More stories in the statute books

It was, there can be no doubt, a major feat in civil engineering for its time.

StormKingRunning along the Hudson River in the highlands of Storm King Mountain, the Storm King Highway — a roughly three-mile-long segment of road between the towns of Cornwall-on-Hudson and Highlands in Orange County, New York — wasn’t an easy build.

First of all, it was expensive: the 1913 plan for the highway ran to more than the New York Highway Commission had available. Just to lay out the route for the highway, “surveyors sometimes had to rappel down the mountain’s cliffs to mark the route.” The first contractor chosen to build it went belly-up in a bankruptcy; the second one ran into labor troubles when all the available workmen went off into World War I.1

But when the highway was finally opened to vehicular traffic in 1922, it dramatically shortened the driving distances for residents of the area, and particularly those who worked at the United States Military Academy. And the achievement stood the test of time well enough that the Storm King Highway was “added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 in recognition of its accomplishment in civil engineering.”2

Now that’s a neat little story — and one a genealogist might want to add to a family history if we had folks from those areas in the years leading up to and just after World War I.

But how would we know, today, that this was such a big deal for the people of that time and place?

You already know the answer.

Because you’ve been coming along with The Legal Genealogist this week on a trip through the laws of New York as we look to this Saturday’s spring seminar of the Orange County Genealogical Society at the Goshen United Methodist Church. (Come on out and join us!)

And, it turns out, that’s where you can find out that the town of Cornwall in Orange County was wildly enthusiastic about the opening of the highway — and wanted to celebrate in style. But it didn’t quite have the legal authority to spend money on that sort of thing. It had to go to the Legislature, and so, on the 11th of April 1922, with the approval of the Governor, a bill became law in New York:

The town board of the town of Cornwall, Orange county, at any regular or special meeting, may appropriate not more than five thousand dollars for the purpose of assisting in defraying the expense incident to the celebration in such town of the opening of the Hudson river highway, sometimes known as the Storm King highway, and sometimes known as route number three, from West Point to Cornwall. The money appropriated for such purpose shall be a town charge and shall be assessed, levied and collected the same as other town expenses, and shall be expended under the direction of the town board.3

Of course, there’s more to the story. And doing nothing but reading the law books isn’t going to tell the whole tale.

As would any good genealogist, we’d go to other sources for the whole picture, including the newspapers of the day.

That’s where, for example, we’d find out about the addition of lands to the Palisades Interstate Park of 800 acres along the highway by Dr. Ernest G. Stillman that same year — an act that “puts the Storm King Highway for that distance entirely within park lands.”4

And — sigh — it’s also where we’d find out that the opening didn’t quite go as planned:

Definite announcement has been made at Albany that the Storm King highway which was to have been opened for traffic this summer, will not be opened until next year. Because a contract for a piece of road connecting the new highway with the Cornwall road is to be let soon, it would be impossible for throngs attending the proposed opening celebration to even see the Storm King highway. There is no possible detour at that spot.

The 1922 legislature authorized the appropriation by Corwall of $5,000 to stage the opening celebration on July 4. Subsequently Cornwall, Newburgh and other communities developed a contest to see where the celebration should be staged. It had not been decided by the time the celebration was called off.5

Fortunately, that’s where we can also find out that it didn’t take quite as long as the Highway Department feared: on September 24th, the highway was finally opened to the public. The New York Times reported:

CORNWALL, N.Y., Sept. 24–For the first time since it was completed the new Storm King State Highway, which was blasted through the cliffs on the face of Storm King Mountain in Cornwall, was opened to the public today and hundreds of automobiles passed over it in a few hours.

The rush of automobilists who wished to ride over the fine boulevard on the opening day was so great that Chief of Police William Fee of the Palisades Interstate Park force assigned four patrolmen to regulate traffic.

The new highway, which took seven years to build and cost the State altogether $1,500,000, is regarded as a great feat of engineering. …6

It’s a fun story, for sure… and, of course, like most stories, not one that can be told only from the law books.

But this genealogist, for one, wouldn’t have known there was a story there at all without reading the law books.

Just sayin’ …


SOURCES

Image: Storm King Highway and the historic Hudson River (Newburgh, N.Y. : J. Ruben, 19??); digital images, Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org : accessed 27 Apr 2016).

  1. Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com), “Storm King Highway,” rev. 22 Jan 2016.
  2. Ibid.
  3. An Act to authorize the town board of the town of Cornwall, Orange county, to make an appropriation for assisting in defraying the expense of the celebration in such town of the opening of the Hudson river highway, 11 April 1922, Chapter 554 in Laws of the State of New York, … 1922, Vols. I-II (Albany: State Printers, 1922), 1281; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 27 Apr 2016).
  4. “Gives 800 Acres to the Palisades,” New York Evening World, 27 July 1922, p.3, col. 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 Apr 2016).
  5. “Storm King’s Fete Delayed,” Poughkeepsie (New York) Eagle-News, 17 June 1922, p. 5, col. 6; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 Apr 2016).
  6. “Storm King Highway Open,” The New York Times, 25 September 1922, p. 14, col. 7; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 27 Apr 2016).
Posted in Resources, Statutes | Leave a comment

More than wolves and panthers

So you’re sitting there wondering if The Legal Genealogist is going to spend the whole week looking just at the laws of Orange County, New York.

PigIn fact, I may very well do just that, as I get ready for this Saturday’s spring seminar of the Orange County Genealogical Society at the Goshen United Methodist Church. (Come out and join us!)

Because, you see, not only is it true that Orange County is a very old and very interesting colonial county — Orange County is also a very old and very interesting and very typical colonial county. The conditions its people faced were the conditions that most early colonists faced, both north and south of what became the Mason-Dixon line.

The people there were farmers, carving a life out of the wilderness on the frontier of the New World.

And those beasties — theirs and the ones that endangered both their animals and their families — were very much on their minds, as reflected in the laws of the day.

