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About those guardians…

It’s institute season here at The Legal Genealogist — which means busy times!

When I’m not teaching genealogy courses in one institute, I’m doing it at another, or at a conference, like today and tomorrow in Michigan…

So instead of full-length blog posts, we’ll muddle through with snippets.


Little bits and pieces of genealogical information such as the answer to a persistent question that keeps coming up:

Why would a parent have to have a guardian named for his or her own child?

Bottom line: historically, guardians were generally named not to take care of the child — any surviving parent was expected to do that — but to take care of the child’s property.


• Typical situation #1: no property, no guardian. The child stayed with any surviving parent or, if there wasn’t one, any relative or neighbor who’d take the child in.

• Typical situation #2: property, but no guardian until there was a reason to get one. That’s discussed in the blog post “Guardian for the kids.”

• Typical situation #3: property, mother alive and someone else named guardian. That’s discussed in the blog post “The avuncular guardian.

• And typical situation #4: property, father alive, and father named as guardian. That’s discussed in the blog post “Guardian for a son.”

And, of course, remember that a child at age 14 was considered old enough at common law to choose his or her own guardian for his or her own property — and often chose Mama, if she was alive, or another relative.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Snippets 2021 v.3,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 9 July 2021).

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