Friday, November 22, 2019

Chancery Court Records

Sally Grimes, daughter of Gabriel Winston
Why Do We Forget Chancery Court Records?
Chancery Court records can be brickwall busters. Yet they are often overlooked.  Case in point, trying to sort common surnames and their family units. Let's take "Johnson" in 1700 Virginia.  Using the Chancery Court records we were able to distinguish Silas Johnson's family unit of VA. We were also  able to prove kinship of his Johnson descendants who settled in Howard County, Missouri. All the children were named in grandpa's record since their dad had died. 

Kinships Named: Parents and Maiden Names
As family researchers and genealogists, one of our common brick-walls is a result of the lack of resources to confirm kinships. Familiar relationships, parents’ names,  maiden names are all needed to complete family units, but what happens when we’ve exhausted all the normal resources - census, wills/probates, deeds, vital records, church records…etc.? Well, hopefully the researcher has not overlooked Chancery Records when they are available.

What are Chancery Court Records?
Chancery Court records hold a wealth of genealogical information. Although not necessarily a part of every states’ historical legal system, when available it will behoove the researcher to take more than a cursory glance at these genealogical-rich documents. Researchers will find personal testimonies that include family relationships. In some states (i.e. Virginia, Tennessee, etc) chancery court records are available from the early 18th century through early 1900’s. In Virginia alone there are over 233,000 multi-paged cases. More on Virginia Chancery Courts can be found at this informative piece. 

What is "Next Friend?"
Of course the key to understanding any court record relies on period vocabulary. In the Chancery Court record of Sally Grimes of Hanover County, VA vs. Joseph Grimes, Sally’s father Gabriel Winston is identified as both “father” and “next friend.”

A "next friend" can be considered the person who represents and speaks on behalf of the plaintiff. The next friend may be a parent, a guardian, an older sibling , etc.  By no means should the researcher assume it is a parent or even a relationship. We have uncovered many next friends proven not to be of blood relation.  In many cases the next friend is identified, removing the tempting guessing game and solidly identifying kinships. This is most useful, when also looking for a maiden name.  

Unlike many states, Delaware's "Court of Chancery" has survived since 1792.  Of course its roles, jurisdictions and litigation realms have been consistently updated to meet the needs of the court to include corporate litigation. Visit Delaware Courts for a quick history of the English Origins of the "Court of Chancery." 

As the times have changed, so has the role of the Chancery Court. In current day Mississippi Chancery Courts are the repository for land records.  Researchers will also find divorces, guardianships and wills in the Mississippi Chancery Courts.

Other states like Missouri, may boast of early records of the Chancery Court.  For St. Louis MO. Chancery Court Records may be found as early as 1811 to about the Civil War.  These records can be found at the Missouri State Archives. Like other states, Missouri researchers may find other counties with salvaged Chancery Court Records.  

Be sure to check FamilySearch Wiki for your state / county. 
(Updated from Chancery Court Records for Genealogy Brickwalls posted 3 May 2016).

Kathleen Brandt
a3Genealogy@gmail.com
accurate, accessible answers














Sunday, November 3, 2019

Researching War of 1812 Seaman

Impressed Seamen Records 1796-1868

After the revolutionary war, the British, under the motto “once a British subject, always a British subject”, took liberties on the sea and captured US flagged vessels.  The result: “Impressed” American mariners into British service, and of course, the War of 1812. For this reason, many will tell you the Revolutionary War did not end until the War of 1812. Yet, impressed seaman protection certificates were available to seaman until after the civil war. And actually they have been used at different times in U.S. history.

In order to track American sailors and their ships, a plethora of detailed paperwork and records were generated on merchant seamen.  These salvaged papers can be a treasure chest for the family historian. 

Quick Primer
A quick primer on the Seamen’s Protection Center can be found on the the Ancestry.com Learning Center. 

Search for Seamen's Protection Certificate Learning Center
As you can see in the photo above the seaman came from all states. The collection holds certificates for seamen between 11-77 years of age.  Above, John Finn, was 14 year old and was from Hermann, Mo.  He worked out of the Port of Philadelphia. So, don’t limit your research.

It is possible your seaman was captured and his original (or second or third) certificate was confiscated. So it is not uncommon to find several applications for one seaman. 

Begin Your Search
Ancestry.com has a digitized collection of U.S. Seamen’s Protection Certificates.  

African American Seamen
Historical Trivia
Question: What African American slave ran away with the assistance of a U.S. Seamen’s Protection Certificate.
Answer: Frederick Douglass who borrowed a Seamen’s Certificate to aid in his runaway. He was also donning a sailor suit. 
African Americans seamen were in abundance.  The records identify them as “black”, “negro”, “colored”, “sambo”, “ethiopian” and “mulatto”.  


Four Bonus Finds
 
1) Physical Descriptions. As you can see, physical description to include scars and marks are noted.  Statement of “native” hometown and stated is also noted.

2) Emancipation Information. In the above example of Samuel Ridley, an ex-slave, informs the intaker that he “was manumitted in the year 1792 by Stephen... Samuel’s application goes on to tell us that he had to serve nine years for a man (name given) in Philadelphia for his freedom. 

3) Naturalization Information. Of course to have protection of the United States, you had to prove citizenship as Bernard Tobin did below on his application. 
 
Do hereby declare that I am a Seaman and an affiliated Citizen of the United States, having been born in the Town of St. Johns Newfoundland and have declared my Intention of becoming a citizen of the United States in the Circuit Court holden in Philadelphia on the 27th of December 1856 a certificate whereof I herewith present . . .
4) Family Information. As in the example above all the certificates are sworn by a witness. This witness is often a family member.  Sometimes, we find wife’s or mother’s names on these applications.  

1930 Census, Merchant Seaman
Know that the War of 1812 is not the only time merchants were enumerated. In 1930 census Merchant Seamen were enumerated if serving on a US flagged vessel. There was a special Merchant Seamen schedule.  This schedule provided genealogical data and can be searched on the 1930 Census of Merchant Seamen on ancestry.com or with in the NARA (microfilm). View the  Family Search.org website for more information.


For More Information
Be sure to read the following articles:
National Archive Resources
  • M2025: Registers of Applications for the Release of Impressed Seamen (microfilm)
  • M1839: Miscellaneous Lists and Papers Regarding Impressed Seamen, 1796-1814  (microfilm) 
Kathleen Brandt
Website: a3genealogy.com
a3genealogy@gmail.com
Accurate, accessible answers

(Original post 1 Jun 2013)