Saturday, December 10, 2016

Some Court Minutes (or court orders) Now Online At FamilySearch

I first discovered court minutes over a dozen years ago. My biggest breakthrough, with them,  was identifying the name of an ancestor's spouse. I didn't know who Francis Owens' husband was until I found the answer in Bracken County Court Minutes. The minutes interesting and colorful information about the family, such as Anderson Wray being arrested for rioting, have been rewarding finds .
Some of these court minutes films are available online at  FamilySearch.

What can you find in Court Minutes?

1. You can find out whether your ancestors were involved in court cases. If the minutes don't provide the information you are looking for you can contact the current courthouse staff and request a copy of the full court file. Sometimes these files no longer exist, or are no longer housed in the Courthouse. Some are now housed with local historical societies.  
James Hicks married a widow. The above involves a case regarding the widow's first husband and children.
2. You can find your ancestors listed as jurors. This can give you clues about the years they lived in an area.
George Adams serves jury duty.
3. You can learn about roads they worked on. Males were required to perform road work for counties. They often worked on roads near their property. Road work orders can provide clues regarding where their property was located.  
James Adams works on road near a schoolhouse.
4. There are often apprentice bonds in court minutes books. You can find out whether a female ancestor was instructed in the mysteries of the spinster, or your male ancestor was trained as a blacksmith. Sadly young children like the 7 year old girl, below, were apprenticed.   
They did specify "one year of schooling & learn her to read" in this bond.
5. Bastardry bonds also appear in court minutes.
6. Probate appointments, and even more detailed probate information such as inventories can appear in court minutes
This is the probate document that named my ancestor Francis (Fanny) Owen's husband as James D. Owens. Bracken County, Kentucky court orders are now online at FamilySearch.
7. Information regarding slaves appear in court minutes
Not sure if this Mulatto man is free or a slave? I don't wonder why he might have lost his mind, as stated in this record.
8. Deeds proven in open court
Laban Hicks deed proven in open court.
9. Appointment of Guardians
Samuel Gorden orphan chose his brother to be his guardian.
10. Appointment to local offices
John Adams was appointed Constable
11. Insanity reports
A difficult life for women in those days. No wonder poor Milley Hopkins lost her mind.
12. Insight into what life was like in your ancestors community. Below you see provisions for one year being provided to a widow. Interesting to see the salted beef, which was salted to keep it from spoiling with no refrigeration.
Here we see a prison being laid out. There was another report that the local jail was insufficient.
I've been paging through Surry County, North Carolina Court minutes, now online at FamilySearch, in order to try to establish relationships between members of the Hicks and Adams families. Sadly Surry Minutes aren't indexed. We suspect the Samuel Hicks, appearing in local records, was to father of my Joshua Hicks. Other possible sons of Samuel were, William, James, Laban, and Benjamin. Relationship inferences are based on Samuel Hicks land transfers. We haven't found any documents stating relationships. Joshua's wife was Diana Adams. There were other Adams families living in the area, and I'm trying to find out which family she is from.
I have found many entries in the Court Minutes for the Hicks and Adams families, but none stating relationships to others. I found men in these families serving Jury duty, and performing road work service.
The most interesting finds were court cases involving Samuel Hicks and Joshua Hicks. I know they lived near a Brown family. Two of these cases involved Browns. Apparently the Browns and Hicks had a feud going. The minutes don't give any specific information other than there were lawsuits. I would like to get case files for these suits if they still exist?

Peter Brown vs Joshua Hicks
George Brown vs Samuel Hicks Libel
State vs Samuel Hicks
Hoping case files can be found? I'm so happy I can go through the couple thousand pages of the Surry Court minutes at home!

Friday, December 2, 2016

An Easy Way To Find FamilySearch Online Digitized Content

When I was first told that much of the online content for FamilySearch wasn't showing up by filtering by state I didn't realize you can filter your search for online content alone. I've been filtering by Family History library recently. I've been looking for films located at the Orange Family History Library, and the Los Angeles Family History Library. When doing this I noticed a filter for online content. (In the past you could search the Catalog on CD's and find out if a local Family History Center had a film you needed in their permanent collection. I miss that.)

