1. A man who receives by a will cannot be a witness to
2. A nuncupative will can dispose only of personal property.
Nuncupative; To declare orally; oral-not written, made by word of mouth only
and depending on oral testimony for proof, though afterward reduced to
3. A married woman could not make a will without her husband's
consent and even so, could dispose only of personal property unless there
had been a pre-nuptial agreement.
4. Title to land could be conveyed
either by inheritance, deed or marriage.
If a man sold his land and there is no record in the Deed Book that he
purchased that land, then check the land grants; if he inherited it or his
wife inherited the land, a record may be in the probate files. Knowing
this will help to discover the identity of the wives.
6. A man did
not have to be 21 to buy land, but he did have to be 21 to sell it. He
did not have to own property to vote, but he did have to be a free
man. He had to be 21 to serve on a jury, but he did not have to own
property or to be naturalized.
7. A woman was never a taxable or
tithe. If her name appears on a tax list, it is because she is a widow; she
has a male of taxable age in her household or a slave of taxable age.
A tax list that shows "One white person" meant that male was age 21 or over
and taxable. White males over 16 and under 21 were taxable.
Quakers used numerical dating and did not take oaths and were not married in
a civil service. A Quaker's last will does not begin with: "In the name
of God, Amen," and there are no marriage bonds for Quakers.
are excellent indexed records for Moravians and Quakers; many records of
both Lutheran and Reformed churches and ministers that have been
10. All males and females
enumerated in the census records prior to 1850 are not necessarily members
of the immediate family; they are merely members of the household and may
not even be related.
11. "Junior" did not necessarily mean "son of," but
was a designation for a younger man of the same name in the same area.
A man could be a "junior" at one period and "senior" at a later
12. "Infant" did not mean a babe in arms but someone under legal
age of 21.
13. An illegitimate child almost invariably took the surname
of the mother.
14. If a man died in Rowan County, NC and devised
his land in Davidson County to his son, there will not be a record in
Davidson County to show the transmittal of that
15. In intestacy (died without will),
the Court appointed as administrator(s) the widow & relict (who may have
already remarried and may have a different name) and/or sons(s) who are of
legal age. If they relinquish the administration, the largest creditor
16. A posthumous child, even if not mentioned in the will,
will share equally with the other children (Posthumous, born after death of
17. Not just anyone can file a caveat to a will - only a person
who stands to inherit from the estate, and only then if he would receive
more by the laws of intestate succession than from the provisions of the
18. If an executor is named in the will, the Court appoints an
administrator "cum testamento annexo" to carry out the provisions of the
19. According to the laws of intestate succession, the widow
receives 1/3rd of all property, and the remainder goes to the
20. The law of primogeniture was legally abolished in 1784 and
had to do only with the estate of an intestate. (The state of being born
first of the same parents and had legal right to father's
21. Normally, the widows of intestates were allotted a year's
22. Until 1868, a husband had a life estate in all real
property owned by his wife at the time of their marriage; this is known as
23. Dower rights pertained to the belonging of the husband,
whether he owned it before the marriage or acquired it afterward.
Husbands did have identical rights to property owned by their wives, but
when referring to those rights they are called curtsy rather than
24. Curtesy or Courtesy, Scotch Law. A life-rent given by
law to the surviving husband, of all his wife's heritage of which she died
in feft, if there was a child of the marriage born alive. The child
born of the marriage must be the mother's heir. If she had a child by
a former marriage, who is to succeed to her estate, the husband has no right
to the curtsy while such child is alive; so that the curtesy is due to the
husband rather as father to the heir than as husband to an heiress,
comfortable to the Roman law, which gives to the father the use of what the
child succeeds to by the mother.
25. If an
estate was debt-ridden, the personal property was disposed of
first. The widow's 1/3rd was protected and usually 1/3rd for the
children against any claims for debt.
26. An "Orphan" over the age of
14 could select his own guardian (as it is today); if he were younger, the
Court appointed the guardian. If an orphan was left little estate, he
was often apprenticed by the Court to learn a trade. If a man left
underage children, you should expect to find a guardian being appointed and
the children being referred to as "orphans" although their mother may still
be living and be appointed their guardian. If she has remarried, her
new husband is often appointed guardian of the minor children. An
"orphan" was someone under 21 who had lost his or her father.
Indentured Apprenticeships: A son was "bound out" by the father, or
widowed mother, or guardian to give him training in some craft or
trade, or to relieve the parent from the expense of feeding and clothing
during childhood and or to be trained to support themselves. Females
were also bound out to learn the art and mystery of spinning and weaving,
and housekeeping, etc. This system of indentured apprenticeship had
its origin from early colonial days and during the course of the centuries,
various laws governing and controlling it have been enacted. During the
colonial days, the eldest son was bound out to learn reading, writing and
arithmetic in preparation for taking over the family business. A
farmer, lacking sufficient help, would take a boy in this way to help him
with the farm work, or a girl to help his wife spin and weave and cook; a
goldsmith, or printer, or paper-maker would do the same to get assistants
and to train them.
Indentured Servants - An
indentured servant was generally a person who, wanting to emigrate to
America, would sell his services to someone by indenturing himself as a
servant in return for the passage money he needed to get to the New World.
By this indenture he contracted to work for the man who advanced the money
for a specified number of years. Some masters were cruel to their
apprentices and "indentured servants," and the servant ran away. The
master was brought before the court and fined. If they did not
improve, then the court appointed another master.
28. Watch for a man
disposing of more land than you can find him buying. Did land come to
him by death? Did his wife inherit property that he is selling? Or did he
receive land grants?
