Thursday, August 24, 2017

It Never Hurts To Go Looking: Courthouse Treasures

Courthouse, Cobb County, Georgia;
By HowardSF at English Wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Smartphones. Tablets. Internet. Scanners. There is so much technology that enhances our ability to research and learn more about our ancestors. It took a recent trip to a county courthouse to remind me that old courthouse records can be just as important and meaningful to our research.

During a recent stay in Georgia, I took part of day to visit the Cobb County courthouse in Marietta, Georgia. It seemed the logical place to go since, for some reason, few Cobb County marriage or probate records had been digitized and made available for online research.

Getting Ready - The day before my visit, I did several things that really helped my efforts. First I called the Switzer Library in Marietta, Georgia, and spoke with a helpful person in their Georgia (Genealogy) Room. After I explained the type of information I was seeking, she reminded me, with a friendly voice, that the old records up to 1864 "were burned, you know, during the war" but that later records were all housed in the county courthouse. She also explained that extensive indices for these records were not available at the Library. This call helped me know that the courthouse was exactly where I needed to go for my research.

The second thing I did prior to my visit was to look through my genealogy software, Family Tree Maker, and make a list of those ancestors and some of the relatives from Cobb County for whom I wanted to locate a marriage record, a will, or a probate packet. My handwritten list included:

  • type of record needed
  • name/names of person/s involved
  • probable date of the record

Getting Set - I'm glad to took time to visit the Cobb County, Georgia government's web site, because the county has several different court areas including juvenile, criminal, and probate. I set my GPS for the probate court address, marked the parking garage on Google Maps, and took a picture of my parking spot number with my phone. (I wasn't about to not use my available technology.)

Go - My first top was the Cobb County Probate Office. While there were no public indices to the old probate records, a very helpful clerk in the office offered to look up those people on my list to see if probate records for any of them were housed in that office. From my list of six, only one had any probate records, my second great grandfather, Thomas D. Perkinson. Interestingly, none of the records were indexed under his name. Thomas had died intestate, so all of the records were indexed with the name of his wife Mary and a son William Perkinson, and the records dealt with their efforts to settle Thomas' estate.

As for the other five will or probate records I was seeking, the Probate Office clerk suggested that I might check surrounding counties for records. If my ancestor had owned property in another county, the will might have been probated there instead of in Cobb, their county of residence. Otherwise, the absence of any probate records generally suggests that my other ancestors did not actually own any property or items of value. The suggestion to look in other counties was an idea I need to persue in the future.


After a few minutes, the Court Minutes book was brought out for my use. The probate court did not require the use of white gloves on those old pages; I was simply asked to turn the pages carefully. The book containing the records I needed was huge, about 24 in x 15 in x 3 in. It just barely fit on the desk available for public use. Turning its pages was like going back through time. All entries were hand written. You could see when a new ordinary clerk took over through the change of handwriting. And the handwriting, so beautiful, very ornate on some of the pages, page after page filled with that now rarely seen Spencerian Script.

The index listed four pages of records for this estate: Temporary Letters of Administration, two papers for Permanent Letters of Administration, and records for the Leave to Sell Thomas' property. All four records were indexed under the name of "Perkerson", but the records themselves included both the name "Perkerson" and the correct name "Perkinson".

I was able to take pictures of all of the records with my smart phone then later transcribe them using Transcript, a wonderful freeware program by Jacob Boerema. By reading the transcriptions, I was able to construct a timeline and follow the probate process for the estate of Thomas D Perkinson.

Thomas D Perkinson died on 30 Sep 1875. In the opening of the October term of court, 7 Oct 1875, his widow Mary Putnam Perkinson and his oldest son, William Howard Perkinson, applied to the court to receive Permanent Letters of Administration in order to settle Thomas' estate. The record included that statement that Thomas had "left considerable estate" which needed to be handled. A further statement estimated the value of the estate to be $15,000. The Ordinary was on vacation, so the court gave only Temporary Letters of Administration. In addition, five men were named as appraisers of the estate, among whom were an H Putnam (who might have been Mary Putnam Perkinson's brother Henry) and an L Litchfield (who might have been the Lemuel Litchfield who was married to Thomas and Mary's daughter Nancey Ann Perkinson).

In the November 1875 term of court, Mary and William Howard appeared in court and swore that "to the best of their knowledge" Thomas had died without a will. The actual Permanent Letters of Administration were granted to Mary and son William Howard on 6 Dec 1875 during December court.

