Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bertha Taliaferro
How Many Marriages

Bertha was the second wife of Thomas Taliaferro. There were discrepancies in testimonies concerning whether Thomas was Bertha's first husband. Thomas Taliaferro served with the 50th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry, during the Civil War. Thomas had received a pension as an invalid, his wife applied for her pension as his widow. An investigator from the United States Pension Bureau was sent to investigate the validity of Bertha's claim.

Eight children were born to Bertha who testified she was not married to any of the fathers. A couple of the witnesses, Jane Gray and Jennie Brown, testified that Bertha was married, maybe twice, before she married Thomas. Several others testified that Bertha only married Thomas. The investigator could not find a marriage record in Copiah County, MS, with Bertha's name for any of the men who fathered her children. He only found one marriage record and that was for Thomas Taliaferro, 20 Sep 1901 in Copiah County, MS.

I noticed on the marriage record that she was Mrs. Bytha Williams. It was discussed within the pension records that Bytha and Bertha was the same person but it was not mentioned that the title Mrs. was applied to her name.

Bertha and Thomas' Marriage Certificate

Would it had matter if Bertha was married before she married Thomas? It would only matter if previous marriages would invalidate her marriage to Thomas. The investigator would gather information confirming that the marriages ended in death, or divorce and a marital relationship no longer existed. If it had been proven that Thomas and Bertha's marriage was not valid, she would not receive a pension as Thomas' widow.

Bertha's Children
1. Carrie Highgate; Father - John Brandon; Husband - Ed Singleton
2. Leon Beasley; Father - Bush Beasley
3. Mary Williams; Father - Lee Henley; Husband - Jim Boyd
4. Print Henley; Father - Lee Henley; Wife - Blanche Winston Banks
5. Unnamed Child; Father - Lee Henley; Child died young
6. Unnamed Child; Father - Matt Williams; Child died young.
7. Unnamed Child; Father - Tom Greenley; Child died young.
8. Unnamed Child; Father - Calvin Nichols; Child died young.

Bertha said she was born five years after the surrender but census records indicate she was born about five to seven years before surrender between 1858-1865. She was the daughter of Henry and Beckie Welch, slaves of Dempsey Welch in Copiah County, MS.

Calvin Nichols married my 2nd great grandaunt Jennie Copeland.

Blanche Winston Banks Henley was my dad's half second cousin once removed.

Per the 1860 Copiah County Slave Schedule, Dempsey Welch owned 52 slaves.


  1. What a confusion. Williams is a whole other man, if she was Mrs. Williams when she married. I hope she got the pension anyway.

  2. She got the pension. They were married for 16 years and most said she was a good wife.

  3. It sure sounds complicated. Like Kristin, I hope that she got the pension.

  4. My great aunt told me back in the day being "married" was a loose term. Basically people got together, lived together, had children together and then when they stopped getting along they'd move on to the next person. She said the problem is once someone died all these "wives" would come out of the woodwork trying to claim property as the widow. She said not long after that's when Mississippi decided it would not recognized common law marriages.

    1. Mississippi does not legally recognize common law marriage. "Shacking" isn't new, it has been around a long time...I remember a woman telling me it was never her intention to have so many children with different fathers. She needed help with raising the children and by the time she discovered the relationship was not going to work, she was again pregnant...The women in my family stayed in bad marriages and I wonder if it would be better if they had done like Bertha, moved on to the next relationship.