Yesterday we talked about the predators — the wolves and the panthers (eastern cougars) that were so feared by the settlers that they paid bounties to eliminate them. And eliminate them they did: wolves haven’t even been reported in more than isolated cases in New York in decades and the eastern cougar is considered to be extinct.1

But wolves and panthers weren’t the only four-leggedy beasties that drew the attention of the legislators on behalf of the colonists and settlers and residents of Orange County.

No, as early as 1683, there was a problem with pigs and a law was passed by the Provincial Legislature:

Whereas we have found by dayly Experience Thatt Swine are Creatures that occasion trouble and difference amoug Neighbours and rather prejudiciall than beneficiall to the Province while they have liberty to run att randome in the woods or Townes, they being so obstructive to the raising of Corne in the Province and spoiling the meadows in the respective towns; Bee itt therefore Enacted by the Govern’r Councell & Representatives in Generall Assembly and by the Authority of the same thatt no Inhabitant or Freeholder within this Province and throughout the same Except in ye Colonie off Renseleurs Wicke shall or may Keep any Swine small or great butt whatt hee or they shall keep within their own Land and fence or att least secured by the Owners thereof from tresspessing on their Neighbours and if auy shall be found att liberty, in the streets meadows, or upon any other mans fenced or Inclosed lands after the first day of March next ensuing the date hereof, itt shall be lawfull for any one so finding them, or meeting with them, to kill them or take them up; One third part of such swine, shall go to the Use of the person who shall Kill or take up the same, & the other two thirds to the Constable of the towne or place thatt shall take the same into his Custody, being only accountable to answer one penny pr. pound, or one half of the said two thirds, to bee disposed for the publique use of the Towne.2.

Pretty strict, huh? So strict that, two years later, it was repealed: “by reason of the Strickness thereof It hath been found very prejudiciall and of ill consequence to the Inhabitants of this province…”3 That law left the issue of pigs running loose to the locals.

But by 1708, a specific law providing that “no Swine small or great shall or do run at Liberty in the streets Meadows or undivided or Comon Land or within their Neighbours Feilds or Enclosures upon any pretence or Execuse whatsoever” was passed for the benefit of residents of West Chester, Queens and Richmond Counties, who were allowed to capture and impound any stray beasties and to sell them if not redeemed by the owner on payment of fees and a fine.4 And, in 1722, that act to prevent was extended to include Orange County.5

In 1728, a specific law to prevent damage by swine in Tappan was passed because “Several of the Inhabitants within the Precinct of Tappan and the places contiguous thereto have been and Still are very negligent and remiss about their Swine in Suffering them to go at large without any manner of care or restraint So that they often get into the Neighbouring Cornfields Orchards Gardens and other Inclosures and there doe considerable hurt and damage.”6 That law was continued in 1731.7

In 1735, the lawmakers addressed the need to prevent damage by swine in Goshen, again because “Several of the Inhabitants within the Precinct of Goshen & Places Contiguous thereto, Have been & Still are Very Negligent and Remiss about their Swine in Suffering them to go at Large without any manner of Care or Restraint; So that they often git into the Neighbours Corn Fields Orchards Gardens & other Inclosures and there do Considerable hurt & Damage.”8

But by 1737, the Legislature gave up trying to single out specific areas, and passed an act to prevent swine running at large in all of Orange County.9

And — as if that wasn’t enough — as of 1730, the residents of Orange and other counties weren’t just having to protect themselves and their livestock from wolves. They also had problems with “mischivious Dogs” which, “whenever they take to the Killing of Sheep doe prove more hurtfull and Distructive to Sheep than even Wolves themselves to the Great Damage of the Owner or Owners of Sheep…”10

None of these statutes specifically names any of our ancestors who may have lived in Orange County or the areas surrounding Orange. But each of them tells us something about our ancestors who lived there, doesn’t it? Each tells us about changing conditions, about the animals — and the crops — that were important at the time, about the problems that they faced when enough people started living near each other that their animals started bothering other people’s property.

Four-leggedy beasties were a major part of our ancestors’ lives, and the laws by themselves tell a good bit of that part of their story.


SOURCES

Image: Adapted from St. Nicholas, An Illustrated Magazine 48 (May-Oct 1921): 1003; digital images, Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org : accessed 26 Apr 2016).]

  1. See Judy G. Russell, “Cry wolf,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 26 Apr 2016 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 27 Apr 2016).
  2. “An Act to prevent Damages done (by) Swine,” 1 November 1683, in The Colonial Laws of New York from the Year 1664 to the Revolution (Albany: State Printer, 1894), I: 134; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 26 Apr 2016)
  3. “A bill Concerning Swine,” 19 November 1685, in ibid., I: 177.
  4. “AN ACT to prevent Damages by Swine in the County of West Chester, Queens County & the County of Richmond,” 18 September 1708, in ibid., I: 616.
  5. “An Act … to prevent Damages by Swine…,” 7 July 1722, in ibid., II: 95.
  6. “An Act to prevent damages by Swine in the precinct of Tappan and Some other parts contiguous thereto in the County of Orange,” 20 September 1728, in ibid., II: 468.
  7. “An Act to Continue an Act Entituled An Act to prevent Damages by Swine in the presinck of Tappan and some other parts Contiguous thereto in the County of Orange,” 30 September 17312, in ibid., II: 704.
  8. “An Act to prevent Damages by Swine in the Precinct of Goshan & Some other parts Contiguous thereto in the County of Orange,” 8 November 1735, in ibid., II: 916.
  9. “An Act to prevent Damages by Swine in the County of Orange & Some parts of Ulster County, and for repealing all other Acts concerning the Same within the Said County of Orange,” 16 December 1737, in ibid., II: 992.
  10. “An Act to prevent the Destruction of Sheep by Dogs in the City and County of Albany the County of West Chester the County of Suffolk Queens County Kings County Richmond County and Orange County,” 29 October 1730, in ibid., II: 667.
Posted in Resources, Statutes | 6 Comments

The bounty laws

There is a story in every statute book… and sometimes in every statute.

