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EUREKA: PROVING AN ANCESTOR IN WAKE COUNTY, NC
by Lodwick Houston Alford, AAFA #0011

[This article originally published in AAFA ACTION, Issue #48, Spring 2000.]


For over fifty years I had been looking for conclusive proof that my great grandfather Green Alford, b.1787, near Wakefield, Wake County, North Carolina was the son of the ancestor for whom I am named, Major James Lodwick Alford, b.1749 in Edgecombe County, NC and d.1820 in Wake County. Oh, we had plenty of family tradition and lore to the effect that Green was the youngest child but there were no authentic papers of the time to prove it.

Generations of descendants, ladies and gentlemen, have been denied acceptance by the Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution based on the war service of our Lodwick Alford. It appeared that a curtain was drawn on the father-son connection and it was hard not to believe it was deliberate. My search seemed to be beset with "red herrings," blockage of good leads and sometimes false leads, taking me down wrong paths of inquiry.

First, there was another Green Alford in Wake County who married Elizabeth Winningham in 1814. I pursued this lead no further than to determine it was not my Green. My Green Alford married Nancy Rose Liles in 1813 near Wakefield and they had eleven children, two sons and nine daughters. My grandfather Green Haywood Alford was the youngest son. The next false lead was a distant cousin descendant of Green and Nancy claiming that our Green was a son of a John Alford. But the cousin could find nothing to support her claim.

But the most formidable roadblock was the 1820 will of Lodwick Alford, b.1749, d.1820 which never mentioned Green Alford or his eleven children. There was provision in the will for his widow Susannah. a daughter Delaney, an elderly slave and several grandchildren. Among these was William High, son of Samuel and Delaney Alford High. The eldest son Cade Alford was designated executor. It was easy to construe the absence of any mention of Green and his children as indicating no father-son relationship.

The waters are further muddied by controversy over whether James Lodwick Alford b. 1749 and Lodwick Alford, Jr., b. circa 1743 were one and the same, son of Lodwick Alford, b.1710. Again my family tradition comes into play, holding that James Lodwick Alford, b. 1749 was the son of James Alford, Jr. b. 1713, brother of Lodwick, b. 1710. Further proof of this relationship is needed and is being pursued separately. A lot is riding on the outcome involving many generations and several lines of descent.

In my quest to find proof of the father-son relationship of James Lodwick Alford and Green Alford, I made several trips to the Archives in Raleigh, the countryside around Wakefield, Zebulon and parts of Franklin County. In this Ms. Edythe Tippett, librarian of Zebulon, was of great assistance. In the Archives Mr. William Mitchiner walked me through the steps in researching archives and suggested areas where we might find answers. Over the years Bill Mitchiner sent me many copies of archive records until illness in his family prevented any further assistance. Likewise illness in my family and loss of my wife of 52 years ruled out any more trips to Wake County. I had just about resigned myself going to my grave without ever finding proof of my Alford great, great grandfather.

Meanwhile bits and pieces of information kept coming in from Bill Mitchiner and others mostly from descendants of the nine daughters of Green and Nancy Alford. Most all agreed that Grandpa James Lodwick left Green and his children out of his will because he just did not like their mother Nancy Rose. But there seemed to be a curious absence of why Nancy might not have been liked by her father-in-law. You can imagine how the tongues of those nine daughters of Green and Nancy Alford wagged and passed on family lore to their children and descendants. There were hints that Green had become a notorious slave trader and mistreated his own slaves. Sometime after the death of his father in 1820, Green appeared to be in the money. Where and how did he get it?

It was not until a few years ago that some of the mysteries and questions surrounding Green Alford and his family began to clear up. Two excellent researchers. Elizabeth Dees and Madlyn Jamison found and began to publish "Bastardy Bonds and Records" in "Wake Treasures," the journal of the Wake County Genealogical Society. There before my bugged-out eyes in bold print was the name of my great, grandmother Nancy Rose Liles. In the spring of 1813 she was observed, shall we say delicately, as being with child. The sheriff was directed to haul her up before some justices of the peace who demanded to know who the father was.

Green Alford then at age 26 had been sitting in judgement as a JP on other unhappy females in the same predicament. But his name does not appear in the record on the day Nancy was hauled up and there is no indication of who she named as the father. Twelve days later Nancy Rose Liles was back before the justices with two gentlemen who went her bond of fifty pounds and this time Green Alford was present. Five weeks later on 26 July, 1813 Green Alford and Nancy Rose Liles were married leaving us to guess who was the father of the child born about two months earlier. Now we had something specific to suggest why Major Tanner Alford might not have cared much for his daughter-in-law Nancy Liles Alford.