By February of 1876, the appraisers had apparently studied the land Thomas owned and had reported to the court; the document to this effect was not recorded in the minutes book. What was recorded was this description of the real estate owned by Thomas. It consisted of
"numerous lots of wild or unimproved land, scattered, in different counties through the state, a great many of said lands being of very little value, and will not pay for the expense of advertising and selling in the usual way [so] the Court being notified that it will be of interest of said estate, to sell these lands at private sale, it is therefore ordered, that [the administrators be] authorized to sell and convey the wild or unimproved lands at private or public sale as their judgment may dictate and to the best interest of said estate."
Basically, Mary and William were given permission to sell the lands any way and for any amount they could get in order that Thomas' estate be settled. How I wish the final return for Thomas' estate had been recorded in these records. It would have been interesting to learn exactly where the properties had been located and who purchased them. Regardless of the final outcome for the probate process, these Court Minutes records were a real treasure to find and read.

My next courthouse stop was at the county's License Office. Today this is where people apply for a marriage license, a weapon carry permit, or papers regarding residence status. It was an interesting and busy office. Fortunately for me, the License Office had a bound index to the marriage records stored there. According to the index, the only existing marriage record I was seeking was that of my Great Grandparents Albert Bell Vaughan, Jr. and Georgia Camp.

Again, I was presented with a large volume of records and was allowed to photograph the desired record. I even smiled when I saw, once again, the signature of H. M. Hammett, the Ordinary of Cobb County, the gentleman who had signed papers relating to settling the estate of Thomas D Perkinson six years prior to this marriage. I had known of their marriage date for a number of years, but there was something very special about actually holding that record book and seeing the official record for the beginning of their married life. It was another courthouse treasure to add to my files.

Marriage Record for Albert Bell Vaughan, Jr, and Georgia Camp

Lessons Learned:

  • When looking through old, handwritten documents such as these, it is not that unusual to find various spellings of an ancestor's name. These documents were generally written by others based on oral information given to them.
  • The contact I made with the city library and my use of the county government's web site helped my visit to go very smoothly. As the saying goes, prior preparation prevents poor performance.
  • I was surprised at the emotional impact of seeing these records. It is one thing to read information digitized online or recorded in a database; it can be something a little different to actually hold an original record written at a specific point in your ancestor's life.
  • I am now starting some lists in my Genealogy Bullet Journal of other Courthouse Treasures I want to search for in the future. I need to include looking for probate records of my Cobb County ancestory in some of the neighboring Georgia counties.

Update:  You may want to look at this You Tube video from Genealogy Magazine about Courthouse Research. It provides a quick overview presented with a light touch.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

It Never Hurts to Go Looking: Civil War Records

"Binoculars"; source Pixabay

Last week I finally updated to Family Tree Maker 2017. The process went smoothly, and I was anxious to try out some of its new features. I also started reading with renewed interest Russ Worthington's blog posts on FTM2017, especially his post on Color Coding and Civil War Soldiers. This post inspired me to follow his steps in a search for Civil War records for my Second Great Grandfathers. Here is how my search went.

Although past versions of Family Tree Maker had the ability to filter the index of persons in a tree, I had not found it to be particularly helpful. I just seemed to generate a long list of names for a specific time period. Now, with the color coding of my ancestral lines, after using the filters Russ had suggested, I still had a long list of names of possible Civil War soldiers, but I also had the color coding dots to help me quickly locate just those direct ancestors who might have military records for the Civil War.

I quickly had a short list of eight names, four for whom I had already located Civil War records from a variety of resources and four for whom I had no military information. Interestingly, two were from Georgia, likely Confederate soldiers or sympathizers; the other two were from Pennsylvania, most likely with information to be found in Union records. Because of  ancestors from just two states, I ended up searching for the two individuals from a state in each state database or source rather than searching through a variety of records for just one person at a time.

As I searched, I noted my negative research in the Notes section of the Person Workspace for that ancestor. Below are the notes of my search for my 2nd Great Grandfather William Wallace Andrews of Crawford County, Pennsylvania. My sources and results are indicated with blue. This has become my standard format for a simple research log since particapating in the Genealogy Do-Over several years ago. If I later find other Ancestry databases, I will add it to the Ancestry list in the Notes. If I come across a totally different source, I just add " // " after fold3 then add the source and name of the new database. If I find information in a record, I will change "no record" to "information found in ... record".

