A deadly one, that is…

There is little that warms the cockles of a genealogist’s heart more than a vital record or, at a time when there were no vital records, a record that will take the place of a vital record.

The Grim ReaperTake, for example, the record of a case decided in March 1805, in the Hamilton District of Tennessee. There, the Tennessee Superior Court was called upon to consider the status of the case of Lewis and Lenoir v. Outlaw et al.1

It was a case in equity in which the lawyer for the plaintiffs wanted the case moved forward to trial, and the lawyer for one of the defendants objected “on account of the death of one of the defendants, against whose representatives, it had not been properly revived.”2 In other words, the defense attorney argued, the heirs of the original defendant hadn’t been properly substituted for the deceased man in the case.

There was a lot of discussion in the court’s opinion about how and when and using what technical form the case could be continued, but no disagreement anywhere as to what was needed to notify the court that one of the parties to the case had died.

It was called a suggestion of death.3

Now we all know that a suggestion, in ordinary day-to-day parlance, is less than stating something as a fact. It’s generally understood to be something offered as an hypothesis, or a possibility.4

In the peculiar language of the law, however, a suggestion is much more. It’s a “statement, formally entered on the record, of some fact or circumstance which will materially affect the further proceedings in the cause, or which is necessary to be brought to the knowledge of the court in order to its right disposition of the action, but which, for some reason, cannot be pleaded. Thus, if one of the parties dies after issue and before trial, his death may be suggested on the record.”5

“In its literal sense this word signifies to inform, to insinuate, to instruct, to cause to be remembered, to counsel. In practice it is used to convey the idea of information; as, the defendant suggests the death of one of the plaintiffs.”6

So you’ll see the requirement for a suggestion of death included in the legal rules of many courts that followed the English common law:

• In England itself, a case didn’t end on the death of a party but “such death being suggested on the record the action shall proceed … against the surviving defendant or defendants.”7

• In Canada, whenever a party to an appeal died, “a suggestion may be made of such death…”8

• In New Jersey, a suggestion could be made of the death of either a plaintiff or a defendant.9

• In Missouri, actions didn’t automatically end with a death as long as the record contained a suggestion of such death.10

And for the genealogist… that suggestion of death is the functional equivalent of a death certificate. It may not give an exact date and place of death, but it will sure fix the outer limits of the time within which the death occurred — often the best record that may be found with respect to one of our target individuals.


  1. Lewis and Lenoir v. Outlaw et al., 1 Tenn. 139 (Tenn. Sup. 1805); digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 17 Aug 2015).
  2. Ibid.
  3. See ibid., at 144.
  4. See Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (http://www.m-w.com : accessed 17 Aug 2015), “suggestion” and “suggest.”
  5. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 1135, “suggestion.”
  6. John Bouvier, A Law Dictionary Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America and of the Several States of the American Union, rev. 6th ed. (1856); HTML reprint, The Constitution Society (http://www.constitution.org/bouv/bouvier.htm : accessed 17 Aug 2015), “suggestion.”
  7. Joseph Chitty, A Collection of Statutes of Practical Utility (London : William Benning, 1828), 2; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 17 Aug 2015).
  8. §§29-32, 20 Vict. c.5 (1857), in Statutes of the Province of Canada (Toronto: Derbishire & Desbarats, 1857), 16; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 17 Aug 2015).
  9. §§29-35, “An Act concerning the action of ejectment,” in Revision of the Statutes of New Jersey … 1871 (Trenton : John L. Murphy, printer, 1877), 329-330; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 17 Aug 2015).
  10. §§3663-3664, Article VIII, “Of the Abatement of Suits and their Revival,” in The Revised Statutes of Missouri… 1879 (Jefferson City: State Printers, 1879), 1: 624; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 17 Aug 2015).
Posted in Legal definitions | 6 Comments

Not what you’re thinking

You never know what you’re going to encounter when you poke around in the law dictionaries.

Heart shape tree with red leaves on red flower field. Love symboDid you know, for example, that there was something called a Love-Day?