But many questions remained to be answered and we still had no proof of father-son connection. As an aside we found nothing to indicate how James Lodwick Alford got the nickname "Tanner." No record of any kind has been found that he had any connection with a tannery or had ever engaged in tanning of hides. Another odd fact is that the first name James does not appear in any records but is clearly inscribed on the walking stick which was passed down through his daughter Delaney Alford High and out of the Alford family for almost 100 years. The cane then returned to Alford family ownership in 1914, the year of my birth, and eventually to my possession in 1978.

Now with my advanced age and difficulty in traveling 400 plus miles up to Wake County for further research I decided to seek professional help. I was reluctant to hire a professional genealogical researcher because I have always prided myself on doing my own research. Our Alford family association had an unhappy experience a few years ago when a professional researcher was hired who happily educated herself at our several hundred dollars expense. Then she proudly reported back to us what we already knew but none of the answers we hoped to get. It was our fault-we did not narrowly focus the questions we wanted answered. There seems to be an inherent conflict of interest between a researcher who works by the hour and the person who has hired the researcher who wants answers. It requires delicate negotiations.

Having long observed and admired the work and contributions of Col. Ransom McBride, USAF Retired, to the Journal of the North Carolina Genealogical Society, I decided to approach him for help or to suggest a researcher. He very graciously agreed to help me himself since I had not requested a full-blown lineage search. I had asked him simply for proof that Green Alford, b. 1787 was the son of James Lodwick Alford b. 1749, no more, no less. I mentioned to Col. McBride the principal facts that I knew including the will of 1820 and the appearance of Green on the tax list of 1809, about the time he came of age in 1808-1809, This enabled Col. Mac to go straight to primary sources. He checked the will of 1820 and also the will of the widow Susannah proved in 1831.

Then he turned his attention to tax lists and land records. The first appearance of Green Alford on the tax list of 1809 with 750 acres adjacent to 660 acres of his presumed father, 775 acres of his oldest brother Cade and 750 acres of his older brother Peyton, strongly suggested he was a son. Surely, surely there would be a deed of gift or sale or some kind of record showing how Green got that land. Deed records were checked but nothing could be found. The tax list of 1810 showed the same acreage for Peyton and Green but an increase for Cade the same as the decrease for the father. Then Wake County court records were checked which I am assured by Col. McBride would absolutely have shown any land registrations to Green Alford. He had to assume no land registrations were made. They just didn't bother to do it.

Next Col. McBride took a look at the higher courts of North Carolina. In case #2496 of the Supreme Court of North Carolina-PAY DIRT! This was a case brought by Bryan Richardson, administrator of the estate of William High against Joyner Watkins, executor of the estate of Susannah Alford, widow whose will was proved in 1831. William High, who died sometime between 1831 and 1834, was one of the grandsons mentioned in the 1820 will of Lodwick Alford. The suit was brought for the estate of W. High to participate in the estate of his grandmother Susannah.

In the course of the suit the question arose whether or not the damages in the suit of Green Alford vs. Cade Alford had ever been paid. What's this? None of us had ever heard of such a suit. Enclosure 4 to the Supreme Court of North Carolina Case #2496 was very revealing. It contained a transcript of the records of the Wake County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions which was prepared by Benjamin S. King, Clerk of the Court, on 9 September, 1834: May Sessions 1821: Case continued until Aug. 1821, parties again not ready for trial, case continued until Nov. 1821, when the jury found in favor of the plaintiff... the principal of the bond declared is $3,000 and assess the plaintiff's damages by way of interest-$1,850.

Notice to Sheriff of Wake County to cause to be made the sum of $4,850 from 21 Nov., 1821 plus $22.51 for court costs.

February Session 1822: Indulged by order of Plaintiff to give the necessary time to sell. Received of Cade Alford, Executor, $23.80 for court costs. (Note: The basis for the suit of Green vs. Cade Alford in November 1820 has not yet been found. Efforts to discover are in progress.)

Continuing the suit of Bryan Richardson vs. Joyner Watkins in 1834, Mr. Richardson declared that Cade Alford was a material witness to him but that he could not be found. On learning from a third party that Cade Alford was somewhere in the State of Mississippi in September 1834, Mr. Richardson sent his son to find him. The son reported back that Cade Alford was in Tallahatchie County, MS. Mr. Richardson then initiated procedures on 29 September,1834 to take a deposition of Cade Alford. The deposition was taken at the home of Cade Alford on 7 August,1835. Among the questions asked of Cade Alford: The moral of this story is never give up and be sure to check court records. You never know what you will find. Meanwhile there are more urgent family genealogy questions to be answered. The beat goes on. If you have to get somebody to research for you in a library or archives, take care to find someone who knows what they are doing.



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