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Analyzing Genealogical Findings for Results
By Jeannette Holland Austin
Everyone who ever died did not prepare and file for probate a
Last Will and Testament, yet even the poorest of families usually had an administrator appointed for a number of practical reasons. For one thing, they needed the authority to gain access to funds and to sell property. For this reason we must systematically research all the court house papers such as Annual Returns, Inventories, Distributions, Sales, Vouchers and the Minute Books of Inferior Court. Because this is so important in locating relatives, whenever possible, I am adding the indexes to Annual Returns and estates for the various counties to GeorgiaPioneers.com. The first Annual Return for the estate generally pays doctor bills, funerals and miscellaneous expenses of the administrator. Thereafter, in later returns, funds are dispersed to the heirs. You should really review these returns carefully and attempt to identify everyone receiving payment. Receipts are given to administrator. You want to read the vouchers and receipts because this is where you will find the husbands of the daughters. Married women did not directly inherit; their husbands received the goods and signed for them. The Inventories and Sales contain the names of relatives and neighbors who were purchasing items. Also, this is where you will find a general description of parcels of land owned by the decedent and a list of notes owed him.
The Mutable Measuring Stick of Time
33 1/2 years makes a generation. In generations past, because of wars and disease, this was about the life-expectancy of a person. In the 21st century we enjoy good medicine and a better way. "We have come a long way, baby." Because the past was riveted with uncertainty, there are bundles of issues to consider while researching the family history. The researcher must consider the era in which he is working. Consider, up until about the 16th century, documents and old wills were written in Latin. Not only was the language different, but the elegant archaic script poses other problems. Although the dark (seldom fading) India ink written with a feather pen survives even unto this day, it is not always possible to read the words or its meaning. Not without an education into the past. When I was attending school, we were taught cursive writing, however, it did not contain the fancy looping effect of that employed fifty or a hundred years earlier. Although the era of Queen Victoria was during the late 19th century, most people are ignorant that there is a double-loop for (double "s"), and transcribe it as a "p" instead. Although I have read old records dating back to 1400, it is still necessary to employ visual aids. One essential aid is a knowledge of the wording of legal documents, like deeds, wills, bonds, etc. If one knows that wording by heart, then it remains to work out the literal names such as the difference between capital letters and little letters in common names. Ancient writing styles (or early modern) is not taught in schools. In fact, I doubt if the average person can read the written word of the Victorian Age. Also, European children were taught Latin, English and French. Before the coronation of King George, he only spoke German, thus, of necessity he had to learn the English language! Yet, German immigrants populated America during the 17th and 18th centuries settling in German communities for obvious reasons, and there are old wills to be discovered, written in German, with an old-style flourish. So, how ignorant are we? Can we read the correspondence and documents of yester year? Or, do we procrastinate waiting
for someone else to transcribe them for us. I have heard rheteric that Christopher Columbus raped tribal girls when he explored America. Yet, has anyone read his Journal? As it turns out, Columbus was deeply religious, and the journal in his own hand-writing, stated that he felt that God had sent him to find the New World. My question is this? How can such a brave explorer be judged by future reflectionists who had not or could not have read the explorer's journal, written by his own hand in the Spanish language which went untranslated for hundreds of years?
There is Every Reason to Believe that More