To search for only what's available online click on search these family history centers on the FamilySearch catalog page. Click the second choice at the top of the menu, online.

Now that I know how to filter for online content I've searched using various jurisdictions. You can search the following jurisdictions for US:
  1. United States
  2. State
  3. County
  4. Township
  5. Town
  6. City
You can also search records localities for foreign Countries filtering by online records.

I've also searched for tax lists by using the filters listed above the search box. I used the keyword search for tax. This brought up over 5,000 titles online. When you filter further by state you can eliminate a few thousand. You can filter by century and decade also.

I am interested in finding a marriage bond for an ancestor who probably married in Virginia in the 1780's. I don't know which county these ancestors married in? I'm using keyword search to find all marriage bonds available for Virginia online. I would like to find marriage bonds for a John Thurman married to a Sarah. I don't have Sarah's maiden name and hope to find a marriage bond in order to discover it. It looks like their eldest child was born in 1784? Their youngest was born in 1798. I can make a guess as to when they may have married based on this timeframe. I will look at the online marriage bonds for any marriages in this timeframe.

marriage bonds online Virginia

I found filtering doesn't always bring up all titles with online films. Filtering by county seems to bring up the most complete list of online content. I found a Tax list for Washington County, Tennessee that didn't come up when I filtered for Tennessee tax 1700's. You have to search by various filters to find everything online.

This 1779 tax list didn't come up filtering by Tennessee and year

Many of the films that have been digitized have either been indexed, and are searchable at FamilySearch, or the film has an index in the front or back of the book appearing on the film. I knew my ancestor William McPike appeared in a Court Order book, for Washington County, Virginia, when he was ordered to do road work. I didn't have the page number. I found the court order book online with no index. I really wanted a copy of the original entry. I searched for my copy of the transcription, I had, in order to get the page number. I was then able to get the original copy. I found I sometimes need to find an index elsewhere if it's not available through FamilySearch.

I wanted the original copy to verify the name Holloway
also appeared in this road work order. Holloway is supposedly
Obedience, William's wife's maiden name
Everything isn't online or searchable through an index yet. Since many of the films that have been digitized have indexes, or indexes can be found elsewhere, this hasn't been a serious problem. Even though a small fraction of the holdings of the Family History Library are now online it's still enough to keep me busy for a long time.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Finally Some Deed Books At Family Search

I've been preoccupied with other things and had not been aware that some deed books are now digitized and available at Family Search. If you have early Pennsylvania, Tennessee or North Carolina roots you definitely should search using your county names in the Family Search Catalog (for some reason you have to leave the word county out of the search?). Many of these newly digitized films don't appear when looking at what is available by state. If you search deeds by state you won't see them. Deeds books may contain the only information available, other than tax lists and probate, for your earliest ancestors.

Click the camera to see the digitized book

I've been going to the Family History libraries here in California recently looking at microfilms of records not yet online. One of the films in the Orange Library Catalog wasn't in the drawer where it was supposed to be. I asked a staff member and they told me films were being removed from the as they are digitized. Happily one of the films I needed is now online at Family Search and is searchable from anywhere (some digitized films or books are only available online at a Family History Center).

With only a small fraction of the 1790 Census still surviving for the Southern and Mid sections of the US land, tax and probate records are the only places we can find documentation for many of our ancestors in the 18th Century. Some of my ancestors left wills or intestate probate documents which have been very helpful in identifying family members. I had been searching for one ancestor's will in probate records and will books. I finally located it filed in a deed book. Deed books can also contain hand drawn maps which may show your ancestors property lines. They sometimes also contain marriage records, as I found in a Pennsylvania deed book. The records clerk could record anything he saw fit to in these books.