The Legal Genealogist didn’t know either.

And, no, it’s not what you’re thinking.

This isn’t a 1960s love-in, or anything even remotely related to that train of thought.

It was, instead, a “day on which any dispute was amicably settled between neighbors; or a day on which one neighbor helps another without hire.”1

Now the history of the term isn’t quite as easy to find. It appears, however, to have been around as early as the 13th century — the 1200s or thereabouts — and to have been part of a distinction between an imposed resolution (the kind you get in a lawsuit) and an amicably-agreed-upon resolution (when people agree among themselves). The difference, in other words, between law and love.2

So these were “those days anciently so called on which arbitrations were made and controversies ended among neighbours for the mutual restoring of love and charity.”3

Presumably a better alternative to brawling in the streets … and much better than hiring a lawyer!


  1. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 735, “love-day.”
  2. See John H. Baker, Collected Papers on English Legal History (Cambridge, England : Cambridge University Press, 2013), c.25.
  3. Richard Paul Jodrell, Philology on the English Language (London : Cox & Baylis, 1820), 409; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 16 Aug 2015).
Posted in Legal definitions | 2 Comments

Research in the Evergreen State

It’s called the Evergreen State, this amazing piece of America in the Pacific Northwest, and for someone flying in the way The Legal Genealogist did this week for the Northwest Genealogy Conference 2015 in Arlington, Washington, it’s easy to see why.

1280px-USA_Washington_location_map.svgFrom the air — and on the ground — even after a record-breaking heat-wave this summer — Washington State is definitely green — at least western Washington is (eastern Washington less so).

Eighteenth in size among the states, 13th in population, known for its timber and its aircraft industry, home of the Kennewick Man and the Space Needle, Washington State is also home to some truly amazing genealogical resources.

The host society for the currently-ongoing Northwest Genealogy Conference is the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society in Arlington. A vibrant active local society serving Snohomish County and the Arlington, Washington area, it has a library with more than 5,000 genealogical and historical books, microfilm and microfiche sets, that serves as a depot for historical information pertaining to north Snohomish County and the Stillaguamish Valley, and its native populations and early settlers. And it offers Internet access to free genealogy web sites. Our library is a depot for historical information pertaining to north Snohomish County and the Stillaguamish Valley, and its native populations and early settlers.

Down the road in Seattle is the Seattle regional branch of the National Archives. It has extensive microfilm holdings of value for genealogy research, among them:

• Federal population censuses for all States, 1790-1930 (including indexes for 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920);

• military service records;

• pension and bounty land warrant applications;

• some passenger arrival and naturalization records; and

• records relating to the Five Civilized Tribes.

And it’s the regional repository for federal court records for Washington, Oregon and Idaho. So to say NARA Seattle is worth a visit is an understatement.

The Washington State Archives has wonderful collections of information for genealogists ranging from territorial court records to vital records to photographic collections– and that includes some truly amazing digitized records we can all access sitting at home at 3 a.m. in our bunny slippers.

I’ve already written about the unexpected treasures of the library of the Seattle Genealogical Society, with its amazing holdings from throughout the United States.

But I was absolutely blown away by one reference source I just happened across on the website of the Washington State Genealogical Society, freely available to anyone who has even a smidgen of interest in research here in the Evergreen State. It’s called the Washington State Genealogical Resource Guide, originally created by Kathleen Allen O’Connor assisted by a grant from the Washington State Genealogical Society and now maintained by Charles Hansen.

This guide consists of downloadable PDF files for every county in Washington State with a comprehensive overview of the resources available for research of all kinds. Each county’s PDF file begins with a brief history of the county, its boundaries, county seat and local resources like the Chambers of Commerce, courthouses, health departments and the like. It then adds information about local genealogical and historical societies and libraries.

Then the file lists a wide variety of bibliographic resources for the county, ranging from atlases, gazeteers and maps all the way through to published sources for tax records. Published vital records, county and city histories and so much more are included in the lists.

