Since very early on in my genealogy adventures when I first identified Serena, my 3x great-grandmother and wife of William M. J. Kelley, she’s been a genealogy brick wall. According to the 1850 census, she was born in Georgia about 1817; at the time of that census, she was living in Coffee County, Alabama with her husband and five children (the first two of which were born in Georgia, the younger three in Alabama). Here she is below, down at the bottom of the page, “Syrenia”:
Not quite two weeks into retirement, I thought I’d tackle the Kelley line for a DAR patriot lineage I’d submitted where they came back requesting additional information (when what I really should have been doing was continuing to pack up the house to move to Costa Rica in five days). I needed to track William’s dad, Jacob, in his movements through the years around the state of Georgia and into Alabama. I figured if I could just tack around using the Kelley wives’ families to show their places of residence, then ties could be made to Jacob’s movements I started with Serena, but not having a surname for her (nor for Jacob’s wife), I knew the going would be tough.
For what it’s worth, and as a side note, there are a lot of trees on Ancestry that say Serena’s maiden name was Balkam, never with any parents, and there’s never any documentation to prove it. I’d seen the name Balkam even before there were trees on the Internet, it goes that far back. Off and on, I’d search Balkam lines in Georgia during the 19th century and always come up with nothing.
On Ancestry, I did a general search of public trees for Syrenia married to William Kelly/Kelley. Low and behold, a tree came up for Sylvania Creasy Mock married to William Kelly. Hmm… What the heck, it’s worth a shot. I clicked. No additional information about her except that her parents were George and Mary Mock. I used the Messages feature to contact the tree owner, who kindly replied quickly (yes!) that he had no further information but believed he’d gotten the information from a Mock family research website, and he also mentioned the Mock family research Facebook group. I was off and running.
Back on Ancestry, I went to my DNA page and did a search for matches with the name Mock in their trees. There were tons of them, and none with links to my own documented lineage (which is a very good thing because it means I have Mocks in my lineage I don’t know about). Just to be sure, I also did a search for matches with the name Balkam and only came up with matches for the trees showing Serena Balkam married to William M. J. Kelley (which is also a very good thing because it proves the name Balkam attached to Serena is one of those longstanding genealogy errors since I don’t match any other Balkams).
The public tree with Sylvania Creasy Mock shows her father George died in Georgia in 1827. Between the probate records on Ancestry.com and even more county records available on Familysearch.org (hint: use the Card Catalog to search for all available documents in a given location), I found the probate records that included names of George’s heirs, and sure enough, there among the names is “Cereny.” George died intestate (no will), and George’s wife Mary was the administrator of the estate. Serena was about ten years old when her father died.
Twenty years later, Mary died, also intestate. Her son George F. Mock was the administrator of her estate. In the final settlement records, the list of distributions to heirs names the sons, the single/widowed daughters, and the husbands of married daughters (so the married daughters didn’t receive their money, their husbands did! Grrr…). We don’t see Serena mentioned by name this time; instead, her distributive share was handed to husband William J. Kelley. What’s more, another married daughter’s share that normally would have been handed to her husband Joshua Baxley was instead distributed to Jacob Kelley to satisfy a fi fa that Jacob had entered against Joshua. Wow!
Below are images of pertinent pages from the estate files. It’s important to note that some administration of the estates took place in Jefferson County, Georgia, in addition to Dooly County, Georgia.
The recorded receipts from Mary’s estate are paid out 1851 through 1855. In July 1855, George F. Mock (Mary’s estate administrator) applied to the court to close the administration of her estate.
From the estate records for George and Mary and using census and marriage records (not included here but available on my tree on Ancestry.com), we can conclude that their children were:
|Child’s name||Birth||Female child’s spouse||Named in probate of George, Mary, or both||Comment|
|James||unknown||George||Did he die before Mary? If so, he was probably without issue based on names in Mary’s probate|
|Elizabeth?||Abt 1806||Joshua Baxley||Both||Already married to Joshua Baxley by the time of George’s death in 1827|
|Linney (Melinda?)||Abt 1812||William Musselwhite||Both|
|Mary (Polly)||Abt 1813||Charles Clemons||Both|
|Susan||Abt 1815||Robert? Raley/Railey||Both||Widowed before the 1850 census|
|Serena||Abt 1817||William Kelley||Both|
|George F||Abt 1824||Both|
There’s a lack of records in many counties in Georgia due to courthouse fires, a lot of the fires occurring during the Civil War. Marriage records in pertinent counties where the Mocks and Kelleys lived are among these destroyed records; hence, family relationships had to be pieced together using those records that were available.
And so it ends that the mystery of Serena who married William M. J. Kelley is solved, and that she was the daughter of George and Mary Mock.
Lastly, let me re-emphasize that the estate records show George Mock owned land in Jefferson County, Georgia. This is very important in connecting him to his probable father, John Mock of Edgefield County, South Carolina and later Warren and Jefferson Counties, Georgia, and to John’s father, George Mock who died in 1791 in Edgefield County, South Carolina. But that genealogy adventure will be the subject of another report…