Monthly Archives: June 2014

Great Things Can Be Found in Court Minute Books

While doing some research last week for one of my clients; I was searching through an old microfilmed Court Minute book from Fentress County, Tennessee.  This was regarding a case in 1875; of heirs of John B. Rodgers; who was deceased.  I copied a couple of pages from this film regarding this, so that I could write about it and point out the value in searching court minute books.

This particular case proves several children and grandchildren of John B. Rodgers.  In part it reads….

Hafford Smith, Ellen Smith & Clarence Smith minors; Josephine Smith, William Smith, Dwight Jarvis & Mary L. Jarvis, James Rodgers, John T. Rodgers, William Rodgers, heirs at law of John B. Rodgers, Dec’d.”.  

If we pay attention, we learn a few things from the above.  First; we know that Hafford Smith, Ellen Smith and Clarence Smith are all minors.  They are almost certainly grandchildren of the deceased.  Because their last name is Smith; they are probably children of a daughter of James B. Rodgers.  That daughter may have died previous to this case; which would make her children a part of the case.

Second….. Josephine Smith may also be a grandchild; and may be a sister of these other 3 Smith’s.  If she is; she is apparently an adult at this time.

Third…..  if we read between the lines a bit; it is reasonable to believe that Mary Jarvis was likely a daughter of James B. Rodgers; and Dwight Jarvis was her husband.  With married daughter’s in a situation like this; it would be normal to name the husband of the daughter.  He is included because he is her husband.  In other words; Dwight Jarvis is included as an heir because he is the husband of Mary L. Jarvis.  So…. we learn that Mary L. Jarvis was probably Mary L. Rodgers; daughter of James B. Rodgers; who had married Dwight Jarvis.

Third…. we learn that James Rodgers, John T. Rodgers and William Rodgers were likely sons of John B. Rodgers.

Back to the 3 minors mentioned.  Although it would take a bit of investigating to be sure; it is reasonable to think that their mother had been a daughter of James Rodgers; and that she had married a Smith.  If I were connected to this family; I would certainly be looking for a marriage of a Rodgers girl to a Smith.

I only copied a couple of pages from the microfilmed court minutes regarding this case; since my sole intention was to point out the value of searching Court Minute books.  However; this case appears to be regarding land that James B. Rodgers had sold to Robert Scroggins on 8 July 1858.

This same sort of information can often be found in deed records as well.  I have often found the father of an ancestor by searching deed records.  Because land would have been inherited by the heirs after a persons death; deed records have often lead me to the parents.  Frequently; within a few years (or less) of a person’s death; the heirs would sell their inherited land.  Because they all own a share of the land; they would “collectively” sell the land.  Those type of deeds would typically refer to the Grantors (those selling the land) as “heirs of _______”.  So…. even without having previously known the name of the father; searching deeds has often lead me to the name of the father.

When you run into a brick wall in your family history; be sure to do an extensive search of the Court Minute books and deeds.  You just might find the father and siblings of your ancestor.

To view the pages copied from the microfilm regarding this case; click the link below.

Smith Heirs – Fentress Co, TN Court Minutes

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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in General Genealogy


A Pleasant Experience at the Library Today

I had a very pleasant experience at the library today that I really wanted to share.  It started as I was entering the library.  As usual; I arrived at the library; and went up the elevator from the parking garage.  Upon entering the library; I overheard an elderly gentleman ask the security guard where the Genealogy Department was.  The guard explained to him where it was.  As soon as he walked away; I informed him that he could simply follow me; that I was headed that way.  During our brief walk to the elevators; and our ride up to the second floor; he informed me that he had only recently learned that the genealogy department at the Allen County Library was supposed to be a really good one.  I explained that it is the second largest genealogy library in the U.S. Although he lives locally; he had never been here.  In fact; he had never really even started researching his family history; but wanted to do so.  During our conversation, I told him that I researched professionally; and spend at least a couple of days a week at the library there.

Upon entering the genealogy department; I asked him where his family was from.  He explained that they had come from France originally; but his parents, grandparents and great grandfather had lived in Adams and Allen counties.

I immediately decided that I wanted to help him get started.  I introduced myself; and he to me.  His name is Lester Zehr.  He was born in 1930.  Since he was not familiar with the census records; and had never searched those; we sat down; I booted up my laptop; and proceed to locate him with his parents in the 1940 census. From there; I decided to go ahead and back track the family into the earlier census records.  Lester was amazed to see himself; his parents; his grandparents; and his great-grandparents in the census records.  I also found the WW2 Draft Registration of his grandfather; Amos Zehr.

From the census records; we learned that his great-grandfather, George Zehr was born in 1842.  We also learned from the census records that he had immigrated to the U.S. in 1866.  At that point; I knew I had to go to the bookshelves to the “Germans To America” series.  It took only a few minutes to locate George Zehr in one of those volumes; showing us when he departed Germany for the U.S.; the name of the ship he traveled on; and the date that he arrived.

Since the family seemed to have lived in Adams County for a lot of years; I decided to take a quick glance at some of the books at the library regarding Adams County.  Within a few minutes I found a wonderful biography about George and his family from an Adams County History book which had been published in 1907; many years before George had died.  The biography gave wonderful details about his immigration to the U.S.; and his life in the U.S.  It also gave the names of his parents.

Lester obviously had not planned on spending a lot of time at the library.  So…. I took him over to the copying machines and helped him make copies of a couple of the things we had found.  Of course I handed him a business card before he left.  He thank me and thank me for taking the time to help him; and for giving him much more information than he had known about his ancestors.  Lester left the library a very happy man; and left me with a big smile on my face; and a sense of pride as well.

After Lester left; I got to work on the research for my clients that I had intended for the day.

What a wonderful experience.  Just had to share it.