The file for each county ranges in length depending on the variety of resources to be found there. The PDF file for King County, for example, where Seattle is located, is 60 pages long; for Yakima County, it’s 23 pages; for Okinogan County, it’s 11 pages.

This is a truly comprehensive and amazing resource for anyone with Washington State research to be done. So check it out — the Evergreen State has a lot to offer.

Image: Wikimedia commons.

Posted in Resources | 9 Comments

One unexpected exception

We all know what it took for an ancestor to be eligible to vote.

It doesn’t matter if it’s The Legal Genealogist‘s southern ancestors, or the ancestors of folks who are here in the Pacific Northwest attending the opening sessions of the Northwest Genealogy Conference 2015 in Arlington, Washington.

If they were voters, our ancestors were:

• Age 21 or older.

• Male.

• Almost exclusively white.

• And citizens.

Oh, there were exceptions that we’ve come across. There are always exceptions.

Ballot BoxThere were some women who could vote, particularly in places like New Jersey from 1776 to 1807,1 and later when women began to get the vote at least in local elections. And non-whites sometimes could vote as well, even before the Civil Rights amendments after the Civil War, particularly in both the early years in both New Jersey and Maryland.2

But that’s it for the exceptions, right?

You know better than that.

We always have to check the law, at the time and in the place where our ancestors lived.

And out here in the western territories, there was an exception to the voting rules that means that an awful lot of our ancestors might have been on the voting rolls before we think they should have been — or could have been.

Out here, in the Territory of Washington, as far back as 1854, the one thing our ancestors didn’t have to be…?

They didn’t have to be citizens.

At least — not yet.

As enacted by the first Washington Territorial Legislature in 1854, the law provided — as we would all have expected — that “all white male inhabitants over the age of twenty-one years, who shall have resided within this territory for three months next preceding an election, shall be entitled to vote at any election for delegate to congress, and for territorial, district, county and precinct officers.”3

But the law didn’t stop there.

It went on:

Provided, That they shall be citizens of the United States, or shall have declared, on oath, their intentions to become such, and shall have resided three months in the territory, and fifteen days in the county where they offer to vote, next preceding the day of election…4

Read the highlighted section again.

Our folks didn’t have to be citizens.

Our immigrant ancestors could vote!

As long as those immigrants among our folks — those who were white male over-21 folks, of course — had filed a declaration of intent to become citizens, even though they hadn’t yet been naturalized, they were eligible to vote.

Kind of throws a monkey-wrench into some of our analysis, doesn’t it? Can’t assume that someone on a voting list was born in the United States, or even already naturalized, can we?

Always. Always always always.

Always check the law at the time and place.


  1. See generally New Jersey Constitution of 1776, Article IV, in Francis Newton Thorpe, editor, The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America. 7 vols. (Washington, D.C. : Government Printing Office, 1909), 5: 2595 ; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 12 Aug 2015).
  2. See ibid., and Maryland Constitution of 1776, Article II, 4: 1691.
  3. §1, “An Act Relating to Elections and the Mode of Supplying Vacancies,” in Statutes of the Territory of Washington, … 1854 (Olympia: Public Printer, 1855), 96; digital images, Washington State Legislature, Office of the Code Reviser, Session Laws (http://leg.wa.gov/CodeReviser/Pages/session_laws.aspx : accessed 12 Aug 2015).
  4. Ibid.
Posted in Primary Law, Statutes | 6 Comments

That odd term in the statute


Ew ew ew…

The things you learn reading old statute books.


So it’s off to the Pacific Northwest today and the Northwest Genealogy Conference 2015 in Arlington, Washington.

warszawianka-Prancing-horse-outline-smAnd in preparation for this three-day conference, The Legal Genealogist was poking around in old statute books.

And found “An Act to Prevent Stud Horses, Jackasses and Ridglings from Running at Large,” adopted by the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Washington.1

It provides, in part, that it was “not … lawfull for any person owning or keeping a stud horse, jackass or ridgling to suffer the same to run at large within the limits of any of the white settlements within this territory.”2

So… what’s a ridgling?