It turned out that none of the four direct ancestors in question had any military records, but now I had a research log to indicate that I had searched for records of their military involvement. In addition, the whole process didn't stop me from seeing other family names listed in some of the Georgia records. The surprise for me was learning more about William S Vaughan, the son of my 2nd Great Grandfather Albert Bell Vaughan, Sr. Through the same records in which I found nothing about his father Albert, I learned that William had enlisted in the Confederate Army at the age of 15.(1) At Andersonville in 1864 William contracted measles and became blind in one eye. Later William received an allowance from the state of Georgia to compensate him for his loss of sight. Apparently William was able to return home to Pike County, Georgia for he was listed in the 1864 Census for Reorganizing the Georgia Militia where it was noted that he had an exemption (to any further service) due to his eyes.(2) No more military service for William.

This search period gave me the opportunity to see how the color coding and filters in Family Tree Maker 2017 can help me focus on a specific group of individuals in my research. It also let me see that the Notes field of the Person Workspace in FTM2017 remains a useful place to keep an individual's research log. Finally, using the same geographical databases to search for different people provided to be an efficient strategy, one I'll use again in future research.

Thanks to Russ Worthington's post, I was able to give FTM2017 a good work out and to learn some new information. After all, it never hurts to be looking for new strategies or techniques in researching our ancestors and their families.

1. Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Georgia, packet for William S Vaughan, accessed
2. Cornell, Nancy J. 1864 Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia; accessed

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Tale of the Timeline : Sarah Good of the Salem Witch Trials

Salem Witch Trial Engraving, unknown artist;
source: Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes it is rather exciting to discover that an ancestor or relative had a brush with history. Other times, it can cause sadness, discontent, and questioning. The latter has been the case for me as I have learned more about the life and death of my 8th Great Aunt, Sarah Solart, for she was one of those accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials.

Several months ago I posted about what I had learned about her father John Solart and the financial problems caused by his death. Even ten years after John Solart's death, his surviving children had not received any money from his estate. The property and money all appeared to remain in the hands of Ezekiel Woodward whom John's wife Elizabeth had married shortly after John's death. While her other sisters did not seem to have fallen onto hard times, this was not the case for Sarah.

The basic facts of Sarah Solart's story are told in a variety of sources ranging from Wikipedia to scholarly books and journals. Each source seemed to give very similar information. Once again, putting facts found from a variety of sources into a timeline helped to present a clearer picture of what happened to Sarah and her role in the Salem Witch Trials.

For the time period, Sarah married somewhat late in life, not marrying for the first time until she was about 28. Her husband was Daniel Poole, a young man considered to be a poor laborer.(1) Poole apparently died soon after their marriage, leaving Sarah to assume his debts. Several years later, Sarah married for the second time, this time to laborer William Good of Salem Village.(1) Sarah and William then had two daughters, Dorcus (sometimes referred to as Dorothy) Good and Mercy Good.

Sarah and William never seemed to have the financial success enjoyed by Sarah's father. Instead, they began to be regarded as annoying beggars. Books make reference to William sending Sarah out to beg, carrying baby Dorcus, as she visited neighbors seeking food or money. Marylynn Roach describes Sarah was "a woman at the lower end of the social scale ... pipe in her mouth, an infant in her arms and a four-year-old girl in tow ... reduced to begging for her children's sake."(2) As neighbors grew tired of the Good family and their begging, Sarah became what Emerson Baker described as a "poor, disaffected women, known for her sharp tongue and outbursts hurled even at those who offered to help her".(3) And so, the downward path for Sarah continued.

By February, 1692, the rumblings which soon erupted into the Salem Witch Trials were gathering and Sarah, according to Emerson Baker, was the "stereotypical view of a witch".(3) The records concerning all aspects of Sarah's trial are extensive. These include the various complaints against her, her arrest, examination, imprisonment, evidence entered against her, the grand jury indictment, her jury trial, her conviction and execution and even restitution for William Good.(4) Below is a timeline of Sarah's last five months as documented by A Guide to the On-Line Primary Resources of the Salem Witch Trials.(4)