Like the story of the beasties of Orange County.

Orange County, New York, is where The Legal Genealogist will be this Saturday, April 30, at the spring seminar of the Orange County Genealogical Society at the Goshen United Methodist Church.

(And yep, there should still be a space or two for walk-ins, so come on out and join us.)

And the people of Orange County had their hands full with beasties in the early days of the county’s history.

You don’t need to find a history of the county to know that there were terrible depredations by wolves in that part of New York when it was still the Province of New York. You don’t need to find a family diary or a letter or a manuscript by an ancestor. You can know, sure as you’re sitting there, that wolves were a real and present threat to any ancestor of yours who lived in Orange County.

And you can find that story in the statute books.

On the 21st of July 1715, the Provincial Legislature passed a law:

WHEREAS the Inhabitants of the County of Orange in this Colony Suffer great Losses in their Stocks, both of Sheep and Neat Cattle by the increase of Wolves in the said County. For preventing which, and Encouraging those who shall destroy Wolves in the said County BE IT Enacted by his Excellency the Govern’r Council and General Assembly, And by the Authority of the same, That every person or persons inhabiting in the said County who shall kill any Wolf, and carry the head of it to any Justice of the Peace, such Justice of the Peace shall give him or them a Certificate to the Treasurer of the said County, who upon sight thereof shall pay to the Person inhabiting in the said County as aforesaid, the Sum of four Shillings and Six pence Current mony of this Colony, and to any Indian or Slave so killing any Wolf, & bringing such Certificate as aforesaid, the Sum of Three Shillings money aforesaid.1.

“Neat cattle,” by the way, are cows or oxen, not just cows.2

WolfWolves were still a problem in 1726, and the bounty on wolves was raised to six shillings for every Person or persons, whither he be A Christian Indian or a Negroe inhabiting or Sojourning there.3 It was continued for another two years at the rate of four shillings by a 1728 statute,4 and then replaced with a standard rate for all affected counties of 12 shillings for a grown wolf and six shillings for every wolf under a year old in 1732.5

Now you might think that would be enough of an incentive, but it wasn’t enough to wipe out the wolf problem. And, as a matter of fact, you will find that another beastie started to be enough of a problem by 1740 that it too had to be addressed by way of a bounty. That was the year that the bounty went up to 15 shillings for an adult and eight shillings for a young wolf in Orange and Ulster Counties6 — and the same was offered as a bounty in neighboring Dutchess County on panthers (another name for the probably-extinct Eastern cougar or puma7

More statutes were passed with bounties on wolves and panthers — and in Orange County too — in 1742,8 1743,9 174810 1753,11 and 1759.12

Didn’t work. As of 1762, the statute said that the “former Reward for Destroying of Wolves … hath by Experience not been found sufficient,” and the bounty in Orange County was upped to 30 shillings for a grown wolf and 15 shillings for a young wolf.13 It didn’t mention panthers. In 1764, panthers were added back and, to protect the pocketbooks of the taxpayers, anybody claiming the reward had to swear he was a resident and had killed the animal in the county.14.

It still wasn’t enough. In 1768, the bounty raised to three pounds for every adult animal and 30 shillings for every young one.15 That bounty act was continued in 1775.16

New Yorkers were too busy with enemies of the two-legged kind to pass any laws dealing with four-leggedy beasties again until 1783, when the new State of New York passed a statewide bounty — 40 shillings for every grown wolf or panther and 20 shillings for every animal under a year old.17 But the law — in one form or another — stayed on the books. And stayed. And stayed.

The last wolf was killed in New York around 189718 and last panther a few years before that.19 The last bounty? It was paid in May of 1884.20

It’s been a long time since people were so very afraid of wolves and panthers.

But we would already have known that.

Because we know there’s a story in every statute book… and sometimes in every statute.

We just need to spend the time to read it.


SOURCES

  1. “An Act for the Destroying Wolves in the County of Orange,” 21 July 1715, in The Colonial Laws of New York from the Year 1664 to the Revolution (Albany: State Printer, 1894), I: 878; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 25 Apr 2016)
  2. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 805, “neat cattle.”
  3. “An Act for destroying Wolves in the County of Albany Dutchess County and Orange County,” 11 November 1726, in The Colonial Laws of New York from the Year 1664 to the Revolution, II: 346.
  4. “An Act to Continue an Act Entituled An Act for destroying Wolves in the County of Albany Dutchess County and Orange County…,” 31 August 1728, in ibid., II: 422.
  5. “An Act to Encourage the Destroying of wolves in the County of Albany, Ulster County, Orange County, Dutchess County and the County of West Chester,” 14 October 1732, in ibid., II: 750-752.
  6. “An Act to Encourage the Distroying of Wolves & Panthers in Dutchess County, and of Wolves in Ulster and Orange Counties,” 3 November 1740, in ibid., III: 74.
  7. Ibid. And see “Eastern Cougar,” Northeast Region, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (http://www.fws.gov/northeast/ : accessed 25 Apr 2016).
  8. “An Act to Encourage the Distroying of Wolves and Panthers in the Counties of Ulster, Dutchess & Orange,” 29 October 1742, in The Colonial Laws of New York from the Year 1664 to the Revolution, III: 270.
  9. “An Act for Lessening the Reward for Killing & Distroying of Wolves & Panthers in the County of Orange,” 17 December 1743, in ibid., III: 335.
  10. “An Act to Continue an Act Entitled an Act to Encourage the Destroying of Wolves and Panthers in the Counties of Ulster, Dutchess & Orange…,” 12 November 1748, in ibid., III: 744.
  11. “An Act to revive and further continue an Act Entituled an Act for the destroying of Wolves and Panthers in the Counties of Ulster, Dutchess & Orange,” 12 December 1753, in ibid., III: 992.
  12. “An Act further to Continue an Act Entitled an Act to for the destroying of Wolves and Panthers in the Counties of Ulster, Dutchess & Orange,” 24 December 1759, in ibid., IV: 392.
  13. “An Act for the more Effectual Destroying of Wolves in the County of Orange,” 11 December 1762, in ibid., Iv: 682.
  14. “An Act for the more Effectual Destroying of Wolves and Panthers in the Counties of Ulster, Dutchess and Orange,” 26 October 1764, in ibid., IV: 812.
  15. “An Act to amend an Act, entitled an Act for the more effectual destroying of Wolves and Panthers in the Counties of Ulster, Dutchess & Orange,” 31 December 1768, in ibid., IV: 1059.
  16. “An Act to encourage the destroying of Wolves and Panthers in the Counties of Albany, Ulster, Orange and Dutchess,” 1 April 1775, in ibid., V: 774.
  17. “An Act to encourage the destroying of wolves and panthers,” 4 March 1783, in The Laws of the State New York… (Albany: Weed Parsons & Co., Printers, 1894), I: 534; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 25 Apr 2016).
  18. See “Wolf Tracks: A Summary of Gray Wolf Activities and Issues,” May 1999, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (https://www.fws.gov/ : accessed 25 Apr 2016).
  19. See “Eastern Cougar Sightings,” New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (http://www.dec.ny.gov/ : accessed 25 Apr 2016).
  20. See David E. Lantz, Laws Relating to Fur-Bearing Animals, 1918, Farmers Bulletin 1022, U.S. Department of Agriculture (Washington, D.C. : Govt. Printing Office, 1918), 16; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 25 Apr 2016).
Posted in Statutes | 8 Comments