It’s a sure bet this 21st century city slicker didn’t have a clue.

And I actually found it in the law dictionaries.

A ridgling, Black’s Law Dictionary solemnly informs us, is “a half-castrated horse.”3

Say what?

Do I even want to know how one has a “a half-castrated horse”????

Going to the ordinary dictionaries, it turns out that a ridgeling, or ridgling, is either “a partially castrated male animal” or “a male animal in which one or both testes have not descended into the scrotum.”4


More information can be found at Wikipedia, which explains that:

A ridgling or rig is a male animal with an undescended testicle. An undescended testicle is not a serious or life-threatening condition, though it may cause the animal discomfort at times. This condition can be corrected by either surgery to place the testicle in the correct position or by castration to remove the testicle altogether.

Horses that are ridglings are usually gelded, though owners of a prized animal may opt for surgery to preserve the value as a breeding stallion.5

Or at the Paulick Report, a publication out of Lexington, Kentucky, about the thoroughbred horse industry:

a small minority of male horses have one testicle that fails to descend at puberty, making them cryptorchids or ridglings. Many suspect that the condition may have a genetic link, although that has not been proven. Several horses in the Seattle Slew line have come up with the condition….

The reason for cryptorchidism is unknown, but the condition is usually apparent by the time the horse is around 16 months of age. In normal colts, testicles travel from the abdomen down the inguinal canal to the scrotum. In the case of a ridgling, the undescended testicle may stay in the horse’s abdominal cavity, or drop partially down the inguinal canal and become caught behind a structure called the external inguinal ring, which surrounds the exit of the canal.6


The things you learn from old statute books.



Image: OpenClipArt, image by warszawianka

  1. “An Act to Prevent Stud Horses, Jackasses and Ridglings from Running at Large,” Laws of Washington Territory, 1854-5 (Olympia : J.W. Wiley, Public Printer, 1855), 43; digital images, Washington State Legislature, Office of the Code Reviser, Session Laws (http://leg.wa.gov/CodeReviser/Pages/session_laws.aspx : accessed 11 Aug 2015).
  2. Ibid., §1.
  3. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 1043, “ridgling.”
  4. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (http://www.m-w.com : accessed 11 Aug 2015), “ridgeling.”
  5. Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com), “Ridgling,” rev. 11 June 2015.
  6. Natalie Voss, “Something’s Missing Here: Explaining Ridglings,” The Paulick Report, posted 6 Dec 2013 (http://www.paulickreport.com/ : accessed 11 Aug 2015).
Posted in Legal definitions | 4 Comments

NWGC bound

So it’s going to be Washington State for The Legal Genealogist later this week, at the Northwest Genealogy Conference 2015 in Arlington.

Today, Tuesday the 11th of August, is the last day to register online for the conference, which gets underway with Beginning Genealogy Classes tomorrow afternoon by Winona Laird and Janet Camarata and then a meet and greet hosted by the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society tomorrow evening.

Online registration saves money: it’s $150 for all three days and $$75 for any single day, and if you wait and register at the door, it’ll be $175 for all three days and $95 for a single day. So register now!

The line-up for this conference is stellar:

Thursday’s speakers include Angela Packer McGhie, Cyndi Ingle, Lisa Louise Cooke, Angie Bush, Luana Darby, Linda Harms Okazaki, and Reed Powell on topics ranging from historic newspapers to tax records to maps to Evernote and more.

Friday’s speakers include CeCe Moore, Cari Taplin, Elissa Scalise Powell, Steven W. Morrison and Michelle Goodrum, as well as Cyndi Ingle, Lisa Louise Cooke, Angie Bush, and Luana Darby, speaking on topics ranging from DNA basics to foreign language tools for English-speaking genealogists to case studies to ethics. And I’ll be speaking at the banquet on Alphabet Soup: DNA, GPS & You.

