Blog 2022 05 08 2022 Genealogical Acts of Kindness

If you are a regular researcher then there are probably times you need something but are unable to travel somewhere to get something or it is just not financially feasible.  What do I mean?

You want a picture of a grave marker that is not on Find-a-grave or a court record from a local courthouse.  Maybe you need someone to look for some index books on court or church records from a county on the other side of the United States because those records are not indexed online.

Find-a-grave has an option where you can request a photo of a grave that is not already photographed or has a bad photo.  If you are a registered member (it is free), then you can log in and if you going to a cemetery or at the cemetery, you can see if anyone has made such a request and you can help them by finding the grave and taking a picture of it.  You can also drop a GPS grid pin while standing by the grave to make it easier for others to find it.  If you do make the request, please enter all the information possible so the other person knows they have the right one.  I remember seeing a request for “Infant Thomas” in a cemetery with over two dozen such graves.  If you know or have an approximation of, the dates the individual lived, put it in the request.

Do you regularly go to a local genealogical library?  If you are also a part of a local genealogical society, then ask if they get requests for someone to do a simple look-up at the library or courthouse.  The society often gets such requests but too many societies ignore them because they do not have any members willing to help people.

Such requests do not take much time and do not require you to be an expert in the field of genealogy.  Just a simple Act of Kindness to fellow researchers.  It is what we call a ‘Record Pull’ and the more we are willing to help other researchers the more they might be able to help you.

Many of you have a full-time jobs and may not have a lot of time to help others but what I am suggesting is that when you are already planning a trip to a genealogical library, cemetery, or courthouse, see if someone has a need that you can do while you are already there.  It is built in for Find-a-grave but you will need to check with the local genealogical \ historical society to see if they have any requests.

If you are a user of Facebook and other social media that has genealogy groups, join them to follow what is being asked, learned, and requested.

It is always great to be kind to someone else.

Blog 2022 03 27 2022 Tomahawks and Genealogy?

Last night I went with my favorite female and several others to a place here in the Atlanta, Georgia area called, “Bury the Hatchett.”  It is a hatchet and tomahawk throwing venue and it was really a lot of fun.  I found throwing the tomahawk a lot easier and more accurate than the hatchet.

What does any of this have to do with genealogy?  Great question.  We often discuss learning the stories of our ancestors and here is one that pertains to one of mine.

The time is April 1776 in Screven County, Georgia.  Governor Reynolds, who served from 1754 – 1757, was not a favorite governor but he did set up a court system that started at the Court of Conscience.  Using today’s analogy, it would be a cross between the small-claims court and the misdemeanor court.  When colonists had a dispute with each other, they took it before the Court of Conscience which was presided over by a Justice of the Peace.  When a case could not be settled to satisfaction here, it went before the Governor’s Council.  Very few records exist today for those courts.

Fortunately for me (and others with ancestors in Screven County around that time), we have what appears to be a former Judge’s personal ledger of cases.  The case I am referring to in April of 1776 concerns my ancestor, Gilshot Thomas, Sr.  This is how the story goes.

Gilshot Thomas vs Isaac Cartwright (Gilshot is the plaintiff [his name is first] and Isaac is the defendant)

The Plaintiff complained that the defendant took a Bell of his mare and produced Arthur Sharber as a witness who being duly sworn made oath that he was in Company with Isaac Cartwright in the swamp and heard him say that he would take the Bell off a Mare belonging to Gilshot Thomas.  And the said Sharber heard a Bell throwd in the River which he took to be the Bell of a mare that was on Thomas’s mare and that the mare returned after him without any Bell.  The Deponent further saith he did further hear said Cartwright say “When he was done with his crop of corn That he would take his gun and tomahawk with a wallet full of salt and go into the Swamp and live upon Gilshot Thomas’s Hogs and also upon Nat’l Miller’s Hogs.  The committee taking the above into consideration Judged it Expedient and There fore ordered The He Pay Twenty Shillings ti said Thomas for Sd Offense & Give Security for his good behavior for the Future. Signed by Order of the Committee.

