Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 2, Number 6 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 June 2010
Sixth Edition of 2010 - Genealogy Gazette
In this issue we will be covering county court records. Going through the court records can require lots of time and patience, but they can provide information that cannot be anywhere else. Happy Hunting!
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James L. Douthat
County Court Records
One of the last places to look for your ancestors are the minutes of the official body that runs the county. They are sometimes called County Court, Court of Pleas and Quarterly Session, or later Board of Supervisors. The names will sometimes change within a county and within a state, but they all have much the same information.
This body handles the day to day business of the county where your ancestors were or are living. Digging into these minutes is frequently very revealing. Depending on the time frame, there is a variety of items to be found. One of the best is the road orders. During the very early formation of most counties, from say 1800 - 1900, the counties did little to maintain the roads of the area. The state would authorize turnpikes, toll roads and postal roads. These were usually in the lesser settled areas of the county. In the areas of more population, then the county would assign a section of the road to an individual with the “hands” of all those that live along the road. It was their responsibility to maintain the road. In the normal road order, all of the heads of households living along that road are listed. This gives us a neighborhood with the families living there grouped together. Looking carefully, you will probably find a family connection to your ancestor such as a spouse and their family, etc.
In the very early minutes, you can find the “bondage” orders recorded. This was where children were bound out to someone else who can help raise the child. The sponsor would take a child, allow them to live in their household, teach them a trade and when they reach adulthood, the sponsor was required to supply them with “two suits of clothing, one on and one off, and the tools for the trade they learned.” If the child was a female, they are taught the trade of “housewifery” and hopefully they will be married shortly thereafter if they have not been prior to adulthood. Parents would “bind out” their children for a number of reasons. Usually, the father has either deserted the family or has died and the wife cannot provide for the children. In fewer cases, the parents were just too poor to take care of their children. This was all prior to orphanages and poor houses. It was a very humane way of helping both the child and the sponsors. The sponsors received the labors of the child for a number of years and generally, the child was just another part of their families. The child, for the most part, received a good home and a trade.
Land transfers are another part of the minutes. They record many of the transfers of deeds first and make note of them. Sometimes they are then recorded in the deed book but not always. In the case of inherited land, they are not always recorded in the deed books, but are noted in the minutes.
In the case of some states like Virginia, the Ministers are members of the court, or were up until about the 1970s. As part of their duty, they were required to turn into the court each year a listing of the marriages, births and deaths they were involved with during the past year. In Virginia, these are labeled “Ministers Returns” and many times, these are the only record of the marriages as many other records are no longer in existence.
Sometimes, there are naturalization records. This one type of record has changed from court to court even in the same county. At some point it is in the state records, at other times in federal records and early on in county records.
Court Minutes are a real lesson in the real history of the area, but there is a down side of them. Primarily, they are not transcribed but only microfilmed. You have to read them line by line and meeting by meeting. The real advantage to this method is you see the actual spelling of some of the names. Generally, the courts meet only four times a year. The dating of things can be a little tricky due to this time frame. Are the efforts worth it? YES!!! You will find pieces to your puzzle that you will find nowhere else. Plan to invest some time in your search, but it will be time well spent.
RHEA COUNTY, TENNESSEE COUNTY COURT MINUTES
By Bettye Broyles. Each publication is complete abstraction from the original record.
Polk County, TN Court Minutes 1840 - 1843
121 Pages, 8.5" x 11", Full Name Index, Soft Cover
Compiled by WPA Workers in 1936, this volume is Packed with election proceedings, trustee's bonds, lot sales, and tax records, you'll find wealth of names in this publication including court officials, defendants, and jurors.
Click here for surnames.
Floyd County, Virginia Ministers' Returns
By Marvin U. Neighbors, 43 Pages, 8.5"x11", Full Name Index, Softcover
Floyd County, located in southwestern Virginia, is one of those small counties often lost in personal research. These marriage records show the original page in the county court records, the names of the ride and groom, the date of the marriages and the minister.
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