Fixing the county lines

Genealogy trivia time.

Here’s the question:

When was the last time the borders of Orange County, New York, were fixed?

The Legal Genealogist wanted to know, because this weekend is the spring seminar of the Orange County Genealogical Society at the Goshen United Methodist Church.

OrangeCoFriday night is the roast beef dinner with R. J. Smith presenting “Postcards of the Hudson Valley,” and all day Saturday we’re going to have some fun with the law and methodology and DNA and more. (There’s still room for a couple of walk-ins Saturday — come on out and join us!)

So…

Got an answer to the trivia question?

Here’s the question again:

When was the last time the borders of Orange County, New York, were fixed?

You might have looked at AniMap, that wonderful program from the GoldBug Company, and concluded that the very last time the boundaries changed was 1800. That’s when, the program will tell you, Rockland County gained a little bit of territory from Orange County.1

Maybe you went to the FamilySearch Wiki, which will tell you that “Orange was one of the original New York counties formed in 1683,” and then refer you to another website: “For animated maps illustrating New York County boundary changes, ‘Rotating Formation New York County Boundary Maps’ (1683-1915) may be viewed for free at the MapofUS.org website.”2 And if you do go there, you’ll find it’s a website created using AniMap.3

Wikipedia will tell you that:

Orange County was officially established on November 1, 1683, when the Province of New York was divided into twelve counties. … As originally defined, Orange County included only the southern part of its present-day territory, plus all of present-day Rockland County further south. The northern part of the present-day county, beyond Moodna Creek, was then a part of neighbouring Ulster County.

… In 1798, after the American Revolutionary War, the boundaries of Orange County changed. Its southern corner was used to create the new Rockland County, and in exchange, an area to the north of the Moodna Creek was added, which had previously been in Ulster County. …

Due to a boundary dispute between New York and New Jersey, the boundaries of many of the southern towns of the county were not definitively established until the 19th century.4

So… When was the last time the borders of Orange County, New York, were fixed?

Then again, if you read The History of Orange County, New York, it will tell you that:

ORANGE was one of the earliest counties of the State, dating back to 1683, when it was organized by a colony law. It was also one of those formed by a general act of organization in 1788, when it included the present county of Rockland, and was described as extending from the limits of East and West Jersey on the west side of the Hud son River along the river to Murderer’s Creek, or the bounds of Ulster County, and westward into the woods as far as Delaware River—that is, all that part of the state south of an easterly and westerly line from the mouth of Murderer’s Creek to the Delaware River or northerly line of Pennsylvania. In 1797 Rockland county was set off from it, and five towns from Ulster were added. Its boundaries were definitely fixed by an act of the New York legislature adopted April 3rd, 1801. …

In the winter of 1797, after much opposition to plans for changing the boundaries of Orange and Ulster Counties, two bills were agreed upon by a Convention of Delegates from the several towns interested, and these were presented to the Legislature and passed. One of them set off from Orange the present County of Rockland, and the other annexed to Orange County the towns of New Windsor, Newburgh, Wallkill, Montgomery and Deer Park, then the southern section of the county of Ulster. In 1801 a general law dividing the State into counties fixed the then somewhat undefined boundaries of Orange…5

So… When was the last time the borders of Orange County, New York, were fixed?

And how would you know?

You already know the answer.

You’d look to the law of the time and the place.