N.B. Joseph Humpries became the Defendants Security for hi good Behaviour to Gilshot Thomas for six months before Signing.

Gilshot and Arthur Sharber are accusing Isaac Cartwright of maliciously throwing a bell belonging to one of Gilshot’s mares in the Savannah River and threatening to live as a squatter on both Gilshot and a neighbor, Nathaniel Miller’s land and hogs.  Gilshot owned about 250 acres of land, most of which was swampland and he raised wild hogs.

If we but look, we can often find interesting and fun stories concerning our ancestors.  Always look in places when the opportunity presents itself.  One thing you might ask at such locations is, “Is there anything else you have from this time period concerning the people of that area?”

This is just one of several stories in the ledger which is located at the Georgia State Archives.  Have you found any such stories about your ancestors?  Have you shared with family members in such a way that makes it interesting to read?  I have begun writing them down as short stories of not more than three pages.  Where I have been able to prove the stories accurate, I state how I can prove or truly believe them accurate.  For example.

I have heard this story from my grandfather, Joseph H. Thomas, my Uncle Charles Forrester, and one other person.  Therefore, I believe the story to be accurate.

Sometime shortly after WWII, my father’s older sister, Thelma, brought home a USAF Veteran of the War, Charles Forrester.  My grandfather was a farmer in Surrency, Appling County, Georgia and they lived in what wasn’t much more than a log house. 

I can only assume that my aunt Thelma was getting ready and Charles was waiting on the front porch.  Charles stood close to 6 feet tall and my grandfather was short, maybe 5 ½ feet tall.  Charles lit up a cigarette while waiting.  My grandfather thought it was a most vile and disgusting habit and began waiving his finger in Charles’ face, demanding to know why he smoked.  At some point, my grandfather must have paused to get a breath and Charles cut him off and pointed to granddad’s front yard and said, “Why do you grow it?  If people do not buy it and smoke it, you do not get money.”

I reckon no one ever stood up to my grandfather like that and made him stop and think.  After a few moments, my grandfather looked at Charles and said, “If I stop growing it, will you stop smoking it.”  That was the last year my grandfather grew tobacco, he switched to peanuts.  As for Uncle Charles, he also quit smoking.

My advice.  Look for, learn, and write down the stories you find about ancestors and their collateral families and write them down in a fun and interesting way for your grandchildren to learn them

Keep hunting those elusive ancestors and their stories!

 

 

 

Blog 2022 02 22 2022 Tenacious Research for accuracy

How tenacious are you as a researcher in ensuring your research is accurate?  So often, bad information just gets perpetuate again and again and again.

Take for instance, the Ancestry.com trees show a Jonathan Pearman Weldon.  Only one problem, Jonathan had a brother named Pearman A.K.A. Perman, but no middle name of Pearman.  It seems that several of the “researchers” crossed records of his brother with him and thus determining his middle name.  So let’s break it down for you.

In 1850, 29-year-old John Weldon is residing in Franklin County, Georgia just down from his brother Welburn Weldon. [i] This family consisted of John age 29, Amy age 30, Jemima age 7, William age 5, George w. age 2, and James age 1.

In 1870, the family is one county over in Hart County, Georgia, once again where his brother Welborn lives.  So where is he in 1860? [ii]

In 1860, their brother, Pearman (A.K.A. Perman, Pierman) is living in Sumter County and far too many people have attributed this census to John or Jonathan and thus adding a middle name that does not belong to him. [iii]

How do we know?  Simple.  While John’s family appears to have eluded the 1860 census, we find Perman’s family enumerated time and time again once the family left the Hart County area and moved south overlapping the same time frames as John’s.