Saturday’s speakers include yours truly, Jill Morelli, Janice C. Lovelace, Sara Scribner, Janice Sellers, Janet Camarata, and Jean Wilcox Hibben, as well as Cari Taplin and Elissa Scalise Powell, speaking on topics ranging from using court records to house histories to county histories to finding clues in the censuses.

And, of course, in preparation for heading west, I had to go looking for legal gems of Washington history… and boy…

Wash1Does Washington ever make them easy to find!

All you need to do is head over to the website of the Washington State Legislature and, in the menu on the left, choose Laws & Agency Rules, then you can choose among options like the current Revised Code of Washington, or the State Constitution, and — best of all from a researcher’s perspective — the session laws.

The Legislature’s Office of the Code Reviser has an entire page on the legislative website with nothing but the statutes of Washington from the very first territorial legislature in 1854, all the way up to volume 2 of the 2014 session laws.

A more complete online state legislative history library would be hard to find.

And if you poke around in those very earliest statutes… oh, the things you can find…

• It was a crime for anyone who was already married to marry again — but the law expressly didn’t extend “to any person whose husband or wife shall have been continuously absent from the other, without having been heard from for the space of five years before such marriage, or to any person who shall have been divorced.”1

• Administration of the estate of a non-citizen, if he didn’t have kin in this country, would be handled by the consul or vice consul of the alien’s home country.2

• A poll tax was set at $1 for every white male inhabitant between 21 and 50 years of age, and real and personal property was also taxed.3 But property belonging to “any religious society, or to any benevolent, charitable, literary, or scientific institution, … and all school houses and school lands, public libraries, and all places of burial, (and) the property of all indians, shall be exempt from taxation.”4

• It was illegal for non-residents to take clams, oysters or shellfish for sale.5

• The county assessors were supposed to take a census of all county inhabitants on the first Monday of December each year: “a complete list of all the white male inhabitants, with their ages, occupations, the state or county they are from, whether married or single, and also, whether citizens or aliens…. all white female inhabitants, their ages, whether married or single, and the county or state they are from … (and) separate lists of all taxable half breed indians, negroes, kanakas, and mulatoes, and chinamen.”6

• Jurors were supposed to be qualified electors, but “civil officers of the United Status, probate judges, and judges of thre supreme court, attorneys at law, ministers of the gospel, or priests, school teachers, practicing physicians, sheriffs, and their deputies, constables, clerks of court, county and territorial officers, millers, ferrymen, and all persons more than sixty years of age, (were) not (to) be compelled to serve as jurors.”7

• You can even get the identities of the first officers of the counties, like those in Pierce County: William P. Dougherty, L. A. Smith, and William N. Savage, county commissioners; I. C. Perkins; treasurer; Casper Dunham, sheriff; Hugh Patterson, assessor; Anthony Laughlin, coroner; M. H. Frost, Samuel McCaw, and George Brown, justices of the peace; G. C. Bowlin, auditor, H. C. Mosely, probate judge; and William McLucas and William Sherwood, constables.8

And that’s just a few sections of just a few statutes in just one volume.

Hope to see you in Washington!


  1. §116, “An Act Relative to Crimes and Punishments, and Proceedings in Criminal Cases,” in Statutes of the Territory of Washington, … 1854 (Olympia: Public Printer, 1855), 96; digital images, Washington State Legislature, Office of the Code Reviser, Session Laws (http://leg.wa.gov/CodeReviser/Pages/session_laws.aspx : accessed 10 Aug 2015).
  2. Ibid., §4, “An Act Respecting Executors, Administrators, and the Distribution of Real and Personal Estate,” at 268.
  3. Ibid., §1, “An Act to Provide for the Assessing and Collecting County and Territorial Revenue,” at 331.
  4. Ibid., §2, at 331-332.
  5. Ibid., §1, “An Act for the Preservation of Clams, Oysters, and Other Shell Fish,” at 388.
  6. Ibid., §1-2, “An Act to Authorize the Assessors of Each County to Take the Census,” at 430.
  7. Ibid., §1, “An Act Relative to Grand and Petit Jurors,” at 431.
  8. Ibid., §1, “An Act Appointing Officers for the County of Pierce,” at 485.
Posted in Resources, Statutes | Leave a comment

Coupons and discounts and sales, oh my…

Okay, it’s that time of the genealogical year when some folks (gasp!) are getting distracted from their family history.