County borders are set by law — specifically, by acts of the Legislature. And in New York it was no different. Here’s how things proceeded for Orange County:

1683: The original boundaries were set in “An Act to divide this province and dependences into shires and Countyes,” passed 1 November 1683. It was “to beginne from the Limmitt(s) or bounds of East and West Jersey, on the West side of Hudson’s River, along the said River to the Murderers creeke, or bounds of the County of Ulster and Westward into the woods as farr as Delaware River.”6

1691: Because of a concern about mistakes that might arise about the limitts and bounds of the respective Countyes within this Province, a clarifying act — “An Act to Divide this Province and Dependencies into Shires and Countyes” — was passed 1 October 1691, and confirmed the 1683 boundaries.7

1701: There was still a dispute over the border between Orange and Ulster in 1701, and the towns of Wagachemeck and great and little Minissinck “are hereby Immediately annexed to the County of Ulster untill Such time that the bounds, between the Counties of Orange and Ulster shall be Settled…”8

1709: In “An Act to Determine Settle and Ascertaine the Bounds and Limits of the County of Orange,” passed 12 November 1709, Orange gained a little from Ulster County when the towns it had had taken away in 1701 were put back into its territory.9

1768: In December 1768, the Legislature needed to settle disagreements over islands lying in rivers and sounds, and it was then that the eastern border between Orange and West Chester Counties was fixed: it was the middle of the Hudson River, with “the Westermost half part of the said River from the Southermost Bounds of the County of Orange to the Northermost Bounds of the said County of Orange … included in and annexed to the said County of Orange together with all the Islands included within the said Bounds.”10

1774: In 1774, the Legislature noted that “the Line dividing the Counties of Ulster and Orange, has never been run and marked farther Westward than to the East Side of the Shawangunk Mountains, and for want of a Continuance of that Line to the Delaware River, the Jurisdiction of those Parts of the said Counties lying West of the said Mountains is uncertain and the Inhabitants thereof are frequently taxed and compelled to perform Publig Duties in both…” so it ordered a survey and the marking of the border.11

1788: The New York State Legislature re-established the counties and their borders by statute on 7 March 1788. For Orange County, its bounds and limits were “all that part of this State bounded southerly by the State of New Jersey, westerly by the State of Pennsylvania, easterly by the middle of Hudsons river, and northerly by an east and west line from the mouth of Murderer’s Creek.”12

1798: On 23 February 1798, what had been the very large county of Orange was divided, and a new county — Rockland County — came into being with all the land southward of a line designated in the enabling act. All the land north of the line was to remain in Orange County.13

1798: Five towns from Ulster County and one from Albany County were moved into Orange County in April 1798: New Windsor, Newburgh, Wallkill, Montgomery and Deer Park from Ulster, and “Cattskill” from Albany.14

1800: The dividing line set in February 1798, when Rockland County was created, was slightly altered in March of 1800 and Rockland picked up a little bit of land as a result.15

1801: The New York State Legislature re-established all the then-existing counties and fixed their borders by statute on 3 April 1801. For Orange County, its borders didn’t really change but the description sure did, going so far as to include specific tracts of land owned or granted to particular individuals.16

So… When was the last time the borders of Orange County, New York, were fixed?

1801.

As you surely knew… because you knew where to look … in the laws of the time and the place.


SOURCES

  1. Adrian B. Ettlinger, The AniMap County Boundary Historical Atlas, v. 3.01-rel. 2 (2010).
  2. FamilySearch Research Wiki (https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/), “Orange County, New York Genealogy,” rev. 13 Mar 2016.
  3. See “Maps of New York: Interactive Map of New York County Formation History,” Maps of US (http://www.mapofus.org/ : accessed 24 Apr 2016).
  4. Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com), “Orange County, New York,” rev. 13 Apr 2016.
  5. Russel Headley, editor, The History of Orange County, New York (Middletown, New York : Van Deusen & Elms, 1908), 17-20; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 24 Apr 2016).
  6. “An Act to divide this province and dependences into shires and Countyes,” 1 November 1683, in The Colonial Laws of New York from the Year 1664 to the Revolution (Albany: State Printer, 1894), I: 121, 122; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 24 Apr 2016).
  7. “An Act to Divide this Province and Dependencies into Shires and Countyes,” 1 October 1691, in ibid., I: 267 et seq.
  8. “An Act for the more regular proceedings in the Elections of Representatives for the Severall Cities and Counties within this province,” 18 October 1701, in ibid., I: 453-454.
  9. “An Act to Determine Settle and Ascertaine the Bounds and Limits of the County of Orange,” 12 November 1709, in ibid., I: 686.
  10. “An Act to ascertain … the Eastern Boundaries of the County of Orange…,” 31 December 1768, in ibid., IV: 1062, 1063.
  11. “An Act for running out and marking the Division Line between the Counties of Ulster and Orange, from the Easty Side of the Shawangunk Mountains to the Delaware River,” 19 March 1774, in ibid., V: 693.
  12. “An Act for dividing this State into counties,” 7 March 1788, in The Laws of the State New York… (Albany: Weed Parsons & Co., Printers, 1894), II: 746; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 24 Apr 2016).
  13. “An Act for dividing the county of Orange,” 23 February 1798, in ibid., IV: 156-158.
  14. “An Act for altering the bounds of the counties of Orange, Ulster & Albany,” 5 April 1798, in ibid., IV: 273-275.
  15. “An Act to alter the division line bwteen the counties of Orange and Rockland,” 21 March 1800, in ibid., IV: 493-494.
  16. “An Act to divide this State into counties,” 3 April 1801, in ibid., V: 290, 292.
Posted in Resources, Statutes | 1 Comment

The lure of DNA

So The Legal Genealogist picked up some new cousins this week.

Well, not exactly new, of course, but newly discovered, thanks to DNA.

One is Gary. He lives in Texas, and he’s a third cousin once removed. His second great grandparents — and my third great grandparents — were Daniel and Margaret (Battles) Shew of Cherokee County, Alabama.

And Gary was kind enough to agree to DNA testing.

His results are now fully in — and they’re both frustrating and delightful.

shew.treeFrustrating, because we had some hopes of a clear-cut YDNA answer to the origins of our first-known ancestor Phillip Shew of Guilford and Wilkes Counties, North Carolina — and we didn’t get that. He’s not a YDNA match to pair of cousins who appear to have a good paper trail back to a German settlement in Pennsylvania. We’re going to have to do more work on trying to trace Philip’s origins.