These are two different people and John does not and did not have the middle name of Perman.  As a matter of fact, we find him listed in the 1900 U. S. Census as Jonathan H. Weldon [iv]

I’ve already written about some people changing my 4th great grandfather’s name from James Thomas to James R. Thomas simply because the 1830 U. S. Census lists James R. Thomas as the head of household.  That is correct, his son James R. was the head and not the 70 year old father.

Please, be tenacious that you a) are accurate in your reporting and b) not perpetuating bad information.

[i] 1850 U. S. Census, Franklin County, Georgia, population schedule, district 30, dwelling and family 555, household of John Weldon, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com : accessed XXX), citing NARA publication M432, roll 70.

[ii] 1870 U. S. Census, Hart County, Georgia, population schedule, Reed Creek District, p. 120, dwelling 911, family 891, household of Johnathan Weldon, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com : accessed XXX), citing NARA publication M593, roll 157.

[iii] 1860 U. S. Census, Sumter County, Georgial, population schedule, Americus Post Office, Districts 16 and 26, dwelling 186, family 189, hld Pearman Weldon, Ancestry.com, (www.Ancestry.com: accessed xxx), citing NARA publication M653, roll 136.

[iv] 1900 U. S. Census, Hart County, Georgia, population schedule, Bowersville, District 1116 Hall, supervisor’s district 38, enumeration district 50, dwelling 165, family 166, household of Jonathan Weldon, , Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com : accessed XXX), citing NARA publication M623, roll 204.

Blog 2022 02 06 2022 Understanding Wills

Many researchers hunt high and low for a will believing it will answer all of their questions and find themselves disappointed.  Before we begin, remember, the overwhelming number of wills written prior to 1900 were done by men.  So this blog will be slanted toward those wills.  However, if the widow had property that was hers in her own right, then you may find her wills as well.

Let’s start with the fact that the vast majority of deaths of a parent, particularly a father were intestate.  Intestate means, without a valid will.  The cause for this varies greatly.  Whether it is because they died suddenly without any warning or they died owning nothing of real value, no will was written.  Additionally, there are all the courthouse disasters causing the loss of records.

So what do we look for when a will does not exist?  We look to see if there was sufficient property, real and personal, worthy of probate and an administrator being appointed.  This is particularly true if minor children or an adult child were needing special care existed and the courts or the family wanted to make sure they were taken care of.  So look for letters of administration or twelve-month support.

If a will does exist, will it answer all of your questions?  Probably not.  Many men listed only the names of their minor children and may or may not appoint a grown son to act as executor or co-executor.  I recently read one that leads me to believe he had a daughter with special needs because he set up the equivalent of a trust for her lifetime care and comfort.

You might also find wills where the married daughters are not listed with their married names or husbands’ names listed.  This, along with calling a daughter by their nickname, make it difficult to further track them.  I recently worked a case like this where the youngest daughter is only referred to as, Polly.  If she was really Mary Ann, then she was married but the will does not help make that connection and no known document has been located to prove that Polly and Mary Ann are the same person.

Another mistake I find quite common is when there is language in the will that gives a hint that his wife at the time of his death was not the only wife he had and may not be the biological mother to all of his children.  Yet, researchers often make that mistake, and thus his second wife would have been 9 years old when giving birth to the first child.  By the same token, do not assume that just because the name of his wife in the will is different than what you find on other legal documents that it indicates a second wife.  It could be something as simple as he refers to his by a nickname or his pet name for her and the legal documents use her legal name.  Everyone on this planet knows my sister by the name of Beth.  But that is not her true name, it is a nickname for her middle name.  Instead of going by her first name, she has made her legal name, D. Elizabeth.

The last thing I want to point out about wills is, to look for the date it was proved.  That means, it was brought into the courthouse, after the testator died, and presented to the court to be legally entered.  While in rare cases, wills were previously filed, if more than one can be found, it is the one just in front of the file being “proven.”  If there is a huge difference between the date the will was signed and when it was proven, they most likely died closer to the date proven.

