The Widow Reveal’d

A few days ago I wrote about how a snippet from a deed led me to believe that Miles Bembry may have moved to Pulaski County, Georgia at an advanced age to join his sons.

Well, sure enough, that’s what he did. And got him a new wife, too.

William Bembry, the oldest of Miles’ sons, died in spring of 1839. For that reason, I had assumed that the 100+ page probate file on Family Search for “Miles Bembry, ” dated 1839, that I found a few years ago was for him. I knew for a fact that William’s son’s name was “William Miles Bembry,” and secondary sources online referred to William as “Miles” as well. So, I had assumed that Miles was the father of William Miles I and the grandfather of William Miles II.

But I should never have assumed! I hadn’t looked as closely at that probate file as I should have. It was on my list, but not a high priority because William wasn’t my direct ancestor. When I did go back and scroll through it, not only did I notice that a couple of the documents predated the death of William Bembry by several months, but I found this little slip of paper referring to Mary Ann Farnell as the “heir” of Miles Bembry.

I already knew that Miles had died in 1838 thanks to a later court case. I knew from looking at Edgecombe County, North Carolina court records that he remained in that area until at least 1832 and sold his land there in 1834. And yet Mary Ann was born in Georgia. So, that narrowed down the marriage window quite a bit. It had to be between 1832 and 1838 in Georgia.

I went back to Pulaski County marriage records on This time I browsed the original index instead of searching the transcription index. And sure enough, found a marriage record for Miles Bembry and Mary Ann Anderson. It had been transcribed as “Bemley,” for some reason (sure looks like Bembry to me…)

Once I established the marriage and Miles’ residence in Pulaski County, I could add a lot of information to fill out a profile of my 5th great-grandfather. I now have a huge probate file with two complete inventories of his household possessions and farm equipment. I have many detailed receipts for his purchases. A couple of real estate transactions in Pulaski that I had assigned to his son were in fact Miles’ own. And I know that he died in the last six weeks of 1838 based on a document he signed in mid-November of that year.

This also explains why Thomas Bembry wore himself out administrating Miles’ estate. He was doing it for his father, not his brother, as I had previously assumed!

Miles, who was around 70, and Mary Ann, who was about 30 at the time, were together for a little over two years before he died. They had a nice house: the inventory lists four beds and several luxury items such as silver candlesticks and Windsor chairs. Mary Ann also dressed well, there are several receipts from dry goods merchants in the file such as this one which includes 5 yards of silk and ribbons for a dress.

Despite the age disparity, one can imagine that this marriage was a satisfactory arrangement for both parties. There were no children that I can find. The probate file shows no disputes with Mary Ann regarding the estate: she was apparently content to take her “widow’s third” and remarry a year later.

Thirteen years later, Mary Ann was widowed once again. James Farnell joined the 5th Florida Infantry along with several Bembrys and Simpsons and was killed in 1862 at Winchester, Virginia. I cannot find Mary Ann after the 1860 census, but their son, Augustus, was a drummer boy with the same company and remarkably, survived the war, living well into the 20th century.


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