By little inconsequential details like shopping for back-to-school supplies. Or getting a kid ready for college. Or even a beach vacation… or a cruise.1

Whatever the cause, whatever the distraction, it can be hard sometimes in August to keep our eyes on the genealogical ball. But dropping that ball can hit us in the pocketbook when we do things like overlook the sales that sometimes spring up in August — like the ones going on right now for DNA tests.

sale.dnaAncestryDNA has a sale doing on now on its DNA test that’ll save you $20 off the regular price of $99.

The Ancestry test, remember, is an autosomal DNA test — the test for the kind of DNA that we all have and that we inherit equally from our mothers and our fathers.2 So it’s a great test to try to find cousins who share parts of our ancestral DNA that we can collaborate with to research our family history.3

So if you’re heading off to a family reunion this August, or some other family gathering where those aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents will be gathering, you can get — say — six kits for the regular price of five.

That should be enough to get you started tracing those family lines. Head over to AncestryDNA for more information or to order. The sale ends August 17th.

Meanwhile, over at Family Tree DNA, there are coupon codes you can use for terrific savings not only on autosomal tests — called the Family Finder test at FTDNA — but on the other more expensive YDNA and mitochondrial (mtDNA) tests that only FTDNA offers.

Coupon codes are used by going to the Family Tree DNA website, choosing the test or tests you want, and then entering the code where the purchase page asks “Do you have a code?” And the codes that are available right now are:

CJS2015 works to apply a 15% discount to any order of $99 or more. So the usual $99 Family Finder test would be $84.15.

CGS30 (corrected!!!) works to apply a $30 discount — dollars, not percent here — to any order of


$140 or more. So you want to do some math here. For the 37-marker YDNA test, usually $169, this code gets you down to $139, while the other code would only bring the price down to about $143. But for the 67-marker YDNA test, usually $268, this coupon gets you down to $238, but the 15% coupon would drop the price to just under $228. So try both codes and see which one is the better deal.

The FTDNA coupons work for all tests — autosomal, YDNA (the kind of DNA only men have that is passed down from father to son so is useful in researching our direct paternal line4) and mitochondrial (mtDNA, the kind we all have but that is inherited only from our mothers so is useful for studying our direct maternal line5).

And it looks like these coupons are good through August 15th. Head over to Family Tree DNA for more info or to order there.

So… what are you waiting for? C’mon… I need more cousins in these databases!


  1. Not that I’m looking forward to the FGS Alaska cruise in just a couple of weeks or anything…
  2. See ISOGG Wiki (http://www.isogg.org/wiki), “Autosomal DNA,” rev. 30 June 2015.
  3. See Judy G. Russell, “Autosomal DNA testing,” National Genealogical Society Magazine, October-December 2011, 38-43.
  4. See ISOGG Wiki (http://www.isogg.org/wiki), “Y chromosome DNA tests,” rev. 23 June 2015.
  5. See ibid., “Mitochondrial DNA tests”, rev. 15 May 2015.
Posted in DNA | 6 Comments

Too much serendipity???

Okay… cue the Twilight Zone music.

The Legal Genealogist is in Columbia, Missouri, for the Annual Conference of the Missouri State Genealogical Association (MoSGA) and wondered, just for the heck of it, if there was some family connection to Missouri that could be highlighted today.

BooneCoMOI try to write something about my family every Saturday and, even though I knew I didn’t have any direct ancestors who came from Missouri, I figured there had to be something in my own family history that would link me to the Show Me State.