One last piece of advice, do not get your hopes up too high on finding a will to resolve all of your questions.

Blog 2022 01 30 2022 Mortality Schedules

Did you know the U. S. Census created a Mortality Schedule in 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and some states did it in 1885?  These can be a valuable find if your ancestor died within the time period the schedule included.  Additionally, some tie directly back to the population schedule.

However, many people do not read them correctly.  So let’s take a look at each one.

For every year, you can search to find the instructions the enumerator was to follow.  Most of the time, they did but occasionally, you might find where an enumerator either misunderstood or chose to ignore them.  This is the set of instructions from the 1880 U. S. Census for completing the Mortality Schedule.

Most importantly we need to know the dates of the schedule.  In most cases, it is the year ending on 31 May which means, you go back one year to the same date and anyone who died between that date and 31 May of the census year is counted.  In other words, anyone who died between 1 June 1849 and 31 May 1850 is to be included.  You must look at the month the person died to determine what year to apply and this is one of the most common mistakes people make with mortality (and other) schedules.

Below is a couple of excerpts from the 1850 U. S. Census Mortality Schedule and Population Schedule from Barnwell District, North Carolina. [i] As stated, we see in the heading, “Persons who Died during the Year ending 1st June, 1850.”  Emphasis added.  So these people may have died between 1 June 1849 and 31 May 1850.  We see many here whose color is listed as ‘B’ for Black but no indication of whether they were enslaved at the time or not and no last names in this example.  Unfortunately, the enumerator was not instructed to make any distinction pertaining to their status.  We see on line three, a 39-year-old lady named Likey, who was born in North Carolina but died of pneumonia, who had been a cook, and was sick for 21 days.  Without additional information, it might be difficult to determine more about her and her family but there are some places to look.  Tax records often record the names and ages of enslaved people by the owner and might give insight.  Many wills and estate packets list the names and ages of enslaved people and occasionally, their occupations.  Don’t give up, keep looking.

We also see a 34-year-old Margaret Kemp who worked as a laborer. It would be worth looking at the 1840 census for a Kemp family in Barnwell District to see if a family can be found that she would fit.

Below, on lines 2 and 3 we see a possible family from page 64.  Once again, William Edenfield is 45 when he died in March 1850.  We would expect to find a man named William in the 30 – 39 age category, instead, the schedule shows him being 40 – 49.  A good researcher will not reject these as being the same man, we understand that censuses are notoriously inaccurate.  If 11-year-old Charles is William’s son, he could be one of the 4 boys under five recorded in 1840 as shown below.  Since the schedule’s year ended 1 June 1850, then Charles died in July of 1849.  This is a common mistake people make, same as Louisa Frader, she died in August of 1849, not 1850.

1840 U. S. Census for Barnwell District. [ii]

We have taken a look at one method to know which families these souls belonged to, there are several others.  Unless the surname is unique or there is some other indication, you simply do not know for sure.  You will have to research other records to see the best options.

 

1860

Let’s take a look at the 1860 Mortality Schedule. [iii] We see here in Pierce County, Georgia that a white, male, 71 years old who was born in South Carolina died of Typhoid.

We know he was white because this particular enumerator only identified Black and Mulatto people.  Furthermore, we see he was married at the time of his death so we should find a widow.  I have included both 48-year-old Joseph and 12-year-old Rhoda Ann because Lewis was my 3rd great grandfather, Joseph was his son and Rhoda Ann was Joseph’s daughter.  There was an apparent Typhoid epidemic that year.  Lewis died in January so that would be 1860 but both Joseph and Rhoda Ann died in 1859.  Note that there is no indication as to what militia district any of the deceased lived in when they died.

If we look at the 1860 population schedule in militia district 1181, dwelling 159, family 163, the schedule shows a 65-year-old Elizabeth Thomas living, her son and daughter-in-law and their family there as well.  Since she is listed as head of household, it appears to be her place.

