Details on Ancestral Tenants?

If your ancestor owned property and rented it out, it can be difficult to determine who the renters were. In the United States (and likely other areas as well) rental agreements and leases were not filed with any court on a regular basis.

One place to potentially learn names of tenants is in court records. The 1907 estate partition for the estate of John C. Rampley in Hancock County, Illinois, indicated that the farm tenants were Robert Lowery, Phillip Schafer, and Charles Staff. In this case, the details of their lease was not known to the widow, but they were mentioned in the court case because they had an interest in the proceedings as they were tenants on the property that was subject to the partition suit.

That’s one place to find out if your ancestor had tenants on their property: their probate records and any court records related to the settlement of their estate. In some cases the details of the lease agreement may be included.

It is also possible that your ancestor sued his tenant or was sued by his tenant for issues involving the rent, upkeep of the property, or other tenant-landlord issues. These cases would have been heard by the appropriate local court. There may be details of their lease agreement in the court papers, particularly those details that are germane to the case being heard.

I’ll be taking a group to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City this summer. Our trip is no-frills, focused on research, and not full of “forced group” activities–and our price is reasonable. Check it out.

Or join me in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, at the Allen County Public Library for a somewhat shorter trip with the same focus.