by Robert Inhoff, GGFA Webmaster
For several years part of my research has focused on Licking County, Ohio, about 30 miles east of Columbus. There my 3rd Great Grandfather, Abner Goff and his father, Daniel purchased 200 acres for $1,000 in 1813 after moving from Clarendon, Rutland, Vermont. In a search for “Abner Goff” in Google Books I discovered several references to an Ohio Appeals Court Case which addressed a dispute over land where an individual died intestate.
The subject Abner Goff (grandson of my Abner and cousin to my great grandfather) died in 1896 without a will and with no children. According to Ohio law his 162 acres passed to his widow, Martha. Martha died with a will, but the will did not address the disposition of the land, only granting a life estate to Martha’s brother, Ensley Finney Hass. The dispute arose at death of Mr. Haas as to the proper distribution of the property. The Goff family claimed that under Ohio law they were entitled to one half of the land. Mr. Hass’s heirs disputed this. Thus this court case.
What makes this case interesting to me is not the details of the argument from a court case more than a century ago, but what I found when I visited the Recorder’s Office in Licking County a few years ago. As a young person Abner’s brother, Gilbert B. Goff, moved from Licking County, Ohio to Michigan and had great success in lumber and other businesses. In 1911 as this dispute was headed to court, Gilbert Goff executed a quit claim relinquishing his claims to this property and giving it to the heirs of his brother, Zara Goff and their sister, Mary Goff Lampson. What’s interesting is that he lists fourteen of his known nieces (with their married names) and nephews as we see in a transcription of the document below.
Gilbert may have been generous, or he may have been astute enough to realize that this case had little likelihood of success. While the initial court case in 1914 supported the Goff family claim, the appeals court in 1915 found in favor of the Haas estate. You can find links to these court cases at https://bobsgenealogyquest.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Gilbert-Goff-vs-Ensley-Finney-Haas.pdf.
For me this experience is a great example of how online sources can open doors and raise questions. But it also underscores the reality that 80 to 90 percent of all genealogical information is not online, but is waiting to be discovered in court houses and other repositories.
Bob Inhoff is the Webmaster for the Goff-Gough Family Association.