1870

What about 1870? [iv] Indiana, like many of the other states, has a consolidated mortality schedule at the state level but is divided by county.  Here is the first time we see a direct correlation between the mortality and population schedules.  First, we see this page covers Charlestown, Clark County, in Indiana.

Note that Robert Sikes, age 14 belonged to family # 18.  When we look at the Charlestown portion of the population schedule, we see at the top, the house of Thomas Sikes in family 18.

You may see that there is also a daughter named Martha who is 14, she could be a twin but this would require more research.  However, it is easier to tie the deceased to a specific household, not necessarily a family.  If there is more than one enumeration district, you may need to look through all pages with a family with dwelling and family # 18.  There is no indication of exactly how the deceased is related to the family.  The only hints we might find is when the deceased was married then we would expect to find a widow or widower.

1880

The last U. S. Mortality Schedule was in 1880 and it is even easier to tie to the household. [v] The Supervisor and Enumeration Districts are in the header.

So we see here on the 4th line an entry for Harry Hargis and little Harry belongs to family # 119 in Supervisor District 1, Enumeration District #123.  When we look at the population schedule we can see the Hargis family.

Are you beginning to see the valuable information you may find within the mortality schedules?  Of course, this is only helpful if your ancestor died within the time specified for that schedule.

To see what states had mortality schedules download this pdf from the census bureau.  https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/mortality.pdf

There are many other schedules the government made while doing the census and you may want to look closely at each of them.

[i] 1850 U. S. Census, Barnwell District, South Carolina, Mortality Schedule, page 60 (inked), image, FamilySearch.org (www.familysearch.org: accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication T 655, roll 7.

[ii] 1840 U. S. Census, Barnwell District, South Carolina, Population Schedule, page 191 (stamped), image, FamilySearch.org (www.familysearch.org: accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication M704, roll 508.

[iii] 1860 U. S. Census, Pierce County, Georgia, Mortality Schedule, page 551 (inked), ), image, FamilySearch.org (www.familysearch.org: accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication T 655, roll 8.

[iv] 1870 U. S. Census, Clark County, Indiana, Mortality Schedule, page 136, image, FamilySearch.org (www.familysearch.org: accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication, T655.

[v] 1880 U. S. Census, Cook County, Illionois, Mortality Schedule, Supervisor’s District 1, Enumerator’s District 123, page 1 (inked), image, FamilySearch.org (www.familysearch.org: accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication, T655.

Blog 2022 01 23 2022 Those pesky middle initials

Do you determine your connections based on an initial?  Do you exclude people who may be your connection simply because they do not have the correct initial, some other initial, or no initial at all?  Do you know when the average person in America started having middle names or initials?  We will take a look at a couple of scenarios to help you determine when to rely on them and when to consider ignoring them.

In colonial America, middle names were almost exclusively used by only those with royal titles.  The average colonist did not have middle names and you typically do not start seeing them until after 1781.  Even then, that initial may change a half dozen times.  You may often see someone start using their middle name and either drop a middle initial or make a middle initial from their first name.  You simply cannot trust it, you must use it as a simple clue like everything else.

Have you ever seen where middle initials mysteriously appeared and wondered where it came from?  Sometimes, it can be quite simple, especially with the illiterate ancestors.  Over time, they learned to make an initial of either their first or last name and began putting that instead of an ‘X’ or ‘+.’

Therefore
     His
John X Doe
    Mark
Became
    His
John J Doe
    Mark

Gets transcribed into John J. Doe.  And voilā, mystery resolved. Everyone thinks he had the middle initial of ‘J.’

So how did a literate man suddenly get an initial?  The answer I believe is quite simple if someone stops to think about it and apply logic along with some simple detective work.

