Some things to look forward to

It can be really hard, on the days when a major genealogical conference is going on halfway across the continent, to be stuck at home, at work, away from all the fun.

And it may seem like missing the 2015 National Genealogical Society conference — now ongoing in St. Charles, Missouri — is a greater loss than usual this year.

That’s because we often can console ourselves if we have to miss the spring NGS conference by promising to reward ourselves with the late summer conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies.

This year, of course, FGS held its annual conference in conjunction with RootsTech in February and so that’s not available as the consolation prize for 2015.

What do we do now?

What can we give ourselves as a genealogical education treat to make up for having to work or care for family or meet other obligations?

The Legal Genealogist has two suggestions:

North to Alaska!

Think for a moment about the excitement of a genealogy conference: a range of speakers offering guidance on a range of topics we need to know about for our research.

cruise-shipThen think about the pleasures of cruising: every minute catered for by ship crew and staff, gourmet meals, and fascinating ports of call.

Put the two together and what have you got?

Genealogy cruising… with the Federation of Genealogical Societies, setting sail on 28 August 2015 from Seattle through the Alaska Inside Passage and back.

The speaking team for this conference is first-rate: Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA; David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA; D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS; and some Legal Genealogist type person… me! We’ll cover everything from DNA to methodology to Irish and British records and so much more.

Add in the cruising — to Alaska’s inside passage, Tracy Arm Fjord, Seattle as the beginning and end point — a gorgeous city in its own right, Victoria in British Columbia with world-famous gardens and its walkable inner-city streets, and Juneau and Skagway and… — and this is a cruise not to be missed.

Ready to book? Reservations information can be found here and both conference registration and cruise reservations are going fast, so book now!

More information overall is on the FGS cruise website.

Come on along!

North to New York!

FGS is also a co-sponsor of a land-based alternative on the other coast in September: the 2015 New York State Family History Conference, to be held September 17-19 at the Syracuse/Liverpool Holiday Inn in Liverpool, New York.

2015 NYSFHC LogoThis three-day, three-track conference of the Central New York Genealogical Society and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society is the premier event for New York area genealogists and those with research interests anywhere in the New York area.

Its wide-ranging program addresses the special -– and sometimes daunting –- challenges of researching New York families that stems from the Empire State’s long and complicated colonial and state history, immigration and migration patterns, population diversity, records loss, and the idiosyncrasies of the creation, archiving and dispersal of records in 62 counties.

The speakers who will be featured during this major conference include Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., The Genetic Genealogist; Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG, FGBS, former editor of the NYG&B Record; Dick Eastman of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter; Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, FASG, co-editor of the NGS Quarterly; David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA, FamilySearch.org; D. Joshua Taylor, President of the Federation of Genealogical Societies; Jane Wilcox, member, NYG&B Record editorial board, and host of the Forget-Me-Not radio program; Curt B. Witcher, Allen County Public Library; and even The Legal Genealogist.

The early bird registration discount is only available until May 31st, so register soon!

See?

Two great choices to make you feel better … at least a little bit … about not being in St. Charles this week.

Posted in General | 1 Comment

Missouri law and the rivers

Let the river run
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation

– Carly Simon – Let The River Run.

It seems like the whole genealogical world has converged on St. Charles, Missouri, for the 2015 National Genealogical Society conference.

mo.riverNot quite, of course… but certainly a goodly number of U.S. genealogists are here as the conference gets underway this morning with J. Mark Lowe’s keynote, “The Tales of Pioneer Paths: Rivers, Roads, & Rails.”

And given that keynote, it’s only right that The Legal Genealogist was looking for laws about rivers in old Missouri statutes last night and came across a number of provisions that could well have impacted any ancestors in the Show-Me State.

Start with the fact that folks were allowed to dam a river or creek if needed for a mill, but only with the permission of a court and compensation to anyone damaged. And:

any person or persons who shall hereafter build or raise any dam or any leave of other stoppage, on any river, creek or run, within this state, without first obtaining leave from the court of the proper county, according to the provisions of this act, and shall thereby work an injury to any other person or persons, shall forfeit and pay to the party injured, double damages for every such offence…. and all mills and dams so built without complying with the provisions and requisitions of this act, shall be deemed to be nuisances, and dealt with as such.1

Tells us a thing or two about the value placed by early Missouri law on letting the river run, doesn’t it?

Go on to the statute of 17 December 1822 — “An Act declaring a part of the River aux Cuivre, a public highway”:

all that part of the river aux Cuivre, lying in and dividing the counties of St. Charles and Lincoln in the state of Missouri, from its junction with the Mississippi river to the town of Moscow or Ross’ Mills on said river, is hereby declared a public highway for the passage of all boats, rafts or other vessels ; and it shall and may be lawful for the inhabitants of the counties aforesaid and all others desirous of using the navigation of said river, to remove all natural obstructions in the same, between the aforesaid points.2

Couldn’t get much more direct in terms of letting the river run, could they?

