Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Few Farthings More

My great-grandfather Irving Colquitt Farthing (1885-1974) was the fourth of twelve children – six boys and six girls.  He was probably born in Putnam County. (Because there were no birth certificates yet, and no 1890 census survives, we assume the family was still living in the same place as in 1880.)  I did have a note that he might have been born in Morgan County, just north of Putnam, but it’s unsourced, so I’m not sure where that came from.  NOTE: Always source your notes, even if you think the information is tentative, or even if you’re sure it’s wrong.  Most of his friends and associates just called him I.C.

I.C.’s father was Ruben Theodore “Fred” Farthing, born 24 Feb 1854 in Orange County, North Carolina, and died 22 Jul 1932 near Brooklet in Bulloch County, Georgia.  Ruben was a blacksmith, the last in a line of blacksmiths stretching back as far as I can trace them, 3 or 4 generations altogether.  Nobody seems to know why he was called “Fred”.  One story is that there were so many Rubens and Reubens in the family that they called him that just so they’d know which one they were talking about!  There are worse nicknames to be stuck with, I’m sure.

By the time Ruben was three, in 1860, his father John, also a blacksmith, had moved the family to Georgia.  In 1860 they show up on the census for Monticello, in Jasper County, Georgia.  In 1870, they are living in Rockville, Putnam County.  In 1878, Ruben got married to Martha Jane "Mattie" Alford.  The Alfords are a fine old family with roots throughout the south and beyond.  In fact there is a family history association, The Alford American Family Association.  I got some information and some confirmation from their website at  I still have every intention of joining this organization, I just have it on my list of things to do after the car and home repairs that always crop up when I think I’ve got a little extra money!  According to their website, Ruben and Martha (or Fred & Mattie if you’re family) were married 19 Dec 1878 in Dublin, Laurens County, but I have yet to locate a marriage record of any kind.  In any case, Fred and Mattie were living in Glades, Putnam County, with their eldest son John William when the 1880 census was taken.
Census images courtesy of (click view a larger image)
Apparently Ruben continued a family tradition of moving regularly because in 1900 the census shows them to be living in Stansells District, Newton County (remember, the 1890 census did not survive in most places) with their NINE children, and then in Dudley, Laurens County by 1910.  By this time Mattie has had 12 children, but only 11 survive.  The family likely moved to Laurens County well before 1910 because at some point my great grandparents met and wooed and wed in Dublin, Laurens County, in 1907, and by 1910 IC & Mamie Farthing were living in Savannah.  I can’t locate Ruben and Martha Farthing anywhere in the 1920 census year.  I can find several of their children and grandchildren, but apparently they were missed, on the move again, or their names are so seriously misspelled that it will take a page by page search of the census records to find them.  One of these days I’ll tackle that.  Also in the middle there was a little thing called The Great War (now we call it World War I).  The War lasted from June 1914 to November 1918, but the United States didn't get officially involved until April 1917.  All the Farthing boys registered for service, and I believe two of them actually served in the Army, but I have to confirm that.

I did find them in 1930, though, living in the Brier Patch area of Bulloch County, Georgia, on a farm with son John W and daughter Emmie.  According to the census, John apparently got married about 1915, but is now (1930) widowed, and Emmie has never married, but I haven’t yet thoroughly investigated all those collateral lines.  That’s quite a lot of work, as you can imagine, with 10 surviving brothers and sisters.  Ruben seems to have finally retired (he is about 73 afterall, give the man a break!).  Based on Martha’s obituary, where it says on 1 January 1958 that she "had been living in Bulloch County for the past 33 years" it appears that Ruben and Martha moved there about 1925.  Ruben died in 1932, two years before my mother was born.  Martha Jane “Mattie” Alford Farthing lived on another twenty-five-and-a-half years, until 1 January 1958.  Martha is the only one of my sixteen great-great grandparents to live past my date of birth (not that either of us would have remembered meeting, even if we had).  Strangely, her son, I.C., my great grandfather, is the only one of my eight great grandparents I ever met; all the others died before I was born.
Census images courtesy of (click view a larger image)
If you look for these areas on a map of Georgia, say through Google, you’ll find some of them, but others will never turn up.  That’s because Georgia’s federal census, as well as taxation and other government functions, is organized by “militia district” which is unique to Georgia.  There are a lot of sources which help you find out where those militia district lines were drawn, but none online that I’m aware of.  There is a good background article at the Georgia Archives website: .  Other than that, the Georgia Archives sells a state map with county lines and modern militia districts by number.  Usually the census forms will provide you with the number as well as the name of the district.  I don’t know if they offer it by mail, but you can contact them to find out.  For the eastern third or so of Georgia, there’s the excellent book Atlas of East and Coastal Georgia Watercourses and Militia Districts by Paul K. Graham, which I’ve mentioned previously.  Paul Graham is a Certified GenealogistSM and his website is  The link from the book title takes you to, or you can order from Amazon by clicking on the link on the author’s website.  (I don’t get a kickback either way, so whichever you choose is OK by me.) 