Take the case of a prominent, literate man, Courtney Norman (Circa 1718?? – 1770).  Throughout his entire life, he signed his name to numerous legal, land, and other documents.  For example, he clearly signed Courtney Norman on a tract of land he sold to a man named Henry Stringfellow. [i] Then why do researchers put Courtney C. Norman?  I believe it all stems from his will, where it looks like it is signed Courtney C. Norman. [ii]

However, if he signed Courtney C. Norman, then why did someone add, “his mark?”  If he did not sign his name, then why not?  The answer I think is given in the will.  We are uncertain on exactly when Courtney was born and 1718 is a logical guess.  In today’s day, 52 years old is not considered old, but Courtney wrote, “being sick in Body.”  The ‘C’ may have been all he was able to write.

We as family researchers must take great care not to attribute information to an ancestor that does not belong and do not assume what someone else wrote is correct simply because it looks good.


[i] Culpeper County, Virginia, Deed Book B, pages 440, Clerk of the Court, Culpeper, Culpeper County, Virginia, FamilySearch.org (www.FamilySearch.og: 19 December 2021).

[ii] Culpeper County, Virginia, Will Book B, Page 238, Division of Courtney Norman Estate, Clerk of the Court, Culpeper, Culpeper County, Virginia, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com: accessed 19 December 2021).

Blog 2022 01 16 2022 Trusting Others Research

Have you ever wondered whether someone else’s research is truly accurate?  Were they being thorough or just trying to tie in one or two lines?  Might there have been an ulterior motive resulting in slanted research?  For example, did a couple only have grandchildren from one of their nine children who lived to adulthood?

While this is possible it is not common and may require deeper research.  I know I have discussed this before but I see more and more online trees simply copying bad research into their own trees and this is not a good practice.

I am now working on my third case of determining legal ownership of land which lacks a clear title.  In order to do this, I must track down every living descendant of a daughter who died around 1899.  The land has been passed down from generation to generation without a will or legal transfer.  However, the only trees I can find relate to the line which stayed on or near the land.  They might have little interest in finding other legal heirs to share whatever money they will get for selling the land.

Some other reasons why people may deliberately exclude a branch could be some family split such as a change in their religious denomination, criminal record, opposing side of hot issues like military draft, slave ownership, etc.  The list could go on.

My point goes back to a disclaimer I have stated many times, “History IS what History WAS.”  Whatever our ancestors did in the past should not be a reason to exclude them from our trees.  If we are truly interested in researching our family history then we should be all-inclusive for the best accuracy and understanding.

 

Blog 2022 01 02 2021 in Review

I started this last weekend then was OBE, overcome by events.  Does that happen to you?

I hope and trust you discovered some good information last year in your family research and I hope my blogs have helped.

I spent quite a bit of time reviewing the five standards as defined by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) because it is foundational to our research.  In researching recently for a client back their immigration ancestor in the mid-1600s of Virginia, I came across a lot of misinformation I needed to weed through to determine fact from conjecture or simply getting multiple men of the same name mixed up.  And while we may make notes, even about conjecture, we must go back and firmly decide whether it was true or not.  Even I almost left a piece of information in my report which clearly stated that an allegation was not proven to be true but upon reading it just before sending it to the client I realized that I had proven it false and clearly showed it.  This involved whether a man’s first wife, Mary, had died and he remarried an Elizabeth as many people believe.  However, early in his life his wife, Mary, signed her Dower in the sale of a piece of land.  It is Mary who is named in the will.  It is also Mary, who filed the will and rejected it since she did not receive her Dower.  Therefore, there was no second wife named Elizabeth.

We also took a look at often overlooked court records.  This is where we usually can find the most information about a person and family.  Most, bought and sold land, applied for licenses, served on juries, and had many other interactions with the government.  I also stressed to look at ALL parts of the estate records for overlooked children, daughters’ marriages, and kinship.  In one case, if there was any doubt who a man’s daughter married, the fact, “for love and affection to my daughter,” he deeded his son-in-law and daughter, named, a tract of land.

