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A court case for the day

The Legal Genealogist freely confesses to being an unrepentant law geek.

So what else was I to do on Valentine’s Day but see what kinds of court cases might mention Valentine’s Day?

And boy… did I ever end up down the rabbit hole.

It’s not just that there are a bunch of them — a search on turned up some 768 results with the search term “Valentine’s Day” in quotes so it’s supposed to be searched as a phrase.1

It’s that some of them can be genealogical motherlodes.

Case in point: a probate case that ended up being decided in October 1922 by the Oregon Supreme Court.2

The legal issue itself would be fun to a law geek like me: the case was between the beneficiaries of one will, executed by Xarifa J. Faling of Portland, Oregon, in 1911, and another she executed in 1915. And it focuses on testamentary capacity, or the basic question of just how crazy you can be and still leave a valid will.

The single reference to Valentine’s Day was to a beneficiary named in the wills, William Metzger, whose college expenses had been paid by the decedent. The facts set out by the court noted that “on St. Valentine’s Day, 1913, without the advice of, or consultation with, Mrs. Faling he married a young lady who was then attending the same college. This was a great disappointment to Mrs. Faling who was very anxious for Metzger to complete his college course.”3

But — oh man — the family information set out in the court’s description of the background to the dispute!

Does it ever make you want to be descended from this family…

How about this for genealogical detail:

• “Xarifa J. Faling was born on August 16, 1839, in Abergavenny, Monmouth County, England. She was abandoned by her father in Peru in the late 1840’s.” Her father was Charles Barrett; her mother, Mary E. Barrett; and she had three brothers, Charles, Cornelius and Arthur.4

• “After her father abandoned the family, she was given by her mother to a family named Robinson, who took her with them to the eastern states, where she remained until she was about twenty-four years old.”5

• In the meantime, her father settled in San Francisco in the 1850’s and later opened a bookstore in Portland with his son Charles. “Both men were of intemperate habits. Xarifa Jane Barrett arrived in Portland in 1863, and assumed the burden of conducting the household and the store.” A whole series of court fights followed, including an ugly divorce between the parents pitting the father, the son Charles and Xarifa Jane against the mother and the sons Arthur and Cornelius.6

• Then, “Some time in the early 70’s Xarifa Jane Barrett married Charles D. Faling. He was a man of some ability with an engaging personality, but with a belief in morals founded upon the double standard. In 1887, his relations with two different women became so flagrant that he was discovered in an attempt to flee from the state with one of the women to Buenos Aires, absconding with about $25,000 of the property of Mrs. Faling. The outraged wife repaired to San Francisco and discovering him in company with one of the women killed him.” Her first murder trial ended in a hung jury; in a second trial, she was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.7

• The Falings had one child, a daughter Lilly, who married Carl Schieck. One grandson was born in 1901, cared for by his grandmother after his mother died in 1903. The grandson died in 1905.8

The court said it went into all the factual detail it did — the case spans 88 printed pages — because it was necessary to put the two wills into context not only with respect to Mrs. Faling’s mental condition but also with respect to the beneficiaries named in them. It pointed out that there was “a radical change in the purported will of 1915, from the will of 1911 and other former wills”9 including the fact that the 1915 will hadn’t been drawn by the deceased’s long-time attorney and the nominal plaintiff in the case, Thomas Strong.

Instead, the court said, “Mr. C. Lewis Mead prepared the will in question in the instant case. He was inexperienced in the matter, was not a lawyer, and states that he consulted none. All of the persons present when the will was signed were either named as beneficiaries in the document or were closely related to one of the beneficiaries.”10 And oh … by the way … “Mr. Mead is one of the two principal beneficiaries to a large amount in the purported will in question.”11

And — before you ask — the court ruled against the 1915 will prepared by Mead and in favor of the earlier wills drawn by the deceased’s long-time attorney.

Just one more example of why we really really really don’t ever want to overlook a single court record of any kind…

And of the kinds of rabbit holes we can fall into when we find those court records.

Even on Valentine’s Day.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “A Valentine’s Day rabbit hole,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 14 Feb 2022).


  1. Caselaw Access Project, Harvard Law School, search term “Valentine’s Day” ( : accessed 14 Feb 2022).
  2. Strong v. Smith, 105 Or. 365, 208 P. 715 (1922).
  3. Ibid., 105 Or. at 376.
  4. Ibid. at 371-372.
  5. Ibid. at 372.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid. at 373-374.
  8. Ibid. at 374-375.
  9. Ibid. at 450
  10. Ibid. at 448.
  11. Ibid. at 449.
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