This week I’d like to just give you a series of mini tips that I’ve published on another one of my lists and a few new ones. Most of these are from my own experiences. Maybe something will be of help to you!
Administrator vs Executor: An administrator was appointed if there was no will left by the deceased. An executor is named in the will of the deceased. Their duties were the same. In some instances an executor was named but due to the absence of any witnesses, an administrator was appointed instead and this was called “with will annexed.” The man had left a will and his wishes were usually carried out, but without any witnesses’ signatures, it was treated as an administatorship.
Being examined separate and apart: When a married man sold off some of his land, there is usually a statement at the bottom of the deed by the County Clerk using this term. Wives were supposed to be asked privately if they agreed to the sale of the land and not doing it under pressure from her husband – this involved her dower!
Bonds: for many legal transactions such as marriages, appointment to an office in the state or county, being named as executor or administration, a bond was required. For marriages, this money guaranteed that the marriage could legally proceed. If it did, no money exchanged hands; if it didn’t (he was a felon, already married, insane, etc.) the bond money was paid to the county. For appointment to an office such as sheriff, county clerk, etc., a bond was posted to guarantee that this individual would perform his duties as assigned. Again, no money exchanged hands unless he was unfit and took off with all the county money or other charges. In being named an administrator or executor – again a bond was required. Some estates were very large and required more than one bondsman; it is a fairly good gauge of the size of the estate by the number of bondsmen.
Consort vs relict: There is much confusion over these terms when used in a legal document or an obituary. If a woman is listed as the consort of the man; they were legally married and he was still alive. If she is listed as the relict of a man – they still had been married legally but he was deceased.
Divorces: While it was unusual, some women who divorced in the 1800s did revert to a previous married name. This should be stated in the divorce decree and it was not common, but it did happen. However, it is more typical for the divorced female to use the last name of her most recent husband.And divorce in the 1800s was not as common as in the twentieth century, but it did happen. Remember also that many divorces were not handled in the county of residence but by the State and are only recorded in the session books maintained by the General Assembly.
Dower and dowery: Not too many of us get confused on this but dower is what was awarded to a widow, 1/3rd of the estate. Dowery is what was brought into a marriage by a woman.
Estate Settlements: Remember that heirs to an estate are typically prevented from performing certain roles in the settlement of an estate. Heirs usually are not allowed to appraise an estate or to witness the will of a person from whom they are inheriting. Relatives can witness a will or appraise an estate, they just cannot be heirs. And remember that relatives of a deceased person may not necessarily be their heirs.
Heirs and Assigns forever: Researchers will frequently find this term in deeds. What did it mean? This simply conveyed to the buyer (known as the grantee) a fee simple title. The grantee was able to do what he wanted – keep the land, sell it, mortgage it. This is not like a life estate deed which means that the grantee only had use of the land during his/her lifetime. If a woman and she died or remarried, the land would normally go to the children to be divided among them.
Finding someone when you KNOW they should be in a certain location on a census record: We’ve all gone through this frustration haven’t we? We are 99% sure that our ancestor is in a certain town or county and we just can’t find them on the census record. What can you do? Do a door by door search. I know that will take awhile in a big city or county, but they might be there all along. Why couldn’t we find them on an index or even easily on the source document? (1) The census taker misspelled their name. Now these census takers didn’t know everyone who lived in the county! They often spelled the name as they heard it – remembering that many people could not read and write well themselves (if at all) and they weren’t sure of the spelling of their own name. (2) The County Clerk who prepared the master copy had the same problem, or they couldn’t read the writing of the census taker. (3). When we work with indexes of the census records, remember they are often prepared by someone who is totally unfamiliar with the names. We all know how hard it is to decipher some of these names on the microfilm! (4) The film might have been faded, torn, had something spilled over it. (5) Indexers also, while working a long time on the records, could have reversed the first and last name. James Williams might be William James!
Finding someone in the old court records and indexes: When searching local court records, remember that they typically appear in the plaintiffs' index once and in the defendants' index once. Cases involving several people will not usually be indexed under every name of every party. For this reason, it is imperative you search for all family members in court record indexes as the case will not necessarily be indexed under your direct ancestor's name. As an example: When looking at probate records of a deceased individual. The index will normally only show the deceased’s name. But, in looking at the actual records, you will find, un-indexed, the administrator or executor, the commissioners appointed to survey the land, people who were at the sale to buy goods (many family members), neighbors who were there for the sale, etc.
For Love and Consideration: Again, this is a common term found in the old deeds. With the term there is often listed a nominal amount – normally $1.00 fee for the purchase price of the land. What does this mean? Simply, it means that there is most likely a relationship between the seller and the buy, i.e., a child or close relative. Often there will be terms included as part of the transaction which might include that the grantee will take care of the parents in their old age, or promise to live upon the land after their death. Many people took care of their land and possessions in a deed rather than in a will.
Renunciation of wills: Just because the husband left the wife something in his will, she might not have liked the provision. She could file a document called a renunciation which is filed with the will and is listed in the will books. She might instead chose to take her widow’s dower instead of what her husband left her.
Single women vs married women: A single woman could buy or sell, own land in her own name. Once married, she lost most of her rights and the husband was in control of her affairs.
© Copyright 10 Nov 2011.