Or how about the fact that the law expressly provided for rights of salvage for “any boat, barge, craft, vessel, raft or other property, … lost, wrecked or adrift… upon any river or navigable water course in this state”?3

Are we getting the idea here?

Missouri is a state much blessed — and occasionally ravaged — by rivers and their waters: the Mississippi; the Missouri; the Osage; the Meramec; the White, and more.

And its earliest laws reflect the importance of those rivers to our earliest ancestors — and how the view of the law was to let the river run.


SOURCES

  1. §10, Mills, Chapter I, in Laws of the State of Missouri … in Two Volumes … 1825 (St. Louis: State of Missouri, 1825), II: 590; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 12 May 2015).
  2. “An Act declaring a part of the River aux Cuivre, a public highway,” Navigation, in ibid., II: 597.
  3. Act of 18 Dec 1824, Salvage, in ibid., II: 704.
Posted in General, Statutes | 4 Comments

NGS kicks off tomorrow!

It’s NGS week!

NGS2015Hard to believe that after all the hard work, all the preparation, all the efforts of the Conference Committee and volunteers and local host society, the National Genealogical Society Conference for 2015 is getting underway in St. Charles, Missouri!

So we’re all off to the Show-Me State, where preliminary events are going on today, and the conference kicks off tomorrow morning. And that may make it a bit tougher than usual to stay current with blog postings, what with everything else going on.

The Legal Genealogist has a full schedule at NGS 2015 and I sure hope you’ll join me once or twice if you’re going to be here in St. Charles. I’ll be presenting:

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

12:15 p.m., Session W133, “The Rest of the Story,” at the luncheon of the Genealogical Speakers Guild (GSG). Beyond the record is the rest of the story: how to find it, when to tell it…and when to keep it to ourselves.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

9:30 a.m., Session T211, “Certification: Measuring Yourself Against Standards,” with Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, and Michael S. Ramage, JD, CG. In this interactive forum, current BCG associates share various pathways to certification and how to begin the process. The second hour focuses on practical tips for preparing an application portfolio.

4:00 p.m., Session T251, “Living With Legal Lingo through the Records of Missouri’s Boone Family,” BCG Skillbuilding Track. Using records of Missouri’s famous Boone family, learn how to understand just what the legal lingo in those records means–and how to use it.

Saturday, 15 May 2015

8:00 a.m., Session S403, “The Law in Yankee Blue: Federal Military Pensions after the Civil War.” More than two million men served in Yankee blue. Learn how federal law did–-and didn’t–-reward them with pensions after the Civil War.

9:30 a.m., Session S413, “The Law in Confederate Grey: State Military Pensions after the War of Northern Aggression.” The South’s loss in the Civil War didn’t deprive its soldiers of pensions for their service. Learn about state laws and pensions for Confederate veterans.

12:15 p.m., Session S432, “The Prizes of War: Pirates and Privateers in the National Archives,” at the luncheon of the National Institute for Genealogical Research Alumni Association (NIGRAA). Tales from the National Archives, from Revolutionary War letters of marque, to War of 1812 prize claims, to trial of Confederate privateers as pirates, and more!

Hope to see you in St. Charles!

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Missouri’s bad boys statute

So the genealogical world — or at least the United States contingent — descends in force on St. Charles, Missouri, this week for the 2015 conference of the National Genealogical Society.

badboysThere are preliminary events taking place tomorrow, like the BCG Education Workshop on Putting Skills to Work, and the full conference kicks off Wednesday morning with a keynote address by J. Mark Lowe telling The Tales of Pioneer Paths: Rivers, Roads, & Rails.

And in honor of this Show Me State conference, The Legal Genealogist was doing the usual poke-around-in-the-statutes research last night, and came across a statute that… well… it was a bit of a surprise.

You might call it the bad boys statute, though it was totally gender neutral. You might call it the parents’ statute or the parents’-and-masters’ statute.

But since Missouri is the Show Me State, maybe we should all call it the “I’ll show YOU” statute since, after all, we can all probably think of one time or another in our lives when we’ve stood in front of a disapproving parent, with the evidence showing something that we wish we hadn’t done… and we can all hear in our minds the voice of that parent: “Well, then I’ll show YOU what happens when you…”

The area of what became Missouri first became part of the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase, ratified by the United States Senate in 1803.1 American governance of the area technically began with the creation of two districts, Orleans and Louisiana, out of the Louisiana Purchase lands,2 followed by the creation of the Louisiana Territory.3 In 1812, Louisiana was admitted as a state, and the territory north of the new state became the Missouri Territory.4

So Missouri was governed, first, by the Laws of the Louisiana Territory,5 and then the Laws of the Missouri Territory.6 And in those territorial laws, you will find this provision:

If any children or servants, shall contrary to the obedience due to their parents or masters, resist or refuse, to obey their lawful commands, upon complaint thereof to any justice of the peace, it shall be lawful for such justice, to send him or them so offending to the jail or house of correction there to remain, until he or they shall humble themselves to the said parent’s or master’s satisfaction. And if any child or servant shall contrary to his bouuden duty presume to assault and strike his parent or master, upon complaint and conviction thereof, before two or more justices of the peace, the offender shall be whipped not exceeding ten stripes.7

Wouldn’t you just love to have a court record of a case brought under that statute…?