Delightful, because his autosomal DNA results are just what we would have expected given the paper trail research. He matches my grandmother’s first cousin (his second cousin once removed), he matches both of my uncles and both of my aunts who’ve tested and their first cousin (his third cousins), he matches my first cousin, my brother, my sister and me (his fourth cousins).

And, thanks to Gary’s willingness to be DNA-tested, we’ve picked up cousin David. He also lives in Texas, and he’s a fourth cousin to me and a second cousin once removed to Gary. We’ve already started sharing information about our common ancestors and hope to be able to fill in some gaps for each other in our research.

Gary and David both match Anne, who’s a double-cousin (Daniel’s brother Simon married Margaret’s sister Sarah and Anne descends from that Simon-Sarah marriage). And they both match another cousin who descends from Margaret’s and Sarah’s sister Hattie Elizabeth who married Jesse Cranford.

Lovely stuff.

And it’s not enough.

Because everyone whose paper-trail research I’m familiar with so far is either only on the Battles side … or a descendant of one of those Battles-Shew double marriages.

Nobody, yet, whose paper-trail research is solidly — and exclusively — on the Shew side.

That frustratingly elusive Shew side where we didn’t get the YDNA match we were hoping for.

Except… except… except…

There’s a bunch of folks who match some of my kits… and who match Gary … or who match David … or who match some of my kits and Gary and David.

And they’re not on the Battles side at all.

They’re solidly North Carolinians… Wilkes and Guilford Counties, to be precise … with Shew in their list of ancestral surnames.

Now this may not be the easiest path to take here. Phillip might be the most recent common ancestor — and he’s a fair distance in the past. He was born c1750, and we’re not sure where he was before he showed up on the census in Guilford County, North Carolina, in 1790.1 He was in Wilkes County, North Carolina, by 1810,2 and still there in 18203 and 1830.4 His will was proved in the Wilkes County court in the October term 1832.5

Autosomal DNA punks out after a number of generations because of the way it combines and recombines in every generation, with the amount of shared DNA dropping with each generation that passes from the common ancestor.6

It’s not impossible, however, since autosomal DNA can persist in segments that seem to stick around from generation to generation — and since we do have a number of generations represented. My grandmother’s cousin Thelma is a third great granddaughter, for example, and anyone else in her generation would be a fourth cousin with a 50% chance of having an autosomal DNA match.7

So — never satisfied — we’re off to contact those Shew descendants from North Carolina. To see how — and if — their paper trail and ours comes together.

And if that doesn’t work… and maybe even if it does … there’s always the chance of getting a Shew-only match with a descendant of one of Daniel’s siblings who didn’t marry a Battles. And there are some: brother John had descendants who were in Arkansas, and there are two half-brothers (William Boston Shew and Jefferson David Shew) who both left descendants we can try to track down.

Nope. Never satisfied. There’s just too much out there than DNA can help us find…


SOURCES

  1. 1790 U.S. census, Guilford County, North Carolina, p. 505 (penned), col. 1, line 17, Philip Shoe; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 July 2002); citing National Archive microfilm publication M637, roll 7.
  2. 1810 U.S. census, Wilkes County, North Carolina, p. 865 (penned), line 10, Phillip Shew; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 July 2002); citing National Archive microfilm publication M252, roll 43.
  3. 1820 U.S. census, Wilkes County, North Carolina, population schedule, p. 530 (stamped), Phillip Shew; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 August 2002); citing National Archive microfilm publication M33, roll 83.
  4. 1830 U.S. census, Wilkes County, North Carolina, p. 383 (stamped), Phillip Shew; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 July 2002); citing National Archive microfilm publication M19, roll 125.
  5. Wilkes County, North Carolina, Will Book 4:159; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.
  6. See e.g. Judy G. Russell, “Looking at recombination,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 10 Nov 2013 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 23 Apr 2016).
  7. See Ibid., “Time to MRCA,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 22 Nov 2015.
Posted in DNA | 3 Comments

RIP Totsy

Sometimes it doesn’t seem possible that it’s been 17 years already.

And sometimes it feels like it’s been forever.

Seventeen years.

It was a Friday, April 23rd, 17 years ago. And my family was waking up to the reality of its diminution.

We had lost my father five years earlier. And now we were waking up to yet another loss.

The loss we all had known was drawing near.

HCGThe loss of one Hazel Irene (Cottrell) Geissler.

The loss of the woman known as Totsy.

My mother.

A woman so superficially simple: a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother.

A woman so astonishingly complex: a researcher, a community leader, a First Aid instructor, a business owner.

A woman who wore everything out on her sleeve: her love for her family, her delight in a good story.

A woman who hid so much inside: a lifetime of marital abuse, just for starters.

A woman many people thought they knew so well.

A woman few — and her children not among them — ever knew well at all.

A woman whose life came to a close on that April 23rd, 17 years ago.

A woman whose loss would render us orphans.

The genes should have dictated a different result. Longevity on both sides, people living well into their 80s and 90s, and she was only 73 years old. But the genes were no match for a lifetime addiction to tobacco and alcohol. She, her father, a sister and others in the family all succumbed to that combination in their early 70s.

And whatever chance there was for her children to breach the wall of complexity, to really get to know the woman, to resolve all those unresolved issues that are inevitable between parent and child… those chances came to a close too on that April 23rd, 17 years ago.

The story of one life was ended.

The stories of a lifetime were silenced.

On that April 23rd, 17 years ago.

Posted in My family | 11 Comments

The language of the law. Part Latin, part Anglo-Saxon, all confusing.

For someone trained in the common law — inherited from the British tradition, working in the records of the civil law is like working in a foreign country.

And no, here The Legal Genealogist doesn’t mean civil law as in the difference between civil and criminal. I mean civil law as in the law that comes out of the tradition of the 6th century Emperor Justinian and that’s followed in most of the world including places like Louisiana, Quebec, Puerto Rico and elsewhere.1

gatedNot only are the records sometimes in a foreign language — it’s not at all uncommon to have civil law records from Louisiana in French — but even when the document itself appears to be written in English, the terminology may be utterly different.