Another source for historic towns and settlements is Georgia Place Names by Kenneth K. Krakow.  I was attending Mercer University in Macon when Mr. Krakow released this book, and I bought a copy of the first edition and had him autograph it for my mother.  From what I understand, the book is currently not in print, but Ken’s sons have graciously created a website and made the entire contents of the third edition of the book available online as PDF documents (  While you’ll still find missing names, and not every militia district name is covered, this is still my go-to site for finding out just where the heck something was, and it’s a great place to waste an hour (or an afternoon) just perusing the pages.

One last bit of strangeness.  Ruben Theodore Farthing was buried in the Emit Grove Baptist Church graveyard in 1932.  In 1958, however, Martha Alford Farthing was buried in the Brooklet Cemetery in Brooklet, also in Bulloch County.  We couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t be together until I found her obituary.  The obituary states the she “was a member of the Brooklet Methodist Church.”  That explains it.  Many churches, even today, have policies that restrict burials to current members, and that practice was even more common 80 years ago.  So now we know why Martha was buried in the city cemetery with three of her children, the widower John W (known as “Uncle Willy”), Emmie (who married at least twice) and Elmer L (“Uncle Lamar”, who never married). I'd like to offer a special thank you to Find A Grave user nu2ga (aka Allie Woodard) for posting Martha's obituary to her Find A Grave memorial.  Allie cites her source as "From Obituary File - Statesboro Regional Library - name of publication not given."  Thank you Allie!
John W[illiam] Farthing, Emmie Farthing Weston Burnam, Martha Alford Farthing, Elmer L[amar] Farthing
I’ll tackle more Farthings next time, unless I get sidetracked again.

Here’s your summary:
  • Always cite your sources, even in your research notes.  It’s amazing how much you can forget about where you read or heard something, even after just a short time.
  • The U.S. Census is still probably your most valuable source of information (after family resources) for the period from 1850 to 1930.  Just exercise some caution and common sense, weigh the possibilities, and remember the census isn’t perfect.  Even with a relatively uncommon name you can find people with the same name or initials.
  • Google your surname and the phrase “family association.”  You might get lucky!  And don’t forget those collateral lines when looking for other family research groups.  Just because they aren’t in your direct line, or are in a maternal line, doesn’t mean they won’t have information that can point you in the right direction, inspiration to search in a new area, or even documentation that you might otherwise never find on your own (such as family bibles and letters between family members).  Just don’t balk if there’s a small fee to join; cataloguing, preserving and presenting all this data is not cheap, and not every group has an “angel” to pick up the tab.  
  • Georgia Place Names by Kenneth K. Krakow is hands down my favorite resource for exploring bygone towns in Georgia.  You might find a copy in a used book store, but the entire contents are available online at  There are other similar resources out there, such as The Dead Towns of Georgia (Travel in America) by Charles Colcock Jones and Charles Jones (which is also available for free download from Amazon Books) and Cities, towns, and communities of Georgia between 1847-1962 by Marion R. Hemperley (check Amazon or your local library or used bookstores for availability, in or out of print).

 Later y’all,



J said...

My Grandfather Claude Farthing was raised in Dublin Ga by his Uncle Tom after his mother passed away. My Great Grandfather Farthing was a Blacksmith and moved all the time. I am trying to find out more info about his family. I know that they originally came from NC but that is it. Any help would be appreciated.

J said...

My Grandfather Claude Farthing was raised in Dublin Ga by his Uncle Tom after his mother passed away. My Great Grandfather Farthing was a Blacksmith and moved all the time. I am trying to find out more info about his family. I know that they originally came from NC but that is it. Any help would be appreciated.

*GeorgiaTim said...

J, just write to me directly at I don't recognize those names in my direct line, but with a few extra details we might be able to locate more info.