And can’t you just hear the parent’s voice: “Oh yeah? Well, I’ll show YOU…”

And no, sorry, Missouri parents, it isn’t still part of Missouri law. It went by the wayside after Missouri was admitted as a state and passed its first revised code in 1825.8


SOURCES

  1. The Senate Approves the Louisiana Purchase Treaty,” History, U.S. Senate (http://www.senate.gov/ : accessed 10 May 2015).
  2. An Act erecting Louisiana into two territories, and providing for the temporary government thereof,” 2 Stat. 283 (1804); digital images, “A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875,” Library of Congress, American Memory (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html : accessed 10 May 2015).
  3. An Act further providing for the government of the district of Louisiana,” 2 Stat. 331 (1805).
  4. An act providing for the government of the territory of Missouri,” 2 Stat. 743 (1812).
  5. See The Laws of the Territory of Louisiana (St. Louis : Territorial Printer, 1808); digital images, HathiTrust Digital Library (http://www.hathitrust.org/ : accessed 10 May 2015).
  6. See Henry S. Geyer, A Digest of the Laws of Missouri Territory (St. Louis : Joseph Charles, 1818); digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 10 May 2015).
  7. The provision appears, identical word for word with only a minor difference in punctuation, in both §32 of “An Act for the punishment of certain crimes,” 4 November 1808, in The Laws of the Territory of Louisiana at 322, and in §27 of Crimes and Misdemeanors in A Digest of the Laws of Missouri Territory at 153.
  8. See Laws of the State of Missouri, 2 vols. (St. Louis : State Printer, 1825); digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 10 May 2015).
Posted in Resources, Statutes | 11 Comments

No words needed

mothers.day

This is, by far, The Legal Genealogist‘s favorite photograph, ever.

My mother and her granddaughter Hannah.

Since it’s DNA Sunday, the subtitle can be “my mitochondrial DNA…”

Happy Mother’s Day.

Posted in DNA, My family | 6 Comments

So much we don’t know

She is far more of a mystery than it seems she should be, having lived into the 20th century.

Born in North Carolina, likely Burke County, 183 years ago today, Martha Louisa (Baker) Cottrell was The Legal Genealogist‘s second great grandmother.

Her oldest son Martin Gilbert Cottrell (1855-1946) was my great grandfather; his youngest son, her youngest grandson, was my grandfather Clay Rex Cottrell (1898-1970).

And while I have loads of individual facts about the life of this woman, called Louisa, I know nothing really about her.

About who she was.

About what she liked.

About the kind of person she came to be.

Or even, for certain, what she looked like.

mystery1

We think the photo shown here today may be a photo of Louisa, surrounded towards the end of her life by children and grandchildren — it comes to us from a Cottrell cousin and so could well be a Cottrell family group. But we’re not sure; it may be of someone else altogether.

So… what do we know about Louisa?

Her birth on 9 May 1832 seems pretty well established, from Louisa’s own statement in an 1897 pension application.1 Although she said she was born in Cherokee County, North Carolina,2 her parents were in Burke County in 18303 and her father, Martin Baker, was included on a jury list in Yancey County — created from Burke in 18334 — as late as 1834.5

We can follow her parents as they trekked ever westward, first to Cherokee County in 1840,6 then to Pulaski County, Kentucky, by 1850,7 then to Louisa County, Iowa, by 1852.8

Finally, it was on south to Texas — the last move — and we can place the Bakers in what was then Navarro but became Parker County by early 1854.9

There the Bakers acquired a neighbor — one George W. Cottrell, who served as a chain carrier on Baker land claims10 and for whose own land claim the Bakers carried the chains.11

And they soon acquired a son-in-law, though exactly when and where is in question. George married Louisa perhaps in 1854 in Johnson County, Texas.12 Or maybe 1853 in Parker County.13 Or maybe 1854 in Parker County.14 Or maybe 1855 in Johnson County.15 Sometime around then somewhere around there, anyway.

We can track Louisa forward in the census records too: still in Parker County in 1880, with George and several of their children (they had at least five);16 in Wichita County by 1900, as a widow in the household of daughter Mary (Cottrell) Green;17 and still with the Greens in 1910.18

The story rolls to an end in January 1913. Louisa’s death was reported in the local newspaper:

Mrs. Louisa Cottrell, 82 years old, died last Friday at 2:30 a.m., and was buried Saturday at 3 p.m. Funeral services were conducted by Rev. M.L. Blankenship assisted by Rev. H.B. Johnson. She leaves two sons and two daughters, nine grand children and five great grand children. She had been an invalid thirty years. She was a member of the Baptist church nearly sixty-eight years.19

And that’s it.

