, I was working on tracking down the file number for T.A.’s, S.B.’s, and Alice’s wills. This was rather awkward because the microfilm for the wills does not have a main index at the beginning; you have to scroll through to sectional indices. Sarah had no will on file, likely because, as a wife whose husband is living, she had not made a will, and so her entire estate passed to T.A. by intestate rules. T.A. and Alice did have ones on file, however. I noted their individual file numbers so that we could look them up at Probate. (T.A.’s was 7342 and Alice’s was 11007, in case you want to take a look at them.)

But at this point, we did not know if this was the right Alice, or just a happy coincidence. The will indices listed a “date” as 19 Aug 1936. Not knowing what this “date” was, I asked the reference librarian, who said that the “date” is the day the estate was resolved through Probate Court. This squares up nicely with the death date in the obituary, but we wanted a little more proof in order to substantiate that this was in fact our Alice.

We looked up the Census of 1920, which listed Sarah’s age as 56, giving a likely birth year of 1864 +/- 1 year. We then traced her death certificate through FamilySearch.org, which listed her birth date as 26 Jun 1864, her death date as 16 Jun 1936, and her parents: James W. Metze (sic) and Sarah E. Swain. All this information taken together gave us, we thought, a pretty thorough vital profile of Alice Williams. As a bonus, it listed her first married name, McGorty (also spelled McGarty) and her burial place, Oakwood. The plats of Oakwood listed her as Susan Barbara Alice McGorty. This woman’s full name was therefore Susan Barbara Alice Metz McGorty Williams, the first 3 being given names and the last 3 being family names. No wonder she was so difficult to find. These plats also listed family members and their vital dates and relationships; Erin put these in her Williams family tree and is working on merging them with Catherine’s.

Death certificate for Alice Williams

Next, we headed over to Probate Court (which, if you were wondering, has about the worst parking configuration of any building I’ve visited in Spartanburg). At first, the receptionist insisted that there were no wills under the name T.A. Williams or Alice Williams, but when she entered the file number, the two records appeared. We went into the Probate room where everyday people can search for proceedings on computers, but, as luck would have it, our wills were on microfilm.

The majority of the pages were legal mumbo-jumbo, but a few interesting things appeared. T.A. actually died intestate (meaning without a specified will), so his estate was appraised and divided according to probate rules by his estate’s administrator, L.W. Perrin. I’m not an expert on estate law at all, so I don’t exactly know why T.A. has a probate record but Sarah does not, assuming that both died intestate. Most of his estate was directed towards family members: Alice Williams, Mrs. A.O. Thomas, Mr. Geddie (?) Williams, Willie Williams, Ed Williams, and Clemmie Williams McAbee. Some legal hurdles were encountered because of Mrs. McAbee’s death, resulting in some more records (yay!).

TA Williams estate allotments

Examination during probate of TA Williams

Alice Williams left a bedroom suite to Annie McGraw, her niece, and the rest to her sister, Hattie McGraw. Her executor, William R. McGraw, was Hattie’s husband. She left a $1500 mortgage and a $200 “note for interest” to be used to pay off her debts. That’s about all; the will itself only takes up half a page, remarkably.

Alice Williams will

We then went back to Wofford to pick up Erin’s roommate so she could join in on the quest. From there, we went to Oakwood Cemetery, located the plot where Alice is buried and photographed the graves, but Eli and Sapana beat us to the punch.

The next step, I think, is to investigate the beneficiaries (as well as the administrator, L.W. Perrin) of T.A.’s estate — that will probably give a clue of some sort. (As I say this, I think of Dr. Lawton’s “yeah-I’ve-already-tried-that” face.)

One thought on “The Saga Continues: Sleuthing Around in the Library and Courthouse

  1. Boyce M. Lawton, III

    Absolutely wonderful work! Did you catch any connection between Alice and what I talked about in Magnolia cemetery on the first day of class? I wasn’t just rambling without a purpose!

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