Instead of leaving a will some of my ancestors deeded their property to their children before they died. Often these deeds state they were in consideration of "love and affection." Some of the most valuable deeds are the ones listed in the deeds index as "et al", these were generally families selling parents' property.

Since deeds contain a description of your ancestors property and who shared their property lines, they provide great clues to where the land was located, and who the all important friends and neighbors were. I visited Greene County, Tennessee last August and wondered where my ancestors Roger Browning and William McPike's properties were located. I didn't have any deeds to provide an approximate location even. After I found out that some deeds are online I searched to see if Greene County, Tennessee deeds are online. Happily I found that all of the books containing my family's deeds are online at Family Search. I had wondered if these men lived near the Davy Crockett family in Greene County, Tennesse? I now know they lived on the other side of the county. They lived about 11 miles away from Greeneville. William probably did live closer to Greeneville and the Crockett property when he lived on the Washington and Greene County Line. Unfortunately the deed for that property didn't mention any water courses.

My ancestor Roger Browning  purchased his property from Thomas Gragg or Gregg (this family married into the Browning family).

The land is described as being on the Nolichucky river and Meadow creek. From this information I can surmise that the land was probably near a road now called Greg Mill.

I did see the Nolichucky river while I was in Greene County. It's stretches through the length of the county so it's hard to miss. Davy Crockett's family lived on the Nolichucky on the other side of the county.

A baptism on the Nolichucky River

Sadly Virginia is a state that has been completely neglected by Family Search as far as digitizing. I continue to search both probate and deed records using the old microfilms. I either have to order them, at the my local FHC, or travel to the Los Angeles or the Orange family history libraries. Since deed books aren't every name indexed I find it helpful to page through them looking for names. While doing this for Franklin County, Virginia an unexpected ancestor and his wife showed up. William McPike of Greene County and Cocke County, Tennessee. I had no idea he ever lived in Franklin County, Virginia. He never showed up on any tax lists or Census records for the area? How could I be sure this was my McPike family? Obedience was named as William's wife, and they were said to reside in Cocke County, Tennessee when the deed was executed.

William and wife Obedience's deed

The Virginia State Library's digital image collection does contain Virginia Land Grants. I found the record for the purchase of William McPike's land there. It matched the number of acres and location in the sales deed. When he purchased the Blackwater River land it was then in Bedford County, Virginia. This area was later located in Franklin County, which was formed from part of Bedford.

Not sure if Thomas Jefferson really signed the deed my ancestor received?

Many deed indexes for Pennsylvania counties are now online. One of my ancestral locations is Chester County, Pennsylvania. Only a few deed indexes are available online for Chester. A complete index is available at the Chester County, Pennsylvania local Government website.

I found an "et al deed" on the Chester County index which appears to be children selling parents property? It's a Jacob Urmy ux Susanna et al deed. Sadly this isn't in a book that is online at Family Search. The coverage of deeds is spotty. You have to scroll down to see which books are still only on microfilm and those that are online.
Sussana et al

I was able to find a deed for my ancestor Christian Brower which had been digitized. His wife Eve is also named in the deed. The name of a wife is really important information when trying to verify who the deed refers to, or establishing the name of a wife. Sadly in states like Tennessee the wife's name was generally not recorded in deeds.

Christian Brower and wife Eve are recorded in this deed


The digitized deed books are scattered. Not sure what the order they are being digitized is? There doesn't seem to be an order? Family Search isn't the only place to find deed books or deed indexes. Some counties have these books online. State websites often have land patents and grants online.

It really pays to search the Family Search Catalog by county now since all microfilms are slowly being added. These can only be found by searching locally, and not by state.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Part 6 Philadelphia


Part 6 Philadelphia
I spent a couple days in Philadelphia on this trip. I loved the wonderful historic character of the city. Our first capital put me in a proud patriotic mood. Felt very proud to be an American, and proud of my Pennsylvania heritage.