Sad, isn’t it?

There is so very much about this woman we don’t know, not even what the condition was that left her invalided those 30 years.

We don’t know if she liked the color red. If she liked or even approved of her sons-in-law. Was she a good cook? Did she like to read — even could she read?

At this point I’d even settle for knowing if her grandchildren called her Granny. Or Grandma. Or Grams. I just hope she was enough of a pushover that they didn’t have to call her Mrs. Cottrell.

I hope they brought her flowers in the spring, even if Mother’s Day wasn’t a holiday in her lifetime.

I hope she knew how to laugh…


SOURCES

  1. Declaration of claimant, 21 Jan 1897, widow’s pension application no. 13773 (Rejected), for service of George W. Cottrell of Texas; Mexican War Pension Files; Records of the Bureau of Pensions and its Predecessors 1805-1935; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  2. Ibid.
  3. 1830 U.S. census, Burke County, North Carolina, p. 198 (stamped), line 3, Martain Baker household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 Jul 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication M19, roll 118.
  4. See David Leroy Corbitt, The Formation of the North Carolina Counties 1663-1943 (Raleigh : Division of
    Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1987), 42-48.
  5. Minute Book, 1834-1844, Yancey County, North Carolina, Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Minutes of December Term 1834; call no. C.R.107.301.1; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.
  6. 1840 U.S. census, Cherokee County, North Carolina, population schedule, p. 239 (stamped), line 8, Martin Baker household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 Jul 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication M704, roll 357.
  7. 1850 U.S. census, Pulaski County, Kentucky, population schedule, Division 2, p. 111 (stamped), dwelling/family 528, Martin Baker household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 Jul 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 217.
  8. 1852 Iowa State Census, Louisa County, Columbus City, p. 1, line 24, Martin Baker household; State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines; FHL microfilm 1022204.
  9. See And see “Parker County,” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook: accessed 8 May 2015.)
  10. Texas General Land Office, vol. 33, p. 272, Charles Baker, 8 Dec 1863, 160 acres.
  11. Texas General Land Office, vol. 17, p. 224, G W Cotrell, 10 Dec 1863, 160 acres.
  12. Survivor’s Claim, 23 March 1887, Pension application no. 7890 (Rejected), for service of George W. Cotrell of Texas; Mexican War Pension Files; RG-15; NA-Washington, D.C.
  13. Ibid., Survivor’s Brief, 17 February 1890.
  14. Declaration of claimant, 21 Jan 1897, widow’s pension application no. 13773 (Rejected), for service of George W. Cottrell of Texas; Mexican War Pension Files; RG-15; NA-Washington, D.C.
  15. See Weldon Hudson, Marriage Records of Johnson County, Tx. (Cleburne : Johnson Co. Historical Soc., 2002).
  16. 1880 U.S. census, Parker County, Texas, Justice Precinct 6, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 139, p. 458(B) (stamped), dwelling/family 10, George W Cotrell household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 May 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 1232.
  17. 1900 U.S. census, Wichita County, Texas, Justice Precinct 6, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 127, p. 243(A) (stamped), dwelling/family 189, Louisa “Catrell”; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 May 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 1679.
  18. 1910 U.S. census, Wichita County, Texas, Justice Precinct 2, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 228, p. 10(B) (stamped), dwelling 179, family 182, Louisa Cottrell; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 May 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication T624, roll 1597.
  19. “Iowa Park Notes,” Wichita Falls (Tex.) Daily Times, 24 Jan 1913.
Posted in My family | 8 Comments

The election

When Alexander J. Taylor died in Kent County, Delaware, in September 1881, he left everything — everything — to his widow, Wilhelmina W. Taylor.

He left her in charge of his estate. He left her in charge of their two small children, Alexander and Ella. And he left her all of his worldly goods, both real and personal, of whatever kind and wherever situate.1

And on 28 March 1882, Wilhelmina went in to the Orphans’ Court and said, in effect, “thanks, but no thanks”:

Wilhelmina W. Taylor, widow of the said Alexander J. Taylor deceased, and one of the devisees under his said last will and testament, voluntarily appeared in open Orphans Court, and made her election under the statute in such case made and provided, to her dower at law out of the real estate of her said deceased husband in lieu of the portion of his said real estate so devised to her in his said last will and testament aforesaid.2

Say what?

She’s giving up the entire estate and taking her dower instead?

dower.delDower, you may recall, is a widow’s right to live on and receive the benefits and profits of some portion, usually one-third, of her husband’s lands.3

The widow doesn’t own that dower property; all she gets is a life estate — the rights to the land for her lifetime. She can’t sell it; she can’t give it away; she can’t leave it to somebody else in her will.

