For the last few 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

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.
Transcription follows:

GILBERT B GOFF, #1643 to ANNA B SCHOOLEY ET AL, Received May 17, 1912, at 9:30 A.M, Recorded May 17, 1912, J.M. Farmer, Recorder
KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS: That I, Gilbert B Goff, an unmarried widower, of the County of Sagniaw and the State of Michigan, in consideration of the sum of ONE DOLLAR and other good, sufficient considerations to me moving, to me paid by Amanda B Schooley, Martha Clark, Rowene Harris, Mary McCartney, Allie M Keener, Jennie Hughes and Ida McCalla, children of my deceased brother, Zara Goff, and all the children of my deceased sister, Mary Lampson and to the child or children of her deceased child or children, such grandchildren to take by right of representation. That is Shadwick Lampson, Mary Stevenson, Kate Aubrey, Kate Lampson, Frank Rudasill, Lyda Eppeely, William Rudasill, the Grantees, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, do hereby REMISE, RELEASE, AND FOREVER QUIT CLAIM, to the aid Grantees their heirs and assigns forever, the following Real Estate, situated in the County of Licking, in the State of Ohio, and in the Township of Washington, and bounded and described as follows- viz;-

BEING all my right, title and interest in the lands and tenements of which my brother Abner Goff died seized, and all of the lands and tenements which have come to me by the death of said brother and by inheritance to me from him, and whether the same be located in the said Township of Washington and said County of Licking, Ohio, or elsewhere, it being my intention by this deed of quit claim to sell, assign and transfer over to the children of my deceased brother Zara Goff, above names, all the interest I now have or may hereafter acquire in the estate of my deceased brother Abner Goff, whether the same be located in Washington Township, said County or elsewhere; and it being my intention especially to convey to said children all my interest in the lands in said Township of which said brother Abner Goff died seized, Known as- “The Goff Farm”, and being the same lands which were devised by Martha Goff in her Last Will and Testament to her brother, Ensley Finney Haas, for life, and therein referred to as the “Goff Farm”.

In the pending litigation over the above property, the grantees herein are to bear the Court and other expenses so that the grantor herein has nothing further to do with said property or any expenses connected therewith.

I am not able to give the names of all of the children of my deceased sister, Mary Lampson or of the children of any of her deceased children, but among her children are: Shadwick Lampson, Frank Lampson, Kary L Stephenson and Katie Aubrey.

TO HAVE and To HOLD said premises, with all the privileges and appurtences there unto belonging, to the said Grantees their heirs and assigns FOREVER.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, The said Gilbert B. Goff has hereunto set his hand this 8th day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and Eleven (1911).

Eugene Wilber G. B. GOFF
Before me, a Notary Public in and for said County, personally appeared the above named
(Accessed at the Recorder’s Office of Licking County, Ohio, September 2009)