29 Feb 1692warrant for Sarah's arrest
1 Mar 1692examination of Sarah, William Good said she was "an enemy to all good"
5 Mar 1692William Good's testimony about a mark on Sarah's shoulder
5 Mar 1692Sarah transferred from Ipswich to Salem
7 Mar 1692Sarah transferred from Salem to Boston
23 Mar 1692warrant for arrest of daughter Dorothy Good
24 Mar 1692examination of Dorothy Good
4 Apr 1692Dorothy Good accused of witchcraft
12 Apr 1692Dorothy Good sent to Boston
23 May 1692more testimony against Sarah
25 May 1692warrant to imprison Sarah
2 Jun 1692physical exam ordered for Sarah and others
28 Jun 1692Grand jury considered the case of Sarah Good
      29 Jun 1692Sarah arraigned on indictments for witchcraft
12 Jul 1692judge signed death warrant against Sarah
19 Jul 1692Sarah's death by hanging
unknown dateSarah's daughter Mercy died while in prison with Sarah

A Guide to the On-Line Primary Resources of the Salem Witch Trials also sheds some light on the life of young Dorcus/Dorothy Good. Dorothy, at age five, was the youngest person accused on witchcraft during the trials, but she was finally released in December of 1692 on a recognition bond posted by Samuel Ray. I have not been able to establish a relationship between Ray and young Dorcus. Ray was not married to any of Sarah Solart's sisters, and the recognition bond does not provide any information as to why Ray was involved in that action. Admittedly, it seems puzzling that her Dorcus/Dorothy's father, William Good, did not post that bond. Perhaps he was too impoverished to assume that obligation for his only known remaining child.

Little more is known about Dorcus/Dorothy Good or her father following Sarah's execution except for one legal document that William Good signed in 1710. At that time the Massachusetts legislature had passed the Reversal of Attainder which nullified the trial judgments against 22 of the convicted witches, one of whom was Sarah Good.(5) In response to the legislative action, William Good filed a petition for restitution on 13 Sep 1710.(6) Below is a transcription of William Good's petition.
To The Honourable Committee
The humble representation of Will'm Good of the Damage sustained by him in the year 1692, by reason of the sufferings of his family upon the account of supposed Witchcraft
1 My wife Sarah Good was In prison about four months & then Executed.
2 a sucking child dyed in prison before the Mothers Execution.
3 a child of 4 or 5 years old was in prison 7 or 8 months and being chain'd in the dungeon was so hardly used and terrifyed that she hath ever since been very chargeable haveing little or no reason to govern herself.--And I leave it unto the Honourable Court to Judge what damage I have sustained by such a destruction of my poor family
And so rest, Your Honours humble servant William Good
Salem. Sept 13, 1710
Further records indicate that 30 pounds was proposed to be given to William Good. These records are also the last I was able to find concerning either William Good or his daughter Dorcas/Dorothy.

Lessons Learned

  • So, why celebrate the story of Sarah Solart Good, one of the first accused of the Salem witches? For starters, she was a relative. All of us have questionable individuals, those we don't particularly care for or agree with within our families. Sarah and her story just happens to be more public and well documented in a number of sources. 
  • Her story reminds me that the lives of our ancestors and relatives are shaped and influenced by the time period in which they live as well as the geographical area of their home. Had Sarah exhibited her behavior in another time or place, she might well have been regarded simply as being a strange individual, one who might have been labeled "insane" on a 19th century census record. Living in another time or place, the actions of William Good might not have been seen as the norm.
  • I was amazed at the quantity of digitized records online relating to the Salem Witch Trials. Without them, learning more about Sarah would have relied primarily upon resources available through area libraries. As an aside, I appreciate the way none of the staff at my local library seemed concerned when I would check out an armload of books about the Salem Witch Trials each visit over several months this past winter.
  • The story of the Salem trials may not be over. As I was working on this post, I came across two new bits of information relating to the trials in Salem. Recently an original deposition from the Salem Witch Trials was sold by Christie's for $137,000.(7) In this document from August of 1692, Mary Daniel was accusing Margaret Scott of sorcery. References to this accusation are available on several online sources, but until Christie's included a photo of the document in the sale information, reading the original text online was not possible because the document was owned by a private collector. Perhaps other primary source documents will surface in the future. In addition, an interesting post by AncestralFindings reported that "ground penetrating sonar revealed no bodies at the presumed gallows site" on Proctor’s Ledge.(8) This raises an interesting question. What happened to the bodies of those executed? Where they removed in secret by family members? Were they taken to an as yet unknown site? Were they buried on family owned property? New information continues to lead to more questions.
  • Because of researching Sarah Solart's life, the Salem Witch Trials are more to me than the old televised episode of You Were There: the Salem Witch Trials or a production of Arthur Miller's play The Crucible. There is now a personal connection. And with it, personal questions as to how we regard those who are different from us, those with mental health issues, those on the fringes of society as well as concerns that we do not let mass hysteria contribute to future dark periods in our history.

