Thursday, April 29, 2010

Using the Law for Research

Who is John Swagerty?

After a day of papers, processes and researching methodology seminars, I found myself once again in the FHL (Family History Library).  This time on floor 4, with the microfilm rolls.  As usual seminars and workshops get the brain juices going and I had a epiphany …why not look in Cocke County Tennessee, for more on Wiley Morris, born in 1817, and died somewhere before 1877 in Cocke County Tennessee.   I have yet to find his internment, but I was able to narrow his disappearance/demise on this trip to the FHL, using my new found count and state laws matched against available records. 

John Humphrey, who gave a wonderful presentation on Understanding the Process that Creates the Records, tells us to find out our county/state laws of acquiring land, women’s rights, eldest son rights, etc.  What happened if there was no will in that jurisdiction? Humphrey encouraged us to not only expand our research, but to understand the laws of the time. By doing so, I was able to narrow Wiley's death by 4 years. Before, I only knew he died before 1877 [1] .  

What I Already Knew?
1)      Wiley was not in the home in 1880 census
2)      Wife Louisa and son WJ both owned land in Cocke County in 1877
3)      I did not find a land deed of either Louisa or WJ’s purchase, but I did find their sales.
4)  Wife Louisa was assessed taxes in 1871 on land.

What I Didn’t Know?
1)      When did Wiley die?
2)      Did he have a will (none has been found to date)
3)      Did WJ (son) purchase his land  (no deed found as of date)

New Questions based on Wednesday’s Seminars
1)      Was Louisa’s land in1877 tax records the exact same as that which Wiley owned
2)      What were the laws if Wiley died intestate for Cocke County?
3)      What other records could help

Questions Answered Wednesday Evening
From 7:00pm to 9:00 pm, I scoured Cocke County records with a bit more knowledge of Cocke County (albeit, not enough).  And I was able to narrow Wiley’s death as well as uncover a curious new character, John Swagerty.

This visit narrowed the death date of Wiley by four years.  I was able to verify that the two acres wife Louisa lived on was next to John Swagerty.  In the 1871 Land Survey, I found that Wiley and a John Swagerty had 3 acres of land surveyed.  The 1877 Duplicate Tax Records proved Louisa’s land as being the same as Wiley’s based on land description and neighbor names [2]. I must have not found this information, clearly printed in the 1877 Duplicate Tax Record, as important when I researched in 2008.

I now need to broaden my search to John Swagerty. I don’t believe I have seen this name prior to the land survey.   

Well, tonight is set out for me.  After I attend the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Concert, a private concert for me and 20 thousand of my closest genealogical friends and Utahns, I will cross the street and go back to work at the FHL to exhaust every Cocke County microfilm (not that many) to get more clues. I now need to look for a bit more information on John Swagerty and I have 48 hours to learn the laws of Cocke County.

Accurate, Accessible Answers

 [1] Feb 1871, Wiley had his land surveyed in Cocke County and by 1877 in the tax records he was not present, but his wife Louisa and eldest son WJ owned the 3 acres of land.  Cocke County Land Surveys, MR#280282,pgs. 144

[2] Cocke County Duplicate Tax Duplicate, MR#956205.  At this time W.J. had 1 acre (value $50), District 6, and Louisa 2 acres value of $100.00. 

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