29. Taxable age for white men during the colonial
period was 16; during the Revolutionary War it varied from county to county;
after 1784, it was 21.
30. Be very careful about accepting all
information on a death certificate other than the date of death, as the
information was given under stress by someone who may not have a full
knowledge of the facts. The same holds true for obituary
31. Phonetic spelling can be tricky. The clerk wrote down
what he HEARD, i.e., Anne Eliza or Annie Liza; Synderalugh or
32. Watch for occupations being Capitalized as identification
following a name, without a coma. John Williams Carpenter in 1785 was
probably John Williams, carpenter. John Henry Taylor may well have
been John Henry, tailor.
33. Many times there are no commas
separating a list of names of children in a will and you may have either ten
daughters with single names or five daughters with double names or a
34. Spelling can be very confusing, i.e., "hairs purchaced
waggins at Estate sail."
35. When checking an index, say the surname
and envision every possible spelling. Jo Linn eventually identified her
husband's ancestor Lewis Redwine as having been Ludwig Rheitweil
Some names were shortened through usage. Mr. Reed Pickler had
difficulty with his line until he realized the surname of the immigrant
ancestor was Blankenpickler.
37. In examining a Bible record, see if
the handwriting is all the same. If it is, all entries were probably
made at the time of the latest entry; if entries were made at the time the
event occurred, they are more apt to be accurate.
38. In NC, the
marriage act of 1741 forbade "the abominable mixture" between white men and
women and Indians, Negroes, Mustees and Mulattoes or any person of mixed
39. Words denoting relationship, such as "in-law" and "step,"
often had different meanings from what they have today. "Nephew"
sometimes meant grandson or grandchild, such as "to my nephew Rebecca
Hayes." "Brother" could be also brother-in-law or brother in Christ or
40. Non-jurors or non-swearers were people who refused or
failed to take the oath of allegiance, i.e., Loyalists or Tories. Many
when faced with double taxation or the possible confiscation of their
property, embraced the Revolutionary cause, and some became super patriots;
others left the state.
41. Inventories and estate sales reveal much about
the occupation and status of the deceased and often suggest other records
that might be searched.
42. Analyze the naming patterns in the
generations you have constructed as a possible clue for a given name of an
earlier male or the maiden name of a wife. For example, the widow
Hartwell Drake almost certainly had a mother whose maiden name was
43. Often a later child was given the same name as one who had
44. Use of the term "proven" and "acknowledged" in land
transactions. Ack, or Acknowledged: The usual
procedure in a legal transfer of land was that the seller, after deeding
over the land, go before the county court and, under oath, publicly
acknowledge the transfer. If married, the wife may appear also, and be
examined privately to determine if she agrees with the transfer of the land
and to relinquish her dower rights to the property. If she does
not do this in court, commissioners are appointed to visit her and examine
her as to the transfer. In deed records, and abstracts of land transfers,
there often is a note entered by the Clerk similar to this:
"Ack: 23 May 1750." This means the seller, (grantor of the
deed) and his wife, if any, personally appeared before the court or did so
by proxy. Proved: If the seller cannot appear in court personally, the
deed document was witnessed by several individuals who signed on behalf of
the purchaser. A note by the Court Clerk: "Proved: 20 Oct
1791" means the witnesses appeared before the court and certified the
veracity of the transfer. Use of the term "before the court"
could signify appearance before one of its Justices and be at a time outside
the time of the usual quarter sessions.. The court, finding the
transfer of the property to be in proper order, orders the Clerk to record a
copy of the deed in the County Deed Book. In cases where it is known that the
grantor is to appear before the court and acknowledge the deed, it would not
be necessary for witnesses.
45. In the 1700s, Livery and Seizen was
a practice between the seller and buyer of a piece of land. They met
on the property and in the presence of witnesses declare the contents on
which livery is to be made. This was a ceremonial act by which the
seller delivers (livery) a clod, or twig or some other piece of turf or
branch from some plant growing on the property and this transfer is
accompanied with words much like the following: "I deliver these to you in
the name of seizen of all the lands and tenements contained in this
deed." It was a formalized ritual probably called for by the purchaser
who may have had something to gain by having several witnesses to the
event. These matters concern a vocabulary no longer used, and made
manifest that which is now reduced to words on paper.
Change England and all territories governed by her used the Julian Calendar
until 1751, often referred to as Old Style or O.S. Under that system,
the new year began on 25 March, while all of March was recognized as the
first month. Thus, where numbers were used instead of month names, one
has to calculate the month: i.e., 3-11-1680 meant May 11, 1680.
The 7th month meant September. Since the Gregorian Calendar, or New
Style [N.S.] began its year on January 1st, some writers employed a system
of double-dating years for the dates which fell into January, February, or
March such as 1731/2. Double-dating occurs only for dates within the
first three months of the year and does not exist after 1752 when the
Gregorian Calendar was adopted by England and her territories. Prior
to 1752, it is perfectly possible to find a will dated October first and
probated January third of the same numerically numbered year. It is
possible to find a woman marrying with a birth date of 3 January 1750.
The problem occurs only prior to 1752 in connection with the first three
months of the year and with the use of numbered months. One watches
for it particularly in dealing with Quaker records where the months are
47. One hundred years ago, middle names were more
prominent in some families more so than others. When families
continually gave a first name of John or William or Thomas, etc., a middle
name was added to tell which John came from which family. Nick names
such as Jack/Jackson/Jonathan, etc., were also used to distinguish one John
from the other. The same applies to Mary/Polly;
Hannah/Nancy/Anna; Frances/Fanny; Elizabeth/Eliza/Betty/Beth,
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