A while back in my research I was investigating the parents of Jane Buchanan, because while much research was done on the Buchanan line and I could fill it out pretty well, I didn’t have much on her mother’s side in my files. Even my grandfather’s research records gave her short shrift, all I could find in his records was her first name Margaret.
Through time and much effort I have been able to flesh out Margaret’s origins. Origins of which bring a more prominent role of Quakers into the family and, as I knew would happen sooner or later, slavery.
When I started my research on Margaret I did have a good starting point because her birth name is found on her daughter Jane’s death registration. Using that information as a guide I found Margaret’s death registration, along with her husband’s on the same page, in the records. Thankfully her parent’s names were also recorded in the death record, which doesn’t happened all the time. They were listed as William and Sarah Mabley, (which should have been Mobley).
The search for William and Sarah Mobley led me to Monroe County, Ohio where a marriage registration is found for William Mobley and Sarah Millison in 1825. This record seemed the most likely and fits in with the approximated 1833 birth year for Margaret. I was pretty confident that this line runs true and so continued my research following this trail’s bread crumbs.
As I ventured further and further down the rabbit hole of the Mobley line I eventually ended up in Maryland. It was at this point that I immediately knew I wasn’t going to like what I was going to find. You see once your research takes you certain parts of the country in certain periods of time, slavery is going to rear it’s ugly head, and it did.
There are a few publications and websites dedicated to the Mobley surname to be found out in the world, so I have been able to fill in lots of blanks pretty well regarding the first few generations in America. Some sources are still suspect, which is to be expected. (An unfortunate habit of many early genealogy surname history books is their tendency to spend several chapters talking about the family crest, or how the surname is somehow of ‘upper crust’ descent. All very silly and pretentious, and these Mobley histories are no exception.)
It is believed that the earliest Mobley documented with confidence is John Mobley, jr. who was most likely born in England and emigrated in the latter part of the 1600s to America, settling in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The surname in England was generally known as Moberly or various other iterations.
John was born about 1658, possibly in Cheshire, England. When he was about 30 years old he married Ann Biggers on the 21st of Oct 1686, in Maryland. Together they had five boys. The youngest boy, Thomas, was our ancestor. He was born on 18 Jan 1698 in All Hallow’s Parish, as were all the other children.
John was a planter, and living in Maryland his main crop was tobacco. Not surprisingly his main labor force was slaves and possibly indentured servants, although we have no record of such. Besides, indenture was so 1600s, enslaving Africans was all the rage now.
In the early days of Africans being involuntarily brought to Maryland, they could actually work off their indenture and become free. Apparently this annoyed the rich white folks to no end, so in 1664 an act was passed in the Maryland Assembly that once a slave always a slave, and any child of a slave automatically became a slave when born, and could expect the same treatment. To make matters even more depressing, in 1753 they passed another assinine law, this one forbade owners from manumitting their slaves at all. So even if they wanted to free a slave they couldn’t.
Several years before Thomas died he had made out a deed of gift for his younger children.
Here is a transcription of the relevant parts of the document:
.”..hereby grant unto my beloved children, Dorcus Mobberly, Levin Mobberly, Mary Mobberly and William Mobberly, at the day of their marriage, or at my death. Viz. one negro girl named Dinah, and her increase to my beloved daughter Dorcus Mobberly, one negro boy named Ben to my beloved son Levin Mobberly. One negro girl named Hagar and her increase to my beloved daughter Mary Mobberly and one negro girl named Jane and her increase to my beloved son William Mobberly. If in case either of the said negroes die before received, I then give the boy Jack to make good the loss if either of these my children die before they receive the said negroes, the whole to be equally divided amongst them remaining and if all die to one, then my son John Mobberly to have half the negroes if more then one living. To have and to hold the said negroes, unto the above children their heirs and assigned to his and her and their own proper use for ever…”
I made a promise to myself that when I did run into the issue of slavery in our family, which I knew I would, there would be no glossing over the issue, and in the best way I know how I will try to give voice to those persons whom my ancestors owned like cattle. So here I give their names: Dinah, Ben, Hagar, Jane and Jack.
Thomas’s son Levin moved his family to Ohio between 1810 and 1820 at which time they can be found living in Belmont County. One good thing I can say about Levin is that in the 1800 census there is no notation that his family owned slaves, so either he sold them to family or others, or freed them, and whether his lack of slaves in the census is due to economics or personal belief I do not know. I am just glad that at this point on, in our Moberly line, the owning of slaves has ceased.
A note of interest regarding Thomas Mobley/Mobberly, you can see that he left his mark of a pretty capital “T” as his signature on the deed of gift document. This indicates that he was not a formally educated man. He could probably read, but most likely didn’t write.
The family doesn’t appear to have invented any wondrous devices, written any novels, or left any big impact on history. They were tobacco farmers, owned slaves, were born, had children, died. When the country was opening up the next generation started to spread out heading south and west. Where we find Margaret, first in Ohio and then finally settling in West Virginia. It is here that she left her legacy to her four children: Jane, Rebecca, Ebenezer, and Sarah Buchanan.