I'm not sure which ancestors actually had visited Philadelphia? All of my German ancestors, and my Forgey ancestors, Andrew Forgey and Margaret Reynolds, likely arrived in America at the port of Philadelphia. It's thought that Johann Roush may have lived in Philadelphia before migrating to the Shenandoah Valley. I did find a Johann Adam Rausch on Philadelphia substitute censuses up to 1764. Not sure he is my ancestor? It was thought he had migrated to Virginia by 1764? When Johann Adam Roush arrived in America he took the oath of allegiance in a Philadelphia Court House.

Carpenter's Hall built in 1774
Many of the buildings in the historical core are reconstructions, like Colonial Williamsburg. Independence Hall is largely a reconstruction. There are some walls, in Independence Hall, which are original. The first Continental Congress was held at Carpenter's hall which is one of the few remaining original buildings in the historical core of the city. This building was completed in 1774.

Within these Walls Henry, Hancock, & Adams inspired the Delegates of the Colonies With Verve and Sinew for the Toils of War
Inscription over south doorway of Assembly Room
Ancestors' marriage Christ Church
Christ Church is another of the original structures in Philadelphia. The church was built from 1727 to 1744. George Washington, Betsy Ross, and Benjamin Franklin attended church here. According to the Pennsylvania Archives records my ancestors Benjamin Browning and Mary Abbot married March 23, 1751 in Christ Church. So exciting to see that church. It's one of the most beautiful churches I've been too.

Christ Church

Ben Franklin's grave with pennies tossed on it for good luck.
Actually a penny saved is a penny earned so he would be against this.

The historic Betsy Ross house was wonderful to tour. It was so interesting seeing what the 17th Century townhouses looked like inside. Very cramped small staircase. Probably not comfortable for tall people. Betsy likely didn't live here, but probably lived in an adjacent house.



Elfreth's Alley, according to Wikipedia, is our nations oldest street dating back to 1702, with homes built from 1728 to 1836. This street would have been in existence when my ancestors arrived at the port of Philadelphia.


Below is picture of the foundations of the Slave quarters of the Presidents Home in Philadelphia. George Washington lived in the Presidential home from 1790 to 1797, and John Adams from 1797 to 1800; these foundations have also be excavated (see youtube film). The house had an interesting history even before the Presidents made it their home. It was built in 1767. It housed General Howe during the British occupation in 1777 and 1778.  After the British were driven out of the city Benedict Arnold lived in the house.


Quaker Meeting House was built between 1804 and 1811

When I went to Europe last April I changed planes in Philadelphia. I saw all the Liberty Bell souvenirs for sale, and I wanted so badly to go and see it. It was so nice to finally see it. We have a replica here in Southern California at Knott's Berry Farm, along with a replica of Independence Hall. I remember visiting Knott's Berry Farm on a field trip with my school and enjoying learning about the founding of our country. An audio reenactment of the debate which led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence is presented there. I was very inspired by that presentation which made finally visiting Philadelphia even more special.


We stayed at a hotel near the reconstruction of Philadelphia's famous City Tavern. It was called the "most genteel tavern in America" by John Adams. It was frequented by the Founding Fathers. It was originally built in 1773. Two hundred men gathered there in 1774 in response to the port blockade of Boston harbor by the British. This restaurant/tavern has a great atmosphere with period costume dressed servers.

City Tavern

Moving on to some more modern additions to the city. The steps Rocky ran up are a favorite with tourists. These 72 steps lead to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Across the street is the Washington Monument. This is a beautiful collection of bronze statues with Washington on horse back as the central figure. It was dedicated in 1897. The view of City Hall is particularly striking from here.
Rocky steps



The National Constitution Center, across from Independence Hall, provides some interesting museum displays with artifacts which belonged to the Presidents. Great views of Independence Hall also. The center also has a dramatic performance about the Constitution and its continuing relevance to our lives.

National Constitution Center

I'm looking forward to visiting Philadelphia again. I didn't feel like a couple days was enough. So much interesting history and personal ancestral history.

Dulles Airport