You can begin with the fact that you don’t have counties in Louisiana — you have parishes: a “territorial division of the state corresponding to what is elsewhere called a ‘county.’” In a common law jurisdiction, a parish is a religious jurisdiction: an “ecclesiastical division of a town or district, subject to the ministry of one pastor.”2

When you look in parish records for the wills and estates and other documents of probate, you find that … sigh .. an estate sometimes isn’t called an estate in Louisiana. It’s sometimes called a succession: “In the civil law and in Louisiana… (the) fact of the transmission of the rights, estate, obligations, and charges of a deceased person to his heir or heirs … (and the) right by which the heir can take possession of the decedent’s estate.”3

And that a guardian isn’t called a guardian, but rather a tutor or curator: “By the laws of Louisiana, minors under the age of fourteen years, if males, and under the age of twelve years, if females, are, both as to their persons and their estates, placed under the authority of a tutor. Above that age, and until their majority or emancipation, they are placed under the authority of a curator.”4

And then there’s the homologation. That’s the noun. The verb is homologate. And that one had me completely stumped when it showed up on court documents filed in estate cases. It turns out that to homolgate, in the civil law, means “to approve; to confirm; as a court homologates a proceeding.”5 And homologation, in the civil law, is “approbation; confirmation by a court of justice; a judgment which orders the execution of some act.”6

So a homologated succession is a court-approved estate document, likely an order that something be done.

Sigh… The language of the law. Part Latin, part Anglo-Saxon, all confusing.


SOURCES

  1. See generally “Roman Legal Tradition and the Compilation of Justinian,” The Robbins Collection, School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California at Berkeley (https://www.law.berkeley.edu/library/robbins/ : accessed 21 Apr 2016).
  2. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 869, “parish.”
  3. Ibid., 1133, “succession.”
  4. Ibid., 1194, “tutor.”
  5. Ibid., 579, “homologate.”
  6. Ibid., “homologation.”
Posted in Legal definitions | 4 Comments

April’s DNA sales

It will be 63 years come Monday.

That’s the anniversary of the day when Cambridge University scientists James D. Watson and Frances H.C. Crick announced they were sure that the structure of DNA was the double helix — an event “considered by many to be one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the 20th Century.”1

FTDNASale-v2They weren’t the only ones working on the issue, and their work has been criticized for not adequately crediting the foundation laid by British biophysicist Rosalind Franklin,2 but they’re the ones who published it and, with Maurice Wilkins, were later awarded the Nobel Prize for its discovery.

And to remember that achievement, and to honor the completion in 2003 of the Human Genome Project, April 25th is recognized as National DNA Day 3 — a day to “offer students, teachers and the public an opportunity to learn about and celebrate the latest advances in genomic research and explore how those advances might impact their lives.”

It’s an official thing, even, with the United States Congress commending “scientists in the United States and many other countries, fueled by curiosity and armed with ingenuity, have unraveled the mysteries of human heredity and deciphered the genetic code linking one generation to the next” and recognizing “the sequencing of the human genome as one of the most significant scientific accomplishments of the past one hundred years.”4

And we can get into the act ourselves by getting our own — or a cousin’s — DNA tested — with a discount from at least two of the DNA testing companies in their annual DNA Day sales.

Family Tree DNA

You’ll have to wait to place your order until close to the end of the business day for Family Tree DNA, but it’ll be worth the wait. The sale there will feature savings on autosomal testing (the Family Finder test), on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing and on YDNA tests at several levels.

Here’s what you’ll see once the sale kicks in (and it will some time later today, lasting through Tuesday, April 26, 2016 at 11:59 PM Central time):

Test Regular Price Sale Price
Family Finder $99 $79
mtDNA Full Sequence $199 $149
YDNA 37 $169 $129
YDNA 67 $268 $199
YDNA 111 $359 $289
BigY $565 $460
YDNA SNP Packs $119 $109

These are only for new tests and add-ons; upgrades to existing tests may be discounted later this year. And remember: you may need to wait until this afternoon to see these prices on the website!

AncestryDNA

At AncestryDNA, for US testers, the usual price of $99 for an autosomal DNA kit has been reduced to $79 until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, April 26th. Shipping is extra. As usual, I can’t figure out how to convince Ancestry’s web servers not to automatically insist that I access through the .com site instead of the international sites, so I can’t tell if there’s a sale on for international customers.

23andMe

And, as last year, it doesn’t appear that 23andMe is playing along with a sale at all this DNA Day. Nothing on its website, nothing on its Facebook page. But the price is showing as $149 on its international website, and $199 on the US website, so…

No excuses now. With sales in effect, it’s time and more than time to get our own — or that cousin’s! — DNA tested.


SOURCES

  1. U.S. Senate S. Con. Res. 10, 108th Congress 1st Session (27 Feb 2003).
  2. See e.g. Jane J. Lee, “6 Women Scientists Who Were Snubbed Due to Sexism,” National Geographic, posted 19 May 2013 (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/ : accessed 20 Apr 2016).
  3. National Human Genome Research Institute, “NHGRI celebrates National DNA Day with events that promote genomic literacy” (http://www.genome.gov/ : accessed 20 Apr 2016).
  4. U.S. Senate S. Con. Res. 10, 108th Congress 1st Session (27 Feb 2003).
Posted in DNA, General | 19 Comments

Registrations closing soon

It’s the spring conference season, and that’s an amazingly busy time of year for genealogists everywhere.

saveBut The Legal Genealogist doesn’t want anybody getting so busy that we miss a key deadline, whether it’s for a spring conference — or one coming up later in the year.

So here are some things to be aware of right now:

NGS Livestreaming

Registration for the live stream from the National Genealogical Society conference in Fort Lauderdale will close at midnight, Friday, April 22, 2016.

