Martin & Buckley, Part 4: Claiborne Martin’s Wife Frances

A friend and very distant cousin told me gently that stories about research don’t generate much enthusiasm. In her experience, people are more interested in essays/articles that tell a story. Another friend and cousin, Bill Lindsey, writes a blog featuring great stories about his family.  I’m green with envy.

I have two problems writing stories about my ancestors, having already used the one about “love at first sight during the Civil War.”  First, my family of origin had no oral history worth a hill of beans. The Rankins only talked about who had died, or whose gall bladder had been removed, or “race relations.” They were, to a man and woman, horrible bigots. The Burkes talked mostly about each other, including who was not speaking to whom. Also, a couple of the Burkes were famous as  tellers of tall tales, to put it in the best light possible. The result is that I only have a few good family stories, and some are unprintable because they would get me in hot water with my first cousins.

The second problem is that I want to focus in this blog on (1) errors in the conventional wisdom (here’s an example about a Rankin myth), (2) information that hasn’t yet been made widely available (e.g., a newspaper notice and lawsuit identifying a bunch of Burkes), (3) information of any sort about the Rankin family, and (4) family connections that appear to be new news (such as Eleanor “Ellen” Rankin’s family of origin).

Claiborne Martin’s wife Frances falls into the last category. I did a search on Ancestry.com family trees using a few established facts: Claiborne Martin, born about 1767 in North Carolina, died 1851 in Perry Co., AL, lived in Oglethorpe Co., GA, wife’s name Frances.

That search returned only three Ancestry trees that included Claiborne’s family. They identified his wife as (1) Sarah Ford, (2) Frances Oakes?, and (3) Frances Oakes. The latter two get a “close, but no cigar” award. Although Clay’s wife Frances was not née Oakes, two of his daughters, Haney and Amy, married brothers named Oakes. See also Claiborne Martin at WikiTree. That website doesn’t identify either Clay’s wife or parents and names only two of his eleven children.

Hmmmm … I just realized I am avoiding writing about Frances Martin’s family of origin. There is good cause for my reluctance. Identifying her family was a difficult search that lurched willy-nilly among geographic locations and time frames, going clear around the block several times. Research rarely takes a straight line, especially when one makes rookie mistakes as I did in this case. And, after all that, my conclusions about Frances Martin’s family are supported only by a complicated web of circumstantial evidence.

The only way I know how to write about the evidence with even a modicum of clarity is to follow the path my research took. I fear it will bore many people to tears.

Instead, let’s just jump straight to the bottom line. If you want to sift through the evidence I’ve got and decide for yourself whether it is sufficient to prove Frances Martin’s family of origin, please read on after this short chart.

1 William Buckley Sr., b. circa 1715, VA?, d. 1789, Loudoun VA. Wife unproved, probably Elizabeth Fryer/Fryor, d/o John Fryer.

2 William Buckley Jr., b. circa 1745, VA, d. 1780, Loudoun VA.  Wife Amey MNU, dates of birth and death unproved. She m. #2 James Huff.

Sarah/Sally Buckley, b. 1770 – 1780, Loudoun VA, d. 1863, Oglethorpe GA. Married Gibson Martin in 1800, Oglethorpe GA.

3 Frances Buckley, b. abt. 1775, Loudoun VA, d. 1865, Perry AL. Married Claiborne Martin abt. 1794, Elbert GA?

Ann Buckley, b. abt 1775, Loudoun VA, d. abt. 1801, Elbert GA. Married Elijah Moseley.

3 Elijah Buckley, b. 1779, Loudoun VA, d. 1855, Jasper MS. Wife Nancy MNU.

Those are the “short answers.” Now, if you wish, let’s wade through the research trail. (Much more fun than the bare facts, right?)

We’ll begin in Oglethorpe County, GA with three facts pertinent to Frances Martin’s maiden name. First, Frances and Clay named their eldest son William Buckley Martin.[1] Buckley immediately becomes a favorite for Frances’s maiden name, with William a strong possibility for her father’s given name. Second, Clay’s brother Gibson married Sally (Sarah) Buckley in Oglethorpe County in 1800.[2] Third, both Sally Buckley Martin and Frances Martin were born in Virginia in the 1770s.[3]

In my rookie ignorance, I figured all I had to do was sort out the Oglethorpe Buckleys around the turn of the century and I would nab Frances Martin’s family of origin. Piece of cake. Hahahaha …

One small problem: there were no Buckleys in Oglethorpe about that time. No Buckleys in either the 1800 census, the tax lists from 1796 through 1820, or the deed records from 1794 through 1820. Also, the marriage bond of Sally Buckley and Gibson Martin is the sole mention of any Buckley, male or female, in the Oglethorpe County marriage records from 1795 through 1852.

