#52 Ancestors: A number of “Firsts” with Joel Halbert

Deciding what to write using Amy Johnson Crow’s prompt, “First” was a challenge. My goal for 2019 is to profile certain ancestors that my girls would not normally know about. This blog has always been for them and for them to meet their ancestors and to see my journey as I discover them.

So I decided on my ancestor, Joel Halbert. Joel is a prime example of how conflicting stories can frustrate a genealogist.

As a woman who has had her genealogy roots firmly planted in New England and Indiana –and nowhere else– I was surprised when I discovered my 4th great-grandfather, Joel Halbert, was born in South Carolina. My first true Southerner. And then…he wasn’t. Born in South Carolina, I mean. He was born in Caroline,  Virginia.  Ok, still a Southerner in my mind. Then he lived in Pendleton, South Carolina after he married his (supposed) cousin, Mary Lindley in 1790. I still haven’t been able to link them as cousins. And then he lived in Tennessee. And then Martin County, Indiana. And then finally Hancock, Illinois.  And he owned a large plantation with many slaves.

Or at least I think he did all that and lived all those places.

Why so much confusion? Because the Halbert clan took the phrase, “be fruitful and multiply” quite literally. They were a huge family.  Joel was one of 12 children of William  and Elizabeth. Then Joel and Mary went to have 14 children of their own. And Joel’s siblings went on to have fruitful amounts of children themselves. Misinformation from genealogy to genealogy gets misprinted, incorrectly researched, and it gets handed down and cloned many times over again on the Internet, especially.  Weeding through his genealogy is a test in patience. And I won’t lie…I’m not there yet.

The census of 1800 finds him in Pendleton, South Carolina. He owns 1 slave. Not exactly, the “many” you see written about in profiles of his life. But, even 1 is a reality I’ve never had to look at in my own genealogy. My people owned another person. This is the very first record I’ve seen that indicates any of my ancestors owned a slave. It’s an uncomfortable reality.

By all account Joel was a pioneer in many aspects of his life. In 1812, the story goes that he took a trip to South Carolina with his sons with a bag of gold and silver and went to the land office in Vincennes,  Indiana. He entered a claim for a strip of land in Orange County. On the way back to South Carolina, he traveled through Martin County, Indiana and noticed that the soil would be good for growing cotton just like he was doing in South Carolina. So he turned around and went back to the land office to enter a claim for two more strips of land in Martin County.  Books about the early history of Martin County Indiana mention him by name. Townships were then organized and this one was called Halbert.  He was an early mover and shaker, as they say. Shoals, Indiana, was once called Halbert’s Bluff, according to early land records and maps. This all seems pretty well documented and seems like something I can believe.

We have a few family stories that were handed down. Like the one where his grandson, Clement Horsey,  was sentenced to be hanged during the civil war for smuggling guns to the South in boxes marked school books. He was pardoned after the war by Lincoln.


I’ll let you know what I can straighten out about Joel and the Halbert family.

I have joined an online challenge by Amy Johnson Crow to write about 52 ancestors in 52 weeks. I’m writing about the prompt “First.”  I’m already a week behind, but Amy says there really is no “behind.” Writing at your pace and getting something out on the page is what is most important.   You can join any time and find all the details here: 

Click here to sign up for the 52 Ancestors Challenge 

copyright 2019 Jenny Hawran


  1. Josh C

    I was searching for a new genealogy blog to follow and discovered yours and was surprised to find you writing about Joel Halbert. I am also descended from Halberts, and there are confusing and conflicting stories the earlier back you go. If the Joel Halbert you write is the Joel Halbert who married Mary Lindley and died in 1848 in Hancock County, Illinois, then we are likely 8th or 9th cousins. I am descended from a John W Halbert of Greene County, Illinois who is likely a second cousin to your Joel Halbert.

    This coincidence made my day. It is always fun to find another Halbert researcher, even a distantly related one.

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