Forty years ago I took a break from courthouse research in rural Perquimans County, North Carolina, to buy a soft drink at a store across the street. The nice lady behind the counter saw my notebook and asked if I was doing genealogy research. I wasn’t used to anyone knowing what I was doing research-wise and was surprised at the question, but was shocked speechless when she then asked, “Which Goodwin are you descended from?”
It seems everyone in the county is related to the Goodwins, one or more of them. I had been getting hopelessly confused by just how many Goodwins I was finding, all with the same sets of first names (William, Job, John, Caleb, Henderson, George). They appeared in Perquimans and neighboring Chowan Counties in the late 1600’s and have been farming in the same areas for two hundred and fifty years.
Our chance meeting led to a remarkable find. Louise told me I had to go to Raleigh to look at estates administration records (now digitized and available at FamilySearch) for Perquimans County. In one of the Goodwin files there was an heirs list dating to the early 1800’s. It didn’t sound very plausible to me, but what did I know? Louise didn’t remember exactly where, just that it existed.
Before this meeting, I had really only looked at records for known ancestors instead of everyone with the same surname. Louise taught me the valuable lesson of doing more than that. Following her advice, I looked through estates records for everyone named Goodwin and found a goldmine in the files for John Goodwin, not someone I even knew I was related to. He was actually my g-g-g-g-g-grandfather, which this document confirmed. Without Louise’s information, I might have just skipped the file.
For there was exactly what she had told me about: a list of heirs of John Goodwin who died in 1815. A piece of property was in litigation at the the time of his death that prevented the estate from being closed. For the next forty years, various combinations of heirs had petitioned the court for their share of the estate. But in 1855, they finally did it together and submitted an heirs list to the court clarifying who was entitled to shares of the states. Voila!