So why in the world would Wilhelmina — why would anybody — turn down complete ownership of all of the property — real and personal — in favor of a life estate in just a third of the land?

It doesn’t seem to make sense.

But it does.

It makes perfect sense.

Because of the law.

And because, with everything else Alexander left to Wilhelmina, he also left her a mountain of debts.

His administrator James Wolcott — appointed when Wilhelmina declined to handle the estate — told the court that “Alexander J. Taylor at the time of his death was indebted to sundry persons which in the aggregate amounts to a large Sum of Money and … his personal estate is … insufficient for the payment of his debts.” So he asked for permission to sell the house and lot on State Street in Dover.4

The total amount of the debts, according to the administrator, was nearly $5,000 after the personal property was used to pay down the amount. The real estate only sold for $3,400.

And — by saying “thanks, but no thanks” — Wilhelmina salvaged a big piece of that.

The sale, you see, was subject to Wilhelmina’s dower interest in the land. And the law was very much on Wilhelmina’s side.

First, a widow was entitled to choose between whatever her husband left her in his will and her right to dower.5 More importantly for Wilhelmina, her dower was a “third part of all the lands … whereof her said husband was seized … to hold to her as tenant in dower for and during the term of her natural life, free and discharged from all and any … debts, liens and incumbrances.”6

And if that wasn’t enough, the law also said she could take her share as part of the proceeds of sale of the whole real estate, rather than as a right to a physical part of the land.7

So by saying “thanks but no thanks” to the whole, Wilhelmina put much more in her pocket than she could have gotten under the will.

Giving up everything in this case wasn’t giving up a thing.

And understanding the law lets us understand the records.


SOURCES

  1. Kent County, Delaware, Orphans’ Court Alexander J. Taylor File; Delaware Public Archives, Dover; digital images, “Delaware Orphan Court Records, 1680-1978,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 7 May 2015).
  2. Ibid., widow’s election, 28 Mar 1882.
  3. See generally Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 393, “dower.”
  4. Kent County, Delaware, Orphans’ Court Alexander J. Taylor File, petition filed 28 Mar 1882.
  5. §5Chapter 87, “Of Dower,” in Revised Statutes of the State of Delaware … (Wilmington, Del. : James & Webb, printers, 1874), 534.
  6. Ibid., §1, at 533.
  7. Ibid., §17, Chapter 85, “Of Intestates’ Real Estate,” at 516.
Posted in Legal definitions, Statutes | 6 Comments

Primary School Lands

In June of 1883, the administrator of the estate of George Arlt, deceased, reported to the Probate Court for the County of Presque Isle, Michigan, that he had been successful in selling a piece of property belonging to the deceased.

MI.landThe land — described as the southwest quarter of section 16 in Township 34 north Range 5 east — was a 160-acre tract, and it was sold for $1,060. The high bidder: the deceased’s by-then-remarried widow, Henrietta Arlt Tippmann.1

Like just about every probate file on the face of the earth, this file tells stories. She didn’t have an easy time of it, that widow. She was a second wife, with three very young children of her own at the time of her husband’s death (the probate file says the youngest were four years, two years and two months old in 1880 when George died), and with five older stepchildren. The estate went through three administrators before it was settled.

But what particularly caught The Legal Genealogist‘s eye in this file was part of the land description when this 160-acre tract was sold.

It was land, the file disclosed, “of which the deceased was possessed by virtue of Primary School Land Certificate No. 10590.”2

And the court order granting the administrator permission to sell the land contained a transcription of that land certificate reflecting in part that:

In the name of the People of the State of Michigan, I Charles A. Edmonds, Commissioner of the State Land Office, agreeably to the provisions of law, hereby certify, That at a private sale on the twentieth day of June one thousand eight hundred and seventy one John George Arlt of Wayne County, State of Michigan, for and in consideration of the sum of six hundred and forty dollars purchased the land described as follows, that is to say, the South West Quarter of section No. sixteen in Township No. 34 North of Range No. 5 East, containing 160 acres, according to the returns of the surveyor General, at four dollars per acre. …3

Hmmm… Primary School Land … wazzat?

To understand this completely, we have to back all the way up to a law passed even before the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. It was called the Land Ordinance of 1785. Passed by the Confederation Congress, it had provisions for the survey and sale of federal lands.4

And it contained an extraordinary provision: “There shall be reserved the lot N 16, of every township, for the maintenance of public schools, within the said township…”5

In other words, federal aid to education began in 1785: the proceeds of the sale of part of federal public lands were dedicated to the support of public education — and the part that was to be used for education was Section 16 of each township surveyed.

That emphasis on education was continued in the Northwest Ordinance, the law that set the rules for the territories of the United States, some two years later, in 1787. In Article 3 of Section 14, the Ordinance emphasized that: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”6

Now in most of the new states created out of the lands covered by the Northwest Ordinance, the funds for the school lands went to the townships — the local governments — for the support of the schools.7

But not in Michigan.

