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When Mary Walker Cabell died in 1862, a series of chancery suits were filed in Nelson County by her numerous descendants in an attempt to settle her estate.  Such complicated cases could not be remedied by courts of law and were usually decided according to fairness by courts of equity, called chancery courts in Virginia.

In 1863 this hand-drawn family tree was entered into the case to note the lineage on Cabell’s father’s side.  Cabell was the paternal granddaughter of Charles Hill Carter (1733-1802) of Shirley Plantation.  Charles Hill Carter was the grandson of Robert “King” Carter (1663-1732) one of the richest men in 17th century colonial America.

``Chart or Tree of the Family of Charles Carter of Shirley paternal grandfather of Mary W. Cabell decd. the testatrix (sic).``

His parents, John Carter and Elizabeth Hill, built Shirley Plantation in 1723.  The home, a private residence in Charles City County, remains in the family today.

The base of the tree reads, ``Sir Peyton Skipwith Maternal Grandfather.``

This family tree serves as a reminder that chancery court cases are often invaluable to genealogical researchers because courts frequently sought to determine heirs and family connections. Though this example is of the powerful Carter family, most suits concerned ordinary Virginians and some even document the lineage of the enslaved.

This large chancery cause, Executor of Mary Walker Cabell, etc. vs. Peyton H. Skipwith, etc. & Representative of Charles Carter Lee, etc. vs. Executor of Mary Walker Cabell, etc., 1882, is part of the Nelson County Chancery Collection and is currently closed for processing.  It will be digitized once processed.

-Callie Freed,  Local Records Archivist

Editor’s Note: To read more about chancery court cases follow this link

Charles Hill Carter, Jr., owner of Shirley Plantation since 1952, died in November 2009.  The following is a link to his obituary in the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Callie Freed

Local Records Archivist

One Comment

  • Katie Holland says:

    In 1972 I saw a similar handdrawn tree from another of the Carter descendants, Lavinia Carter Harrison who grew up at Shirley. She was a senior librarian in the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia, had no direct descendants but had nieces and nephews who then lived in Hawai’i (I believe the children of her brother). The chart she unrolled on he floor was far more elaborate than this one of Mary Walker Cabell but it is the same family with the same drawing talents! I only wish I had the patience then to have looked n detail for my own Charles and Sampson Harrison. Thank you for this glimpse; it brought back many memories.

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