And, sure enough, looking at the master place list in The Master Genealogist software that I use, I came across an entry for a distant cousin who was connected to Missouri.

I looked a little closer, and found that he was connected to Boone County, Missouri, shown on the inset map.

And looking a little closer still, he was connected to Columbia, Missouri, which is in Boone County.

Can’t get much closer than that!

So here’s the story.

My fifth great grandparents Thomas and Dorothy (Davenport) Baker had a passel of kids — 13 that we can document. The third son and fourth child was Martin Baker, who married Phoebe Snodgrass in Botetourt County, Virginia, in 1772.1

They had two daughters, Mary and Hannah, before Martin died. His estate was admitted to probate in Botetourt County on 9 August 1781.2

Mary married Samuel Marrs in Montgomery County, Virginia, in 1792.3 Their children included Eli Marrs, born in 1804 in Kentucky, who came with his parents to Boone County, Missouri, in the 1840s and married there in 1845.4

Eli — whose last name is alternately spelled Marrs and Mars — is buried here in Columbia, Missouri, in the city cemetery not far from where I will be speaking today.5

Now Eli and I would be second cousins four times removed. Not exactly the closest of relatives, but hey… considering the odds of getting a family hit not just in the same state but the same county and even the same city, that’s quite a bit of serendipity, isn’t it?

But that’s not all.

You see, Eli and Emily had two sons, Samuel and Barton, who went to Washington State in the early years of the 20th century. Samuel died there in 1923.6 Barton died there in 1918. In Snohomish County, Washington.7

And, you see, next weekend, I’ll be speaking at the Northwest Genealogical Conference.

In Snohomish County, Washington.

Now go ahead and cue that music, okay?


  1. See “Virginia Source Book,” Snodgrass Clan Society of America (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~clansnodgrass : accessed 7 Aug 2015), citing original records.
  2. Botetourt County, Virginia, Will Book A:146; FHL microfilm 30695.
  3. See Register of Marriages, Montgomery County, Virginia, 1777-1853, Mairs-Baker, 9 Dec 1792; Library of Virginia, Richmond.
  4. See Boone County, Mo., Marriage Book A: 282, Marrs-Pennington (1845); digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 Aug 2015), citing Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City, Mo.
  5. Columbia Cemetery, Boone County, Missouri, Eli Mars marker; digital image, Find A Grave (http://findagrave.com : accessed 7 Aug 2015).
  6. “Washington, Death Certificates, 1907-1960,” database and index, entry for Samuel Claiborne Mars (1923), FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 7 Aug 2015).
  7. Ibid., entry for Barton Stone Mars (1918).
Posted in My family | 8 Comments

The Show Me State and divorce

Yeah, actually, The Legal Genealogist really was poking around in old statute books again last night.

MO.divToday is the official kickoff of the 2015 Annual Conference of the Missouri State Genealogical Association (MoSGA) — a two-day conference entitled “Liars, Laws and Brick Walls.”

So, of course, I had to look and see what Missouri law used to say about liars — and particularly those who promised lifelong love and fidelity… and lied.

Those whose marriages ended — or who wanted them to end — in divorce.

And all I have to say is … I’m awfully glad I was born in the second half of the 20th century.

It would have been a whole lot harder to deal with an erring spouse — or even a plain old ordinary unwanted spouse — under early statutes.

Here’s what Missouri law said were the grounds for divorce in 1845:

When a marriage hath been or shall be solemnized between two persons, and either party at the time of the contract was, and still is, impotent, or had a wife or husband living at the time of the marriage, or has committed adultery subsequently to the marriage, or wilfully deserts and absents himself or herself, without a reasonable cause, for the space of two years, or shall be convicted of felony or infamous crime, or addicted to habitual drunkenness for the space of two years, or shall be guilty of such cruel and barbarous treatment as to endanger the life of the other, or shall offer such indignities to the person of the other as shall render his or her condition intolerable, or when the husband shall be guilty of such conduct as to constitute him a vagrant, … the innocent and injured party may obtain a divorce from the bonds of matrimony…1

Not exactly the no-fault provisions we have today, are they?