Posted by on June 20, 2014 in General Genealogy


Taking An Alternate Route to Find Your Ancestor

I have recently been doing research for a client in order to try to find the parents of her ancestor, William Stepp/Stapp who was born about 1803.  The first real proof we had of him was his appearance on the 1850 census in Floyd Co., IN.  He was listed as 48 years old at that time.  His birthplace was given as NC.  He again appeared in Floyd Co. in 1860 and 1870; and died there in 1873.  The 1860 census gave his age as 57; and his birthplace as TN.  The 1870 census gave his age as 65; and his birthplace as NC.  So….  we have 3 census records which list a birthplace.  2 of those show NC.  This tells me that it is very likely he was born in North Carolina; but probably had been in Tennessee prior to his arrival in Indiana.

Early on, I searched for other Stepp/Stapp households in Floyd County; hoping to find other possible relatives.  Unfortunately; there were no others there.  So…. I proceeded to do a thorough analysis of the census records of William’s household.  According to the 1850 census, William’s oldest child; Minerva was born in Tennessee.  She was 16 years old at that time.  This told me that William was in Tennessee by or before 1834; when Elizabeth was born.  The children following Minerva were ages 14, 13, 10, 8, 7, 5, 3 and 2. All of those were born in Indiana.  This told me that William was in Indiana by about 1838.

Knowing William was in Indiana before 1840, I then proceeded to search for him on the 1840 census in Indiana.  There were no Stepp/Stapp households in Floyd County in 1840.  However; I found a William Stepp in Pike County, Indiana; whose age was in the correct category to be this William.  His wife’s age was also in the correct category.  Additionally; the sex and ages of the other children were also a match.  I knew this must be him.

I decided then to search for other Stepp/Stapp’s in Pike County.  Once again, I found no others!  I needed a lead.

From other records, I knew that William’s wife was Elizabeth Turley.  I also knew from census records; that she was born in South Carolina.  Nothing else was known about her or her family.  Since Turley seemed to me to be an uncommon surname; I decided to check the Floyd County census records for Turley’s in 1850.  I found only one person by the surname of Turley.  This was an Elizabeth Turley; who had been born in SC!  She was 55 years old in 1850; and was living with a Leonard and Permelia Shaw.  Permelia was 27 years old.  I immediately suspected that Mary may have been Permelia’s mother.  A search of the Floyd County marriage records revealed that Leonard Shaw indeed married Permelia Turley in 1843.

At this point, I have evidence to suggest that William’s wife, Elizabeth Turley; may have been a sister of Permelia; and a daughter of Mary.  Now I need to try to find out who the husband of Mary was.  Since Permelia married in Floyd County in 1843; there was a good chance that his family was in Floyd County in 1840.  A quick search of the 1840 Floyd County census revealed a Charles Turley household.  Charles was 50-59 years old.  He had a daughter 15-19 who matched the age of Permelia from the 1850 census.  Additionally; Shaw’s were living nearby!

Now I have a pretty good hypothesis as to who the father of Permelia was; and probably Elizabeth’s father.

I decided at this point to try to find other clues as to Charles Turley.  Doing some creative searching online; I found a family tree someone had posted in which they claimed another daughter of Charles Turley had married in Rhea County, Tennessee in 1828.  Since I was at the library that day; I immediately went to the bookshelves to the section where the Rhea County books were.  I found a book of transcribed marriage records of Rhea County; and indeed verified that a Malinda Turley married there in 1828.

I then searched for Charles Turley on the 1830 census in Rhea County.  I did not find him there.  In fact; I could not find a Charles Turley in Tennessee anywhere in 1830!

My client already “suspected” that another William Stepp; who was living in McMinn County, Tennessee in 1830; may have been the father of her William Stepp.  Prior to the creation of Meigs County in 1836; McMinn County bordered Rhea County.  Although I could find no Charles Turley in McMinn or Rhea County in 1830; I still suspected that he was there; and probably indexed incorrectly on the ancestry census records.  Since I had already searched the 1830 census in Rhea and McMinn counties for other possible spellings of Turley; I decided to take things a step father.  I searched the McMinn County census (1830) for only the first name of Charles; and noticed ancestry listed a Charles “Parley” there.  I immediately knew I needed to take a look at that census; and did so.  Looking closely at this Charles; his name was Charles “Turley”.  His age and the ages and sex of his children matched those from the 1840 Floyd County, Indiana census.  And; because he had a daughter that had married in the bordering county of Rhea in 1828; I knew this must be him.

Okay…… back to our real subject of interest; William Stepp.  Although we had no marriage date for William Stepp and Elizabeth Turley; I knew they must have married about 1831 because their first child was born about 1833/34.  Unfortunately; no marriage record was found for William and Elizabeth in Rhea County.  Having found Charles Turley (likely father of Elizabeth) in McMinn County in 1830; I decided to check those marriage records.  Unfortunately; only a few of the earliest McMinn County marriage records exist.

Now the big clue!  Charles Turley was found living right next door to the William Stepp whom my client suspected was father of her William Stepp (born 1803)!  This pretty much clinches it.  Charles Turley was found in Floyd County, Indiana; where William Stepp and his wife, Elizabeth Turley were living by 1850.  I knew William Step and Elizabeth had their first child about 1833 in Tennessee.  We suspected William was a son of another William Stepp found in McMinn County, Tennessee in 1830.  Finally; I found Charles Turley living next door to this elder William Stepp in McMinn County in 1830.

Without finding a document that absolutely states that William Stepp was the son of William Stepp; this evidence is about as strong as it gets.  There is little doubt now that William Stepp (1803) was the son of William Stepp.

The end…

Be sure to check out my main website where I offer many free lookups and well as “research” at


Posted by on June 17, 2014 in General Genealogy