There are two tracks being offered this year:

• In Track One, “Land Records and Maps,” there are five lectures on Thursday, May 5, 2016, from 8:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. The lectures will cover deed books and private land claims, how to utilize mapping apps, Google Earth, and GPS to enrich your research, and maps and gazetteers for English and Welsh research.

• In Track Two, “Methods for Success,” there are five lectures on Friday, May 6, 2016, from 8:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. The lectures will cover methodology techniques for use with historical context and DNA, as well as problem solving using a combination of resources.

Registration is $80 for one track and $145 for two tracks, but is discounted for NGS members: for members, it’s $65 for one track and $115 for both. All registrants will receive an electronic version of the NGS 2016 Family History Conference Syllabus.

You can register for the live stream at the NGS conference registration page, and more information can be found on the live streaming page.

SCGS Jamboree Early Bird Registration

Saturday, April 23rd, is the early bird registration deadline for the Southern California Genealogical Society’s 47th annual Jamboree in Burbank in June, with an advance day to learn more about genetic genealogy.

Thursday, June 2, is set aside for Genetic Genealogy 2016, The Future of the Past. The schedule can be found online, and the line-up is stellar.

Jamboree itself kicks off with some free events on the morning of Friday, June 3, and then launches into full swing mid-day on Friday through Sunday, June 5.

There’s so much that Jamboree offers that there’s not enough space to cover it all. Head over to the Jamboree website and check out the schedules for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

But to get the best deals, you want to register by midnight Saturday here for SCGS members and here for non-members.

IAJGS Early Bird Registration

Early registration discounts end on Saturday, April 30th for the 36th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Seattle, Washington, August 6-12, 2016. You can save $55 on a full conference registration, $50 on digital recordings, and $70 on the live streaming registration if you register by the early bird deadline.

IAJGS has a one-page overview of all the registration costs online here which highlights the savings for early registration. But there’s an additional benefit of registering early: it puts you into a pool for a registration prize ranging from a DNA test kit to a three night stay at the Salt Lake City Plaza Hotel.

Details on the conference, where The Legal Genealogist will be the banquet speaker, can be found on the program page.

Don’t snooze on savings for these events!!

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Act now to preserve data

There are changes coming soon — possibly very very soon — to the matching system at AncestryDNA that may make some of the folks who’ve tested there lose some bits and pieces of information they have now.

AncDNA3This isn’t going to be altogether a bad thing, since the theory is that most of the things that will drop out of sight will be bits and pieces that are unlikely ever to lead to a common ancestor. In short, the hope is all of our matches will be better, stronger and more accurate.

But there are some aspects that will be problematic, and folks need to act now to minimize any collateral damage from the change.

Here’s what’s happening: AncestryDNA is revising its system for evaluating matches in two ways. First, it’s revising its phasing data to more accurately identify bits and pieces of DNA that are genealogically significant. Second, it’s changing its matching system to use actual segments from start to end rather than artificially designated windows.

What does that mean? In plain English, some of the people who are showing up as matches at AncestryDNA right now will stop showing up as matches. Not huge numbers (not like the last time AncestryDNA revised its system and some folks lost as many as 90% of their matches) — but some. At the same time, some people who now don’t show up as matches may appear in the match list. So in terms of sheer numbers of matches, there isn’t going to be any big change.

AncestryDNA says no-one who now appears as a second cousin or closer will drop off anyone’s match list. And it’s promised that we will be able to download data on anyone in the current match list where we’ve either added a note to that match’s record or added a star to the record for our own research.

But — and here’s a big but — many people who show up now as matches at one level will drop into a lower category of match level: for example, some people now showing as third cousins will drop into the fourth cousin category, and a very large number now showing at the fourth cousin level are going to drop into a lower match category — the fifth to distant cousin category.

This matters for two reasons: it’s going to impact shared match reporting and it’s likely to impact circles and new ancestor discoveries (NADs).

Shared matches is a real concern. Remember that feature works this way: for any match, on the review match page, there’s a button to see shared matches. But when you click on that button, to see anyone you and this match have as a common match, you only get a list of those who match you at the fourth cousin or closer level. Since a lot of our matches are going to stop being counted as fourth cousins and start being counted as fifth to distant cousins, we’re going to have a lot of shared matches that won’t show up in that list any more.

Circles and NADs are also potentially going to be affected, and the estimate is that most people will lose one circle and one NAD because of the changes in their matches.

Until the whole change is rolled out, of course, we won’t know the full impact, but there are some things we can all do right now to minimize any fallout from the changes.

So here’s the action plan:

1. Make a screen capture or other record of every DNA Circle you have, and make sure you make a note of every person who’s now in those circles.

2. Make a screen capture or other record of every NAD you have, and make sure you make a note of every person who’s now in those NADs.

3. Go to your DNA Matches list, click on the link for Shared Ancestor Hints and star every single one of those. Those are the folks with whom you share both DNA and a tree hint, and you don’t want to lose their data even if they fall off the bottom of your match list. If you star them now, you’ll be able to download the data down the road.

4. For those Shared Ancestor Hint folks, screen capture as many of the shared match lists as you want to preserve — remember that some people showing up now as shared matches are definitely not going to show up as shared matches after the change because they’re going to drop to a lower fifth to distant cousin category.

5. If you have time, energy and interest, screen capture as many of the shared match lists for other folks without Shared Ancestor Hints at the fourth cousin level as you can.

And whatever you do, don’t delay. This change is coming fast — it could be within days. It won’t be more than a week or 10 days away, and it could be as soon as tomorrow or the next day.

So act now to preserve this data… just in case.

For more information, see Blaine Bettinger’s post, “AncestryDNA Plans Update to Matching Algorithm,” at The Genetic Genealogist, and Roberta Estes’ post, “Upcoming Ancestry DNA Update – Urgent!!!,” at DNA-eXplained.

Posted in DNA | 31 Comments