When Michigan finally ended its border dispute with Ohio and got itself admitted to the Union, it managed to secure one thing other states didn’t get: control of the school lands. One of the set of statutes passed admitting Michigan as a state provided that “section numbered sixteen in every township of the public lands … shall be granted to the State for the use of schools.”8

So in Michigan it was the State that had control of the school lands — and its earliest documents reflect the establishment of a Superintendent of Public Instruction as a constitutional officer.9

And that’s how it came to be that the State Land Office had 160 acres of section 16 in Township 34 north Range 5 east to designate as Primary School Land and to sell it to George Arlt in 1871.

Federal public lands, yes, but dedicated to the State … for primary schools.


SOURCES

  1. Report of Sale of Real Estate, Presque Isle County, Michigan, Probate Packet No. 10, George Arlt, Deceased (9 June 1883); Probate Court Clerk, Rodgers City, Michigan; digital images, “Michigan, Probate Records, 1797-1973,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 6 May 2015).
  2. Report of Sale of Real Estate, Presque Isle County, Michigan, Probate Packet No. 10, George Arlt, Deceased (9 June 1883).
  3. Administrator’s License to Sell Real Estate, Presque Isle County, Michigan, Probate Packet No. 10, George Arlt, Deceased (9 April 1883); Probate Court Clerk, Rodgers City, Michigan; digital images, “Michigan, Probate Records, 1797-1973,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 6 May 2015).
  4. “An Ordinance for ascertaining the mode of disposing of Lands in the Western Territory,” 28 Journals of the Continental Congress 375, 378 (Washington D.C. : Government Printing Office, 1936); digital images, “A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875,” Library of Congress, American Memory (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html : accessed 6 May 2015).
  5. Ibid.
  6. “An Ordinance for the government of the territory of the United States North West of the river Ohio,” 32 Journals of the Continental Congress 334, 340 (Washington D.C. : Government Printing Office, 1936); digital images, “A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875,” Library of Congress, American Memory (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html : accessed 6 May 2015).
  7. For a good explanation of this system in Ohio, for example, see George W. Knepper, The Official Ohio Lands Book (Columbus, Ohio: Auditor of State, 2002), 56-58; PDF version (https://ohioauditor.gov/publications/OhioLandsBook.pdf : accessed 6 May 2015).
  8. “An Act supplementary to the act entitled ‘An act to establish the northern boundary line of the State of Ohio, and to provide for the admission of the State of Michigan into the Union on certain conditions,’” 5 Stat. 59 (23 June 1836).
  9. See Article X, Constitution of Michigan, 1835; Michigan Legislature (http://www.legislature.mi.gov/ : accessed 6 May 2015).
Posted in Legal definitions, Primary Law, Statutes | 5 Comments

Avoiding conflicts of interest

It is all too common a story in the records of the 1860s and 1870s.

A story of some lives cut short, other lives changed forever.

BattlesIt’s a story that begins to be told in the records of a very young family on the 1860 census in St. Clair County, Alabama. The husband and father, Isaac Battles, a shirt-tail cousin to The Legal Genealogist, was just 21; his wife Malissa was 25; and their son Andrew was nine months old.1

A daughter would be added to the family in 1863,2 but there would be no more children born to Isaac and Malissa after Samantha joined the family.

Because something terrible was about to engulf this small Alabama family. The Civil War hit hard in this area of Alabama, and split families deeply between north and south. And Isaac went off to fight for the north.

On the 8th of December, 1863, at the age of 23, this farm boy from Alabama joined Company K of the 3rd Tennessee Cavalry Regiment. He was taken prisoner at Sulphur Trestle, Alabama, in September 1864,3 and was one of the men placed about a steamer in April of 1865 to be transferred from southern prison camps to the north.

The steamer was the Sultana.

Which made it only seven miles north of Memphis, Tennessee, before it exploded, burned and sank on 27 April 1865, killing roughly 1,700 men,4 including Isaac Battles. His final military record shows that he was “Killed or drowned by the explosion of Str Sultana.”5

By 1870, Malissa had remarried, and she and her Battles children were recorded under the surname of her new husband, Thomas William Painter.6 Andrew was shown as 10, Samantha as 7.

Neither of the Battles children was enumerated with Malissa and her husband and their children in 1880.7 Andrew was age 20, married and father of a new baby.8 Samantha’s whereabouts aren’t clear.

But something else was going on between those censuses. In March 1877, the two children — by then both over the age of 14 — asked the court to appoint their mother Melissa Painter as their guardian.9 The reason was simple: they were entitled to a federal pension as the minor heirs of a Civil War casualty.

The records that result provide a couple of really neat details at a time when birth records for this part of Alabama are few and far between: the boy Andrew turned 16 on 13 October 1875, making his birthdate 13 October 1859; and the girl Samantha turned 16 on 15 February 1879, making her birthdate 15 February 1863.