The absence of Oglethorpe Buckleys seems peculiar, because Georgia marriages were usually recorded in the county where the bride resided.[4] Gibson’s bride Sally Buckley almost certainly lived in Oglethorpe in September 1800. But there were no Buckleys living in Oglethorpe in 1800.

I concluded that the family with whom Sally Buckley was living in September 1800 was not named Buckley. Either that, or she parachuted into Oglethorpe County from Mars. Looking for a family “not named Buckley” has some serious limitations as a research theory, though (as does the parachute notion). Had I not been a rank rookie when I did this research, I would have looked for Buckleys in Elbert and Wilkes Counties, even though Sally was probably living with an Oglethorpe family in 1800. Think county formation, Robin … Oglethorpe and Elbert were both created from Wilkes! Instead, I went back to Perry Co., AL, where Claiborne and Frances Martin moved circa 1820.

Forgetting about county formation history has tripped me up more than once.

Happily, there were enough Buckleys in Perry County to provide grist for the research mill. The patriarch was Elijah Buckley, who was listed in the age 50 to 60 category in the 1830 census, born between 1770 and 1780.[5] A later census says he was born about 1779.[6] His birth year indicates he belongs to the same generation as Frances Martin (born about 1775), and Gibson Martin’s wife Sarah/Sally Buckley Martin (born during the 1770s).

Perry County family names suggest a relationship between Elijah Buckley and the Martins. In January 1832, Archibald (sic, Archer) Buckley filed a bond as administrator of William Buckley, deceased.[7] Archer was Elijah’s son.[8] Archer’s securities on his administrator’s bond included Martin M. Buckley – another son of Elijah’s.[9] The dead William Buckley was almost certainly another son of Elijah. Thus, Elijah Buckley likely had sons William, Archer, and Martin Buckley. Dizzying, isn’t it? Men named William Buckley Martin (son of Frances and Clay) and Martin M. Buckley (son of Elijah) both lived in Perry County.

The Buckleys appeared consistently in Perry County records until about the mid 1840s, then disappeared.[10] I searched for familiar Buckley names in other Alabama counties in 1850, then headed west when Alabama didn’t pan out. I didn’t have to go very far. The 1850 census for Jasper County, Mississippi has entries for Elijah and his son Archer, as well as Joseph E. Buckley and Benjamin M. Buckley (two other sons).[11]

The 1850 census listed the name of every member of a household and each person’s age and state of birth – the first federal census to do so. The 1850 Jasper County census has two nuggets. First, Archer Buckley, age 43 in 1850, was born in Georgia about 1807. (Oops … so there were Buckleys somewhere in Georgia around the turn of the century!) Second, the entry for Elijah Buckley, age 71, says he was born in Virginia.[12]

Belatedly, I searched for Buckleys in Georgia counties other than Oglethorpe, where Sally Buckley married Gibson Martin in 1800. I must blush. There was Elijah Buckley, big as Dallas, in Elbert County. That is where George, David, Claiborne and William Martin had first appeared. In 1801, Elijah bought land in Elbert County on Falling Creek.[13] More blushing. As you know, that is the creek where the Martins lived.[14]

Goodness gracious sakes alive, as they say in Claiborne Parish, LA! Not only were Elijah Buckley, Sally/Sarah Buckley Martin, and Frances Martin all born in Virginia, they were all born during the same decade. And the Martins and Buckleys both lived on Falling Creek in Elbert County, Georgia before the families of Elijah Buckley and Frances Martin migrated to Alabama. Do you think those three were Buckley siblings?

I am reminded of a “Magic 8 Ball” toy I once had. It was a black plastic sphere with a round, flat piece of glass about 1 ½” in diameter on the bottom. There was an “8″ in a white circle on the top, like the eight ball in pool. The ball was filled with liquid. Floating in the liquid was a multifaceted solid, each face of which was a small white triangle. Each face contained a terse little saying. Here’s how it worked: one “asked” the Magic 8 Ball a question, then turned it upside down and read the triangular “answer” facet that floated up to appear in the glass circle.

My all-time favorite answer was “all signs point to yes.” Delicious. Not unequivocally affirmative, just very, very encouraging – suggesting a positive answer, but with an air of uncertainty. (Consequently, it was always right, no matter what the answer turned out to be). I asked it earth-shaking questions such as, “is Walt going to ask me for a date?”