We also reviewed how to access these court and other government records at FamilySearch.org.  It is a free site, the best kind, and they are constantly digitizing new records.  There are some records that require accessing from a Family History Library or an affiliate public library and we discussed how to find them.

One other overlooked part is comparing the timeline of our ancestors to historical events.  There are lots of reasons to do this and one of the biggest is that it might help explain the WHY.  Why someone suddenly died, why they became an invalid, or why they might have moved.

My past blogs are available for free on my website at www.AtlantaGenealogy.com and you can go back and reread any of them, any time you like.

Blog 2021 12 12 How do you search for your ancestor?

I have written and spoken many times about researching the family members for all hints.  As we are looking for specific ancestors, we often find clues in other family documents.  This week I want to look at some Courthouse examples.

Want might we learn from Deeds?

Let’s say you are looking for proof of a man you believe has a daughter Susan who married a James M. Turner.  As you read a land deed you see where your ancestor’s property borders “his son-in-law James M. Turner”.  You now have found your second validation.  We so often overlook the description of the property and who the neighbors are.

I have seen many times in both North and South Carolina land records, where they list some of the histories of the property which might include a relative by name.  It may also list a previous owner as a grandparent or father-in-law.

What might we find in estate records?

I already wrote about a case where we learn the names of the adult children and the daughter’s husbands in the estate records.  But there can sometimes be many other things we can learn from estates.

Often the Last Will & Testament may state that a bequeathal is made for the offspring of a deceased son or daughter.  I have also seen where the husband of a childless couple leaves everything to his wife and his wife in turn left everything to nephews and nieces.  While many may believe that particular couple had several children in the early 1700s, it would have been against the statutes for the father to give his wife everything and neglect a son.  While he might be able to ignore a daughter, the eldest son by most laws entitled him to no less than one-third of the estate and at times more.

Again, as I have written in the past, if the estate is open for several years you may learn who has died, married, remarried, and additional grandchildren.  Never neglect researching every aspect of the estate.

When the executor or executrix (or administrator) is challenged can be enlightening where it states specific reasons.

What about Colonial and early American Courts?

Reading the historic Court Minute Book can show us many things about our ancestors.  Did you know that it was illegal in many places to absent yourself from the Parish Church?  If you were a poor mother with underage children and no husband, the courts may step in and take your children and apprentice them out to some other family.  Maybe not even a part of the same family.

Even in colonial times, we were a litigious society and you may find that your ancestor was either suing someone else or being the defendant in a lawsuit.  We often see roads being petitioned, laid out, and men assigned to build them, and your ancestor might be among those listed or whose property is named.  This is another place you might find familial relationships.

If your ancestor ran an Inn or a Tavern they required a license and a bond and it was recorded in the order book.  These were eventually moved to other courts.  Also, marriage Bonds were recorded in the courts whereas marriage Banns were recorded mainly in the churches.

Don’t forget the taxes

Be sure to look for any property tax and remember, it was not just on land.  They were taxed on livestock and certain property.  If confused by persons with the same name use the militia districts as the tax records should align with the census records.

Blog 2021 11 12 Take advantage of those Free Days on Search Sites

Every year, all of the major genealogy research sites will offer free days such as Fold3.com’s recent free access to military records for Veteran’s Day.  Many of these run through midnight on a Sunday or Monday and that is usually midnight Mountain Time (for all the Ancestry-owned sites), or wherever the company headquarters is located.

Here are my recommendations for taking full advantage of those days.

First, examine what types of records they typically make available during these days (military, death records, etc.).

Second, determine what records you want that fall into these categories and prioritize the order of research.

Third, determine whether there is a local library that can be used anytime by you so you make the best use of those days when they come around and not get documents you might already have access to.

Fourth, watch for the announcements.

Fifth, sign in as soon as they become available and begin researching.  Besides downloading the document or documents, be sure to capture all of the information for the proper citation of the record(s).

Sixth, mark this item off your to-do list.

Seventh, update your list and await the next opportunity.

Keep researching and good luck!