Graham, et. al. v. Graham, et. al.

My most intractable genealogical brickwall is the parentage of Rebecca Martha Graham (1831-1880).

Rebecca’s mother Jane Graham (1811-1854) is dismissed by her brother David Graham (1821-1914) in his “History of Graham Family” (1899) with the following sentence: “Jane, the second daughter of Joseph Graham, died unmarried” (80).

On Google Books, however, I have found documentation for a case that might lead to the missing father of Rebecca Martha Graham. The case is “Graham, et. al. v. Graham, et. al., Decided May 1, 1880, The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.”

As I mentioned, Rebecca was the daughter of Jane Graham and some unknown paramour. On 1 Nov 1853, Rebecca married Henry Lake Miller (1817-1900). Around the time of this marriage, Rebecca inherited $3,000 from her father (I presume this was mainly land) who died in Missouri.

in 1854, Jane died a violent death, for which her brother James Graham (1813-1889) was put on trial and acquitted.

Litigation on the Graham v. Graham chancery case began in 1859, and the case did not make its way completely through to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals until 1879, being decided in 1880. Unfortunately, Rebecca died one month and 11 days after winning her judgment. She died of dysentery.

But what was the case about? Rebecca Martha Graham’s grandmother, Rebecca Graham (1786-1876) had received “property” (land and a slave named Dinah) in the will of her father, James Graham (1741-1813). The relevant portion of the will reads:

I give unto my Daughter Rebeckah Graham and her children, that plantation where she now lives known by the name of Stephensons Cabbin [sic] also I give unto her and her children my Negro girl named Dinah, the Land and Negro never to be disposed of out of the Family nor the increase of the Negro if any she has.

Because the elder Rebecca Graham was married, her husband Joseph Graham had “ownership” of this property. After he died, his widow sold the two children of Dinah (Ira and Stuart), and the bulk of the remaining children sued for a portion of the proceeds.

Whether or not this case yields the name and any particulars about Rebecca Martha Graham’s father, I’m sure it will be a case that reveals a great deal about rural antebellum West Virginia.

The main reminder here, however, is not to forget key sources, such as court cases. While not as often used as some other sources, such as vital records or census records, the records of court cases can be quite revealing.

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