Patricia Craig Johnson --- Searching for My Ancestors --- Sharing My Life Stories

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Juda Clifton --- One of my 3rd Great Grandmothers

The young lady you see is not Juda Clifton. She is a woman that represents, to me, all of my foremothers. There is no picture of most of them but this image is my way of saying, “At one time they were all young, hopeful, and beautiful.” Finding the females in my family can be a great challenge, but one I love to undertake. And it all starts with a thought and seeing clues where they are quite hidden.

The story of Juda Clifton is definitely related to the subject of wills and probate. I had long believed that Juda was my ancestress. I knew she married John Van Buskirk in Pickaway County Ohio in 1803. I was also sure that my ancestor William Van Buskirk was their son. But as you know, thinking it and proving it is two different things. Without proof it is just a good story or a myth.

Because John VanBuskirk died intestate, his probate record verified my assumption that William was his son. Dying intestate meant all of John’s heirs were identified, and found, to settle the disposal of his farm in Madison County Indiana. Because the first Madison County land deeds stated that JohnVan Buskirk was of Ross County Ohio I knew I had the right JohnVan Buskirk. So this probate record answered question #1.

The other question was, who were Juda Clifton’s parents? Because genealogists always want to know more, it became an obsession. One day I found an abstract of the Delaware will of Obediah Smith of Sussex County. This abstract said “I leave to my daughter Margaret Clifton and her sons, Job, Benjamin, Judah and John, my land ……...” Because the name Juda Clifton is rather rare I wondered if that abstract could be wrong. Something about genealogy makes us skeptics and questioners.

Delaware has a wonderful way to order wills and probate records online. I was familiar with this as I had been researching another family from Delaware. I immediately ordered the probate packet of Obediah Smith in Sussex County Delaware.

Finally the packet arrived from the Delaware Hall of Records. I could hardly wait to open it and find what Obediah Smith actually said. I was delighted when I read his actual words written in 1794. He said “I leave to my daughter, Margaret Clifton and her CHILDREN, Job, Benjamin, Judah and John my land on ……..” The person that abstracted the will had assumed they were all sons. A typical human sort of thing to do, but it could have caused me to miss out on another female ancestress and her parents. I was equally excited because there was a Benjamin Clifton living in Pickaway County in 1803 when Juda married John Van Buskirk. Ordering the record was a gamble and in this case it paid off.

Thanks to probate records I had verified my William Van Buskirk’s parents and had discovered an entirely new family in the parents of Juda Clifton. To test this I submitted to DAR two supplemental. One for Benjamin Clifton and one for Obediah Smith. They both passed with flying colors. An extra bonus for me is when these cases reveal another American Revolutionary Patriot and both Benjamin Clifton and Obediah Smith were patriots.

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