Monday, June 10, 2013

John Garner's secret family, Washington County, GA

In the traditional history of the Garner family in Washington County, GA, compiled about 1956, John Lawson Garner, the son of William Garner, was shown as marrying Mary Victoria Cook, and having no children.  However, in looking at the estate records for his brother A. J. Garner, there is a document where all of A.J.'s heirs agree to share the estate with John, James and William Garner, the heirs of John Garner.  A.J. died intestate so his estate would have been divided evenly among his heirs.

This lead to a backwards trail.  The estate records for John indeed shows his property being divided among John, James and William Garner as well as with Thomas Dudley, the husband of the late Sarah Garner.   Going back to his will, which was drafted about 5 years before his death (and before his marriage), he left his estate to John, Sarah, James and William McCook, described as being the children of Mary McCook.  A check of marriage records shows that he married Mary Victoria McCook in 1892, two months after the birth of her youngest son William.

The 1880 Washington County, GA census does in fact show a household with Malinda McCook (62), Mary Victoria (25) and John (3).  John McCook is listed as a "son" in the household, but this is almost certainly an error considering Malinda's age and he would in fact probably be the son of Mary Victoria just above him.  John Lawson Garner appears in the household of his father.    John L. Garner died in 1897 and by 1900, Mary Garner, widow, is the head of a household with 3 children, John, Jim and Bill Garner.   This conjunction of dates explains why the children were not previously associated with John, since he never appears in the same household with them.  It also explains the appearance of a John Garner in the 1900 census who did not appear under that name in 1880.

The fact that the rest of the family was willing to consider these three young men joint heirs to the estate of A.J. Garner would tend to indicate that they were already known as members of the family.  This in combination with their naming pattern (named after their father, maternal grandfather, paternal grandfather) and the fact that they used the Garner name for the rest of their lives would tend to indicate that they were in fact the children of John Lawson Garner.  The question still remains as to why John and Mary didn't marry until after the 4th child was born.

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