Found! Martha Bembry Fleming

Thomas Bembry’s household shows three white females in 1820 and 1830, all of whom are gone by 1840. There are no obvious marriage records for any of them, and Thomas did not leave a will (of which I am aware) that would name them, so they have been a brick wall ever since I started researching the family.

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Having recently done a “deep dive” into Bembry wills and deeds, I have a lot of raw material for cluster genealogy, or researching an ancestor’s known associates. So, figuring that the three daughters must have been married shortly after Thomas arrived in Georgia, I started running searches on the people that appear in Thomas Bembry’s deeds from Pulaski and Dooly counties.

In about ten minutes I hit pay dirt!

In 1839, Thomas Bembry sold parts of lots 90, 91, and 92 in the part of Pulaski County that had formerly been in Dooly County, to a man with the distinctive name of Count Pulaski Fleming. In 1841, he sold more land from same lots to the same man, and this second deed indicated that Fleming lived on the first parcel of land. So, the two men were neighbors.

In running a search for Count Pulaski Fleming, I immediately found a record for his marriage to a Martha “Benburg” in “North America, Family Histories.” Unfortunately, they probably got married in Dooly County about 1836, and marriage records from that county and period are missing. However, there were no “Benburgs” in the area, while there were plenty of Bembry girls right next door.

Martha would also be Thomas’ first daughter, and shares the same name as Thomas’ wife, Martha Dickens. A check of the 1880 census shows that both her parents were born in North Carolina. And, while her Find a Grave listing shows her birth year as 1818, when Martha reported her own age to the census taker, she listed her age as 15-19 in 1840, and her birth year as 1821, 1821, 1822, and finally 1817, when she was quite old and someone else may well have told the census taker her age. So, odds are at least 4-1 that she matches the age of the female aged 5-9 in Thomas Bembry’s household on the 1830 census.

DNA provides another clue: a search for Fleming in my dad’s matches reveals at least a  dozen 3rd-4th cousins, most of whom are directly descended from Martha “Bembry” and  Count Pulaski Fleming. (I also know that on the African-American side, the Bembrys and Flemings intermarried and are cousins.) None of these researchers listed Martha’s parents, but I believe that there is enough evidence to say that Martha Bembry Fleming is highly likely to be Thomas Bembry’s first daughter by Martha Dickens.

When researching women of this period, we have to learn about their lives through their husbands. Count Pulaski was fairly well off even after the Civil War, listing two carriages on the 1865 property tax schedule for example. In 1870, his farm in Cobb County was worth $1,200, while Thomas listed no property down in the backwoods of Wakulla County, Florida and his sons were farm laborers. Clearly, Martha had a more stable and prosperous situation at this point than her father, brothers and half-siblings did (the jury is out on the remaining two full sisters!)

By 1875, the Flemings had moved to Atlanta, to live with their oldest daughter, Mary Fleming Kellam. I actually found a photo on Ancestry.com of what I believe to be Martha with the Kellams. I don’t feel I should post it without permission, however, they are a well-dressed, good-looking family sitting on the porch of a what looks to be a large house. Martha is a petite lady with dark eyes, strong cheekbones and a confident expression. I’m very pleased to have this photo, because I have no other photos from that generation of Bembrys.

Of course, I’m also happy to have someone in the family named “Count Pulaski.” 🙂

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