Named Their Property?

In certain parts of the United States, more likely in areas where property was surveyed in metes and bounds, property owners would occasionally name their parcels of land. This wasn’t always done for vanity, it was often done to help identify different tracts. Is it possible that the name your relative gave to their property had some significance? Was it the name of a former residence or a deceased family member?

It appears that my relative named a parcel in Harford County, Maryland, “Sally’s Grove,” after his wife Sarah in 1795. Too bad he didn’t name one after the village he was born in England.

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The Defendants in an 1830-era Virginia Court Case

This image was discussed on the Facebook page for Genealogy Tip of the Day and we’re posting it here for those who were curious about the names.

The defendants in this case (James Sledd was the plaintiff) are:

John Sledd, Charles Harrison, Rob Tinsley in his own right and as [ex?r?–with a mark over it to indicate it is an abbreviation and likely stands for executor] of Jno Tinsley ded James S Pendleton admin [again with a mark over it to indicate that it is an abbreviation] of Reuben Pendleton ded Geo Tinsley & Ro Tinsley and Edward Tinsley [exor?–again for executor or possibly executors] of David Tinsley ded Oliver Tinsley Edward Tinsley James Tinsley Elizabeth West Archd [for Archibald] Goff & Polly his wife Wm. Henderson & Sally his wife John Harrison Anthony G Tinsley Sally Sledd Lindsey Tinsley Richd Fowler & Lucy his wife & Leonard Goff & Nancy his wife

The defendants all had an interest in the estate of John Tinsley who died in Amherst County, Virginia, in 1817. Unfortunately the court file does not specifically spell out all the relationships, but some can be inferred from other documents in the case file.

This is one of the easier documents to read. The case was heard before a Lynchburg, Virginia, Court. The original records are housed at the Library of Virginia in Richmond–and filed there under “Lynchburg City” Court, Index Number 1836-023. Digital images were made by viewing the original records.

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Download and Identify

This is your periodic reminder of two important things for “online” genealogists:

  • Download images of records and materials to your own personal media. Do not rely on a paid subscription service to access and view images you have already located. Make a copy for your personal use.
  • Identify people on pictures now.
  • And…while you are at it talk to any living relatives if you have never talked to them or if it has been a while. They remember things long after you leave.
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Don’t Ignore Subpoenas

You shouldn’t ignore subpoenas in your genealogical research even though most times there’s not much information on them. From the standpoint of trying to “find and connect” people subpoenas can be helpful. An 1830-era court case in Virginia involved the heirs to an estate probated in the 1810s. The subpoenas were issued to the heirs and they were directed to the county sheriff in the county where the person was believed to be living at the time the court action was initiated.

The counties where the subpoenas were directed were residential clues and told me where the heirs were living in the 1830s. That was helpful in tracking migrations from Virginia and confirming where the heirs had lived. That information was just as helpful as what was actually in the court case.

Don’t just ignore subpoenas as legal paperwork. Sometimes they contain the biggest clues of all.

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Guardian Petitions Can Age a Child

Guardian petitions for approval to oversee the estate of a minor child frequently at least provide the age of the child on the date of the petition. These ages can help determine a time frame for a when a child was born and are particularly useful in locations that do not have birth records.

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Review Your Pictures

Always review digital images you make of original documents while you are at the facility. Always take pictures as consistently as possible. I should have written the file name and case number on a little slip of paper to include in each image–which I forgot to do this time. That’s important to do if you are making images from more than one set of papers at a time.

Some documents were large and we took pictures of those records in pieces for that reason. We forgot to take an overview photo of one document. Fortunately we have all the record–just in pieces. When taking partial images of a document, make certain to have enough overlap in each image so that you know what fits were and that nothing is left out.

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A 1798 Letter of Consent for a Son to Marry

In 1798, John Sledd gave permission for his son, Thomas Sledd to marry Sally Tinsley, daughter of John Tinsley, and directed his letter to the Amherst County official who oversaw marriages. The letter is strong evidence as to the names of the fathers of Thomas Sledd and Sally Tinsley. Based upon the writing it even appears that John Sledd wrote out the consent himself.

What I need to determine if that if the consent was required for males who were not of legal age to marry in 1798 as that would help me pinpoint down when Thomas was born.

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It’s the Reliability


If I could just find that one document, I would be set.

It’s not always that easy. Sometimes locating one record that specifically states a fact is difficult. Occasionally it is impossible and we are left putting together a case from bits and pieces of indirect information. If we do find that document that explicitly states that which we want to know, we have to ask:

  • How reliable was the informant?
  • How much did they really know?
  • Did they have a reason to lie on this document?
  • Etc.

Finding information is like shopping for shoes in a large store. From a distance you cannot tell if the size is right or the style is really the one you want. It needs to be seen up close to determine the size, style, and color. You’ve got to put your foot in to see if it fits. But fitting is not enough. It still may not be your shoe.

Just because it fits doesn’t mean you can stand on your feet in those shoes all day. You’ve got to walk around in them. And sometimes that’s not even enough and you only find out whether the shoes are comfortable after wearing them for an entire day. There’s a “five-minute shoe fit” and there is the “standing on your feet from 8 to 5 shoe fit.” There’s a difference.

That piece of genealogical data from a distance may look good and on closer inspection may seem like it’s right. But you’ve got to “wear that piece of genealogical data” by fitting it into the whole person. If you have to pinch your genealogy toes and suffer genealogical heel pain maybe it’s time to realize the data doesn’t really fit.

And that’s on top of determining whether it is accurate or not.

Just like that designer shoe may really be a knockoff.

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Just Because You Think It’s Trivia Does Not Mean It Is

Recently I requested a translation of a funeral entry for a relative. I really wanted the cause of death part translated and included the “occupation” part only to provide additional handwriting as a sample.

Turns out the “occupation” portion of the entry contained genealogically relevant information about the relative’s daughters and their residence at the time of the father’s death.

All from a part of the entry that I thought would not provide me with any information.

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