In this time of instant communication and so many of our genealogy resources online for quick access, not everything is!
Today’s tip is: Take the time to investigate Court Documents, such as Probate, Common Pleas, Estate and Wills, land records, etc. for what can be incredible information. A nice sidelight to court documents is that many of them have been sworn to in a Court of Law or before a witness or judge. Makes them a bit more reliable as evidence than, say, Uncle Harry’s story!
Many of these records are in ‘cold storage’ — archives or the annex of an archive at times! Takes time to request them, wait for them and then get them, usually in the mail. A few places are now going online with some indexes of Probate or other court cases such as a great index for Cuyahoga County Ohio that you can then use to find if the document has been digitized on familysearch. But most are a real wait and wait proposition. BUT there is a reason “GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT”!
Example: I have been working on a cousin’s line. Moved around a lot for a family in the 1800’s. Born in Bohemia, family emigrated from Bohemia and settled in Iowa. After a marriage, children are reported in the Census as born in North Dakota. Then the family settles in Oklahoma on homestead lands. WOW!
Searched for evidence of the North Dakota time, but coud find nothing (damn the loss of the 1890 US Census). Had to take the evidence of time in North Dakota from the Census and obituaries. But I had also noticed that the birth place of a parent had moved from Tennessee to Virginia so I wasn’t real comfortable with this family’s grasp of geography. 🙂
Then I gained access to a land title. It showed a man with the same surname and same first initial as owning land in Walsh County, North Dakota. It was adjacent to land owned by a woman with the same name as his mother. A great clue! But not the evidence I needed and was lusting after!
Then I waited for the copy of the probate documents to come from Oklahoma. Deep in the packet of 21 pages of estate minutia was one page that delineated the sale of the land in North Dakota to a buyer, right at the time of the family leaving for Oklahoma! The legal description matched the earlier land I had found and I was happy to have solid evidence (this even signed, dated, witnessed, and sealed by a Notary Public) of the famliy in North Dakota!
I have many other ways these type of documents have made a huge discovery possible for me, but those can wait for another time.
SO follow this tip — take the time for Probate and other legal documents! They can be chock full of information!
Onward To Our Past!