And it was risky to lie to get a divorce. The person asking for the divorce had to swear that “the complaint is not made out of levity or by collusion, fear or restraint, between the complainant and defendant, for the mere purpose of being separated from each other, but in sincerity and truth…”2

And, the statute went on: “If it shall appear to the court that the adultery, or other injury or offence, complained of, shall have been occasioned by the collusion of the parties, or done with an intention to procure a divorce, or that the complainant was consenting thereto, or that both parties have been guilty of adultery, then no divorce shall be decreed.”3

Read the last phrase of that paragraph again.

If the husband was fooling around, the wife could get a divorce.

If the wife was fooling around, the husband could get a divorce.

But if both the husband and the wife were fooling around, they were stuck. No divorce for them!

And oh… if just one of them was fooling around? Just one of them lying about the “faithful until death do us part” bit?

That guilty party, the statute provided, “shall forfeit all rights and claims, under and by virtue of the marriage ; nor shall the guilty party be allowed to marry again (within) five years after such divorce… ”4

The things you learn when researching “Liars, Laws and Brick Walls.”


  1. §1, Chapter 53, “Divorce and Alimony,” in The Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri (St. Louis: State Printer, 1845), 426; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 6 Aug 2015).
  2. Ibid., §2, at 427.
  3. Ibid., §7.
  4. Ibid., §8.
Posted in Statutes | 8 Comments

The Show Me State on Flickr

So The Legal Genealogist is headed out to Missouri today for “Liars, Laws and Brick Walls” — the Annual Conference of the Missouri State Genealogical Association (MoSGA).

It gets underway tomorrow morning with a pre-conference workshop on the Missouri First Families program and then we’re really going to have some fun — talking and learning about those “Liars, Laws and Brick Walls” in our family history.

So you might be wondering why — on a day when I’m headed to Missouri — I’m going to feature a set of images made available, entirely in the public domain — by the British Library.

Yes, that British Library — “the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest libraries. It holds over 13 million books, 920,000 journal and newspaper titles, 57 million patents, 3 million sound recordings, and much, much more.”1

Which, in December 2013, released more than one million images onto its Flickr photostream, entirely free of copyright restrictions of all kinds, available for anyone to use, re-use, change, modify, adapt, republish.

Including “maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even (the librarians themselves) are not aware of.”2

Obviously, these aren’t newly-released images; they’re just new to me, and they’re so much fun I want to make sure that anyone else who missed them can get caught up too.

And among them … these images … of Missouri


“St. Louis University,” from An Illustrated History of Missouri.3


“Bird’s-Eye View of the Kansas City Exposition Grounds,” from The History of Jackson County, Missouri … Illustrated.4


“Kansas City Union Depot,” from The History of Jackson County, Missouri … Illustrated.5

Because you never know where something relevant to your research is going to show up.

It may be in a library half a world away.

Or, if we’re lucky, in that library’s Flickr photostream


  1. Kay Kremerskothen, “Welcome the British Library to The Commons!,” Flickr blog, posted 16 Dec 2013 (http://blog.flickr.net/en/ : accessed 5 Aug 2015).
  2. Ben O’Steen, “A million first steps,” British Library Digital scholarship blog, posted 12 Dec 2013 (http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digital-scholarship/ : accessed 5 Aug 2013).
  3. Walter Bickford Davis and Daniel Steele Durrie, An Illustrated History of Missouri (St. Louis: A. J. Hall & Co., 1876), 427; digital image, British Library Flickr photostream (https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishlibrary/ : accessed 5 Aug 2015).
  4. The History of Jackson County, Missouri … Illustrated (Kansas City, Mo. : Birdsall, Williams & Co., 1881), 423; digital image, British Library Flickr photostream (https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishlibrary/ : accessed 5 Aug 2015).
  5. Ibid., at 410.
Posted in Resources | 6 Comments