Their mother, acting as their guardian, made application for them to receive the benefit as their father’s heirs, and as guardian received the pension money and was required to account to the court for it.

And then there’s that one additional document. On the 12th of June 1880, John H. Walker of Etowah County, Alabama, was appointed guardian ad litem for Andrew Jackson and Samanetha E. Battles, children of Isaac Battles, deceased.

The form filed with the court by Walker stated that he accepted the appointment of guardian ad litem for the minors to “represent and protect their interests upon the hearing of the above application of Malissa J. Painter, guardian, for partial settlement of estate of said minors.”

What was that about?

Black’s Law Dictionary defines a guardian ad litem as a “guardian appointed by a court of justice to prosecute or defend for an infant in any suit to which he may be a party. … Most commonly appointed for infant defendants; infant plaintiffs generally suing by next friend. This kind of guardian has no right to interfere with the infant’s person or property.”10

The most common reason for the appointment of a guardian ad litem is the possibility that there could be a conflict between the regular guardian and the minor heirs. Any time an appointment is made ad litem it’s for a particular action, and to avoid the potential of a conflict of interest — where somebody like the guardian in this case might be tempted to take advantage of his or her position.

It’s a device to ensure that the person who’s getting the ad litem representation — the minor heirs in this case — have independent representation separate and apart from the guardian who — in this case — was trying to settle up with them.

And, in fact, there was a dispute in this case, between the mother as guardian and the daughter and her new husband, whom she married between 1880 and 1881. The dispute was submitted by both sides to a panel of arbitrators, who split the amount in dispute in half and awarded roughly half to the daughter and her husband and half to the mother.

Ad litem. “For the suit; for the purposes of the suit; pending the suit.”11


SOURCES

  1. 1860 U.S. census, St. Clair County, Alabama, Twp. 12, Range 4E, population schedule, pp. 127(A-B) (stamped), dwelling 218, family 216, Isaac Battles household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 May 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 23.
  2. Etowah County, Alabama, Probate Case File B-2-8, Battles, Box 2, Folder 90; digital images, “Alabama Estate Files, 1830-1976,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 5 May 2015).
  3. Isaac Battles, Pvt., Co. K, 3rd Tennessee Cavalry; Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Tennessee, NARA M395, 200 rolls (Washington, D.C. : National Archives and Records Service, 1963); digital images, Fold3 (http://www.Fold3.com : accessed 5 May 2015), roll 22, Isaac Battles file.
  4. See generally Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com), “Sultana (steamboat),” rev. 1 May 2015.
  5. Isaac Battles, Casualty Sheet; CMSR, Fold3 Isaac Battles file.
  6. 1870 U.S. census, Etowah County, Alabama, Twp. 12, Range 4, population schedule, p. 249(B) (stamped), dwelling/family 77, T. W. Painter household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 May 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication M593, roll 16.
  7. 1880 U.S. census, Etowah County, Alabama, area, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 68, p. 341(D) (stamped), dwelling 75, family 76, Thomas Painter household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 May 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 13.
  8. Ibid., dwell. 70, fam. 71, Andrew J. Battles household.
  9. Guardianship appointment, Etowah County, Alabama, Probate Case File B-2-8, Battles, Box 2, Folder 90; digital images, “Alabama Estate Files, 1830-1976,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 5 May 2015).
  10. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 551, “guardian ad litem.”
  11. Ibid., 33, “ad litem.”
Posted in Legal definitions | 9 Comments

Happy Cinco de Mayo

Today is Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, celebrating the defeat of the French Army at the Battle of Puebla in Mexico in 1862. That wasn’t the end of the war with the French — they weren’t out of Mexico until 1867 — but it was a good start.

Pen on calendar page closeupIt’s “seen as a day to celebrate the culture, achievements and experiences of people with a Mexican background, who live in the United States”1 — and it is not an official holiday, anywhere.

Yesterday, on the other hand, the fourth of May, was Rhode Island Independence Day. It marks the passage of an act by the Rhode Island colonial legislature declaring Rhode Island an independent state on May 4, 1776.2

And it is an official state holiday in Rhode Island, so state and municipal offices may be closed.3

Which means, of course, that today would be just dandy as a day to set out to do research, except maybe you’d want to watch out for parades and street events in areas celebrating Cinco de Mayo. And yesterday would have been a lousy day to set out to do research in Rhode Island, but perfectly fine everywhere else.

So… what other gotchas are waiting out there, ready to catch us unaware when we set out to research?

The Legal Genealogist has already written about federal holidays and how — and when — they came to be, in “The law of holidays.”4 So we won’t revisit those. But state holidays… oh my there are a lot of those…

Here’s the list, according to TimeandDate.com:

Alabama:

• Robert E. Lee’s Birthday, state holiday celebrated January 19 or on the Monday of the federal Martin Luther King Day holiday.

• Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras, last day before Lent (some counties only).

• Confederate Memorial Day, fourth Monday in April.

• Jefferson Davis Birthday, first Monday in June.

Alaska:

• Seward’s Day, last Monday in March.

• Alaksa Day, October 18 (or closest business day to that date).

Arizona:

• Civil Rights Day, third Monday in January, in conjunctionm with Martin Luther King Day.

Arkansas:

• Robert E. Lee’s Birthday, state holiday celebrated January 19 or on the Monday of the federal Martin Luther King Day holiday.

• Daisy Gatson Bates Day, third Monday in February, with Washington’s Birthday.

California:

• Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12.

• César Chávez Day, March 31.

Connecticut:

• Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12.

• Good Friday, last Friday before Easter.

Delaware:

• Good Friday, last Friday before Easter.

District of Columbia:

• Emancipation Day, April 16.

Florida:

• Robert E. Lee’s Birthday, state holiday (but not paid holiday for state workers) celebrated January 19 or on the Monday of the federal Martin Luther King Day holiday.

• Good Friday, last Friday before Easter.

• Confederate Memorial Day, fourth Monday in April.

Georgia:

• Robert E. Lee’s Birthday, state holiday celebrated January 19 or on the Monday of the federal Martin Luther King Day holiday.

• Confederate Memorial Day, fourth Monday in April.

Hawaii:

• Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Day, or Prince Kuhio Day, March 26.

• Good Friday, last Friday before Easter.

• Kamehameha Day, June 11.

• Statehood Day, third Friday in August.

Idaho:

• Human Rights Day, January 19, in conjunctionm with Martin Luther King Day.

Illinois:

• Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12.

• Casimir Pulaski Day, first Monday in March.

Indiana:

• Good Friday, last Friday before Easter.

• Lincoln’s Day, Friday after Thanksgiving.

• Primary Election Day, first Tuesday after first Monday in May in odd-numbered years.

Kentucky:

• Good Friday, last Friday before Easter.

Louisiana:

• Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras, last day before Lent.

• Good Friday, last Friday before Easter.

Maine:

• Patriot’s Day, third Monday in April.

Maryland:

• American Indian Heritage Day, Friday after Thanksgiving.

Massachusetts:

• Evacuation Day, March 17.

• Patriot’s Day, third Monday in April.

• Bunker Hill Day, only in Suffolk County, June 17.

Mississippi:

• Robert E. Lee’s Birthday, state holiday celebrated January 19 or on the Monday of the federal Martin Luther King Day holiday.

Missouri:

• Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12.

• Truman Day, on or about May 8.

Nebraska:

• Arbor Day, last Friday in April.

Nevada:

• Nevada Day, last Friday of October.

New Hampshire:

• Civil Rights Day, third Monday in January, in conjunctionm with Martin Luther King Day.

New Jersey:

• Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12.

• Good Friday, last Friday before Easter.

New Mexico:

• President’s Day, Friday after Thanksgiving.

New York:

• Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12.

North Carolina:

• Good Friday, last Friday before Easter.

• Confederate Memorial Day, May 10 (May 11 if May 10 is a Sunday).

North Dakota:

• Good Friday, last Friday before Easter.

Pennsylvania:

• Good Friday, last Friday before Easter.

Rhode Island:

• Rhode Island Independence Day, May 4.

• Victory Day, second Monday of August.

South Carolina:

• Confederate Memorial Day, May 10.

Tennessee:

• Good Friday, last Friday before Easter.

Texas:

• Confederate Heroes Day, January 19.

• Texas Independence Day, March 2.

• Good Friday, last Friday before Easter.

• San Jacinto Day, April 21.

• Emancipation Day, June 19.

Utah:

• Pioneer Day, July 24.

Vermont:

• Town Meeting Day, first Tuesday of March.

• Bennington Battle Day, August 16 (or preceding Friday if a Saturday).

Virginia:

• Lee-Jackson Day, state holiday celebrated on the Friday before the federal Martin Luther King Day holiday, honoring both Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

West Virginia:

• Lincoln’s Day, Friday after Thanksgiving.

• West Virginia Day, June 20 (June 21, if June 20 is a Sunday).

So…. what did we miss?


SOURCES

  1. Cinco de Mayo in the United States,” Time and Date (http://www.timeanddate.com : accessed 4 May 2015).
  2. Phoebe Bean, “Happy R.I. Independence Day!,” A Lively Experiment blog, posted 4 May 2015, Rhode Island Historical Society (https://rihs.wordpress.com/ : accessed 4 May 2015).
  3. Rhode Island Independence Day in the United States,” Time and Date (http://www.timeanddate.com : accessed 4 May 2015).
  4. Judy G. Russell, “The law of holidays,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 18 Feb 2013 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 4 May 2015).
Posted in General | 32 Comments