(1) Torrey, Clarence Almon. New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Co, 1985.
(2) Roach, Marilynn K. Six Women of Salem: the untold story of the accused and their accusers in the Salem Witch Trials. Boston: DaCapo Press, c2013.
(3) Baker, Emerson W. A Storm of Witchcraft: the Salem trials and the American experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press, c2015.
(4) "People Accused of Witchcraft in 1692", A Guide to the On-Line Primary Resources of the Salem Witch Trials. accessed
(5) Roach, Marilynn K. The Salem Witch Trials: a day-to-day chronicle of a community under siege. Taylor Trade Publications, 2004.
(6) "Reversal of Attainder and Restitution Files 1710-1750", Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project.
(7) Martinez, Alanna. "Christie's Sells Rare Deposition From Salem Witch Trials for $137K",, posted 15 Jun 2017.
(8) "Site of Salem Witch Trial Hangings Discovered: Why It's Important to Genealogists",

Thursday, May 25, 2017

My Genealogy Bullet Journal, Month 5

"Winner" from pixabay
Winner from pixabay

Sometimes you just end up amazed at what a positive change something has caused. That's the way I feel about my genealogy bullet journal after five months. And here are three reasons why.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Virtually all of my genealogy research is done solo. By myself. At my own pace. When I decide to do it. The simple act of writing down one or two weekly genealogy to-dos has helped me be more accountable to myself. It is one thing to think I might try to look for a new record, check out the validity of a shaking leaf, or search for a death date. I've found that writing it on a weekly to-do list has made me much more likely to do it and to do it in a timely manner. Amidst travel plans, family visits, and life, I have that visual reminder of what I am trying to do. It is written right there in my bullet journal.

PLANNING: On page three of my bullet journal is a list of five genealogy related goals I hope to accomplish in 2017. I wrote about having goals in my Genealogy Bullet Journal, Day 1 post. Two of them had been ideas that I just hadn't gotten around to for several years. Once again, seeing something written in my bullet journal has reminded me that this really is something I feel is important to do.

One of my 2017 goals was to study some documents housed at the Calvin M. McClung Collection of the Knox County Public Library in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was especially interested in looking at the  Parham Papers, a collection of documents, records, and notes by genealogist Will E Parham that documented many families who had been part of East Tennessee's history. I particularly wanted to view those papers related to my husband's Bogle family ancestors. In my bullet journal I had already recorded information about the collection as well as the library's address and hours.

In April we were near the Knoxville area so I let this become my time to finally see the Bogle folder of the Parham Papers. Seeing available time was something I had discovered and mentioned in a previous Bullet Journal post and now was the time to see those Bogle papers. It was a worthwhile two hour visit. I saw much that confirmed what I had already learned on my own. I was able to have photocopies made of new information. I even enjoyed reading Mr. Parham's letters to genealogy clients quoting rates for his services, even requesting approval of a $2-$2.50 cost for a hotel room in Nashville if the client wanted him to conduct additional research at the state capital in the 1930s. Had I not listed a visit to the McClung Collection in my 2017 goals, I would probably still be planning to do it someday, later, eventually, one of these days.

PROGRESS: Another goal for 2017 was to finally compile a small scrapbook of the stories associated with some family heirlooms. My bullet journal has proven to be a good place to record my progress on this project. I started with a burst of activity back in February, taking a lot of photos and looking over previous blog posts to see what I wanted to include in the scrapbook. I actually started putting the scrapbook together during one of those periods when I needed a break from research. Before long I had completed 20 pages in my Family Treasures And Tales scrapbook. This much was completed in time to share with our children and grandchildren during recent visits.

The scrapbook is still a work in progress. Notes in my bullet journal help me keep up with these additional things that I want to include in the scrapbook. Now I when see an item related to family history, perhaps a quilt on a bed or a 100-year old wooden planer sitting on a bookcase shelf and realize that its story needs to be included in the scrapbook, I make a note in my journal. My mother's collection of souvenir spoons hangs on the wall in my dining room, and my notes remind me that I need to polish those spoons, take pictures, and write a short story about some of them.

So, for me, my Genealogy Bullet Journal continues to have a special role in my genealogy research. It has made a difference to be more accountable to myself and to actually carry out plans that had previously just been rolling around in my thoughts. My journal isn't fancy or elaborately decorated. It is minimal in design, but it has helped to encourage me and has enabled me to be a better researcher and family historian. That makes my Genealogy Bullet Journal a winner for me.