If I still had that Magic 8 Ball, and asked it whether Frances Martin, Elijah Buckley and Sarah (“Sally”) Buckley Martin were siblings, it would undoubtedly respond with that exact phrase – qualified, perhaps, with “so far.” However, we need more evidence. Lots of people were born in Virginia in the 1770s – although, frankly, most of them did not wind up living on the same obscure little creek in northeast Georgia near the end of that century.

That’s enough for this installment, even for those of you who like to evaluate evidence. We will pick up the search for Frances (Buckley?) Martin’s family of origin in the northern neck of Virginia near a little creek known as Bull Run.

See you on down the road.

[1]FHL Film 1,578,227, Perry County Deed Book B: 56, deed of 8 Sep 1830, Claiborn Martin to Buckley Martin, his son, for love and affection (gift deed); FHL Film 1,509,297, Perry County, Alabama Probate Records – Lockett, Napoleon to Martin, George M., File #53-022-1069, estate records of Claiborne Martin (hereafter “Martin Estate Records”), record of distribution to William B. Martinand other heirs.

[2]Fred W. McRee, Jr., Oglethorpe County, Georgia Marriage Records, 1794-1852(Lexington, GA: Historic Oglethorpe County, Inc., 2005), citing Oglethorpe Marriage Book A: 127.

[3]1850 federal census, Oglethorpe Co., GA, listing for Sarah Martin, 70, b. VA, dwl 279; 1850 census, Perry Co., AL, listing for Claiborne Martin, 83, b. NC, and Frances Martin, 74, b. VA, dwl. 61.

[4]Jordan R. Todd, Georgia Marriages, Early to 1800(Bountiful, Utah: 1990, Liahona Research, Inc.). Georgia did not require marriages to be registered in counties until 1804. Prior to that date, counties which did record marriages usually recorded them in the county where the bride resided.

[5]1830 federal census, Perry Co., AL, listing for Elijah Buckley, 01101001-0000001.

[6]1850 federal Census, Jasper Co., MS, listing for Elijah Buckley, age 71.

[7]FHL Film 1,509,046, Perry Co. Estate Papers, “Boyd, Drury S. – Buckley, William,” estate file of William Buckley.

[8]Jasper Co., MS Will Book 1: 2, will of Elijah Buckley Sr. of Jasper Co. proved 5 Jul 1855, naming wife Nancy and “lawful heirs.” Sons M. M. Buckley (Martin M. Buckley) and A. Buckley (Archer), executors. Witnesses J. E. Buckley (Joseph E.) and B. M. Buckley (Benjamin M.).

[9]Id., estate file of William Buckley.

[10]Elijah, Martin M., and Archer Buckley were all enumerated as heads of household in the 1840 census for Perry Co., AL. The last record I found for a Buckley in Perry Co. is a deed of 1 Jan 1845 witnessed by Martin M. Buckley. FHL Film 1,578,229, Perry Co., AL Deed Book G: 745.  By 1850, they were in the census for Jasper Co., MS.

[11]See note 8; see also 1850 federal census, Jasper Co., MS, had listings for Ellijah Buckley, 71, b. VA, Arch Buckley, 43, b. GA, Joseph E. Buckley, 29, b. AL, and Benjamin M. Buckley, 27, b. AL.

[12]Id., Ellijah [sic] Buckley, 71, farmer, b. VA.

[13]Farmer, abstract of Elbert County Deed Book G: 65.

[14]Id.,abstract of Elbert Co., GA Deed Book A: 128, deed of 29 Dec 1792, Joseph Bell & wife Elizabeth to David Martin, all of Elbert Co., £200, 300A in Elbert on both sides Falling Cr., part of 579A granted to George Martin dated 20 Jul 1786.

2 thoughts on “Martin & Buckley, Part 4: Claiborne Martin’s Wife Frances”

  1. Are you kidding me? Genealogists love to read about research methodologies. Mostly because reading about someone else’s misery makes us feel not so alone with our own. Plus, we might get an idea. Great stories and I’m glad you’re writing them. As for those pretzel first cousins, I’m writing a whole series to be published upon my death. My funeral should be very interesting. 😁 Love your stories. Keep writing.

    1. Yeah, the only thing that keeps me from publishing some of my family stories is the knowledge that it’s expensive to defend even a frivolous defamation suit. Thanks for the encouragement, cousin! The worst thing I can say about you is that you are also a nerd about tax records …

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