Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Map for UK Research

Happy Boxing Day to our blog readers in Canada and the UK.

Before 1837, when you find a person’s marriage and death in a parish but no baptism, what is the next step? The advice hasn’t changed in years – look at records in abutting parishes and if you don’t find them there, keep enlarging the ring outward until you find them. How you carry out this advice has changed dramatically in recent years.
A handy online tool is the map of ‘English Jurisdictions in 1851’ at the site – www.maps.familysearch.org.  On a basic map of England (not Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland) you can select boundary lines for parishes, counties, Civil Registration Districts, Poor Law Unions, diocese, rural deanery, province, hundred, division and probate. When I introduced this site to my UK Special Interest Group last month, one man asked how I would use it. I have to admit that I think it is pretty slick in and of itself and thought it was fun to show that the Poor Law Unions followed the boundaries of the old ‘hundreds’ to a great extent.

Here is an attempt at a more practical use. When you have an ancestor whose BMD records are not all in one parish, this map is helpful by showing the contiguous parishes and by showing the relative distances between parishes. Lists of contiguous parishes have been in print for hundreds of years, but the computer makes this search quick and easy.
For example, Clement Laws was married in Necton, Norfolk in 1851 and buried there on 31 Jul 1772. His age at death was given as ‘about 40’. He was not baptized in the parish.

By a name search on www.familysearch.org, I found a baptism for Clement Laws, son of Clement and Mary Laws 2 Apr 1730 in Wendling, Norfolk. I had no idea where Wendling is, but found it two towns away from Necton using the familysearch.org map. I think I’m onto something here. Although I cannot find a marriage for the parents, Clement and Mary Laws, in Wendling, I did find baptisms for two more children. This is the first time I found the given name, Clement, in Norfolk but in Wendling, there is at least one family with the surname, Clements, so maybe that is how father and son received their unusual first names.
©2011, Susan Lewis Well

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dower and Curtesy Rights

You may have run into a phrase in a deed such as, ‘and I, Mary Jones, in consideration aforesaid do hereby relinquish my right of dower in the above mentioned property.’ What are dower rights? The concept came to North America with the colonists from English common law. At marriage, a woman’s legal existence was combined with her husband’s. In practice, it meant that real estate purchased during the marriage belonged to the husband. To create balance for this concept, a wife was granted dower rights which prevented a husband from selling property without the wife’s permission. Thus the clause above or one similar would appear in deeds.

Dower rights also granted women legal ownership of a portion of the real estate for the rest of her life, if the husband died first. While the dower portion was governed by each state's statute, it usually ranged from 33 to 50 percent. A woman was also protected from being left out of her husband’s will.  He could increase the share beyond one-third in his will, and some state laws limited the rights of a husband to bequeath less than a one-third share to his widow except in prescribed circumstances.  When the widow died, the real estate was then inherited as designated in her deceased husband's will; she had no rights to sell or bequeath the property independently. She did have rights to income from the dower during her lifetime, including rents and income from crops.

In most states, one-third of a husband's estate is awarded to a widow automatically if he dies without a will (intestate). In many jurisdictions, dower has been replaced by the 'elective share'. In others, statutes expressly provide that a spouse choose among the elective share, the dower, or the provisions of the will.  Thus most modern deeds have no dower clause.

A husband's corresponding right of inheritance was called curtesy. In England and early America, a widower could use 100 percent of his deceased wife's property (real estate which she acquired and held in her own name) until his own death, but could not sell or transfer it to anyone but children of his wife. Today in the United States, instead of using curtesy rights, most jurisdictions explicitly require that one-third to one-half of a wife's property be given outright to her husband at her death, if she dies without a will.

Today married couples hold land in some form of joint ownership that specifies how property is divided or inherited at the death of one partner.
©2011, Susan Lewis Well

Monday, December 12, 2011

Liber, Folio et al

Genealogy is a great way to introduce you to or to review Latin vocabulary. When searching land records, you are likely to come across few terms. Here are translations for the most often used.

Every document that comes to a registry for recording is copied and placed more or less chronologically into a book, often referred to by its Latin name, liber. The pages of the book may be called folios. This blog will refer to book and page numbers to identify deeds, not liber and folio numbers.

Et al is an abbreviated form of the phrase ‘et alia,’ Latin for “and others.” If more than one person owned a piece of property, the registry clerks might index all the names on the document, but in some circumstances, only use the name of the first person listed on the deed, followed by ‘et al’ or ‘et alia.’

Et uxor is Latin for “and wife.” The grantors and grantees might be written as “John Doe et uxor” on deeds in certain times and places. You may find it shortened to ‘John Doe et ux.’ Today wives are identified by their full name, since they take a more central part in the transactions legally.

Latin phrases will appear in other genealogical documents, and you can use www.translate.google.com to help you. Familysearch.org and about.com have Latin word lists for genealogists. To find these sites quickly, just google ‘Latin for genealogists’.  If you have no Latin background, you may want to take the time and effort to study the twelve tutorials for beginners at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/latin/beginners. The examples in the lessons are from genealogical documents and are interesting themselves. Fair warning, with four years of high school Latin, I found the first three lessons more challenging than I would have predicted.

The web sites listed in the last paragraph will take you way beyond a simple deed which usually only used the terms I defined above. Now you will know where to look for definitions of church related terms used in baptism, marriage and death records in early England.

©2011, Susan Lewis Well