Locating an original will can be a goldmine of information, even if much of the information was already known but not sufficiently documented. Often you will see family connections posted to online family trees, or elsewhere on the internet, that are taken at face value with no documentation attached to them. Seeing family members listed in the will of an ancestor provides absolute proof of the children, and sometimes the grandchildren, of the deceased.
John “Jack” Blakeney, III was the son of John Blakeney, Jr. and the grandson of Capt. John Blakeney. It is widely known among researchers that he was the father of twenty children, born between his three wives. He died in Chesterfield County in 1876, and fortunately for us, his will survives. It was found among the probate records of Chesterfield County, SC on familysearch.org (South Carolina Probate Records, Files and Loose Papers, 1732-1964; Chesterfield > Probate Court, Estate records > 1865-1927).
Information found in wills can also help to prove extended family ties as well. In a previous post, Thomas Blakeney of Smith County, Mississippi, I used as corroborating evidence of Thomas being part of the Chesterfield County, SC Blakeneys the fact that two of John Blakeney, III’s children, James Blakeney and Matilda Blakeney Shelby, had settled in neighboring Jasper County. This was taken from the book The Genealogist’s Companion and Sourcebook by Emily Croom, although she didn’t say (at least in the sections available online) how she reached the conclusion that James and Matilda were the children of John Blakeney, III. If accurate, this would show that not just one Blakeney, but several with ties to the Chesterfield clan, had migrated to neighboring Smith and Jasper Counties (the fact that Thomas’ son Robert was living with John and Matilda Shelby in 1850 provides more evidence). Although he doesn’t give their locations, in the will of John Blakeney, III, we find named not only his son James Blakeney, but also his daughter, under her married name of Matilda Shelby.
As you read the will, keep in mind that he is referred to as John Blakeney, Sen., since his father and grandfather of the same name were no longer living, and he also had a son of that name.
The following is a transcript of the will of John Blakeney, III, written in 1875 and proved in 1876:
The State of South Carolina
In the name of God, Amen.
I John Blakeney, Senr, of the County of Chesterfield and state aforesaid, being of sound mind, memory and understanding, do make, ordain, pubish and declare this my last will and testament, in manner and form following:
First. It is my will and desire that all my just debts and funeral expenses be paid.
Secondly. It is my will and desire that all my personal property, including all my household and kitchen furniture, plantation tools, cattle, sheep, hogs, horses, carts, wagons, and all other property of which I may die possessed, be given to my beloved wife Rosanna Blakeney; and I hereby give, bequeath, and devise the same to her to have and to hold during the term of her natural life, and after her death, then to be equally divided between my children, Rochel E. Blakeney, Preston B. Blakeney, Victoria Blakeney, Alice Blakeney, and Whiteford Smith Blakeney, share and share alike; and if either of my above mentioned children should die leaving issue before the death of my said wife,
it is my will that the portion which would have fallen to such child or children, if living, shall descend to their lawful issue, or to his or her lawful issue. And if any of the above-named children shall die before the death of my said wife, then it is my will that the part or portion which would have gone to such child or children, shall go to the surviving brothers and sisters of the whole blood, share and share alike.
Thirdly. I give to my children, William W. Blakeney, Harriet Morris, Charlotte Jackson, Matilda Shelby, Elizabeth Brewer, Franklin Blakeney, Mary Blakeney, Albert Blakeney, James Blakeney, Peter M. Blakeney, John C. Blakeney and George W. Blakeney, my children by my former wives, each the sum of one dollar and no more, they having been advanced out of my estate heretofore, as much as I designed that they should have.
Fourthly. It is my will and purpose that the devises and bequests made in this my last will and testament to my wife shall be considered as held in place and lieu of her dower.
Fifthly. This will shall not be construed,
as in any way affecting the validity of any deeds of landed property held by my wife Rosanna Blakeney.
Sixthly. I do hereby nominate and appoint my son Preston B. Blakeney, and Wm. E. Vick of the county of Chesterfield and state of South Carolina, to be the executors of this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me heretofore at any time made.
In witness whereof I have unto set my hand and seal, this ninth day of December, in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Seventy Five.
John Blakeney (sealed)
Signed, sealed, published and declared by the said John Blakeney Sen., for and as his last will and testament, in the presence of us who in his presence at his request, and in the presence of each other, have subscribed our names as witnesses to the due execution thereof.
Thomas M. Wadsworth
John M. Lowry
Probate Court – Probate Will
Edward Perry, Printer, 140 Meeting Street, Charleston, S.C.
The State of South Carolina
Present: Honorable W.J. Hanna Probate Judge
for the County of Chesterfield
Personally Appeared Thomas M. Wadsworth a subscribing witness to the annexed instrument of writing, purporting to be the last Will and Testament of John Blakeney late of said county deceased, who being duly sworn, deposeth and saith that he was present, and did see the said instrument of writing duly executed by the said John Blakeney
And deponent further saith that the said John Blakeney at the time of executing the said instrument of writing was, to the best of deponent’s knowledge and belief, of sound and disposing mind, memory and understanding; and that Thomas M. Wadsworth (the deponent) and J.W. Usher and John M. Lowry in the presence of each other, and of the said John Blakeney and at his request, signed their names as witnesses, to the execution of the same.
Sworn and Subscribed to before me, this 8th
day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand
eight hundred and Seventy Six
Thos. M. Wadsworth
Judge of Probate
I do solemnly swear that this writing contains the true last Will of the within named P B Blakeney * John Blakeney deceased, so far as I know or believe, and that I will well and truly execute the same by paying first the debts and then the legacies contained in said Will as far as his goods and chattels with thereunto extend and and the law charge me, and that I will help make a true and perfect Inventory of all such goods and chattels.
SO HELP ME GOD.
P B Blakeney
SWORN and Subscribed to before me, this
first day of Dec. 1890
H. D. Tiller
Judge of Probate
*the name of P B Blakeney was written in and crossed off on the original document
Last Will + Testament
John Blakeney Sr
Filed 8th Aug 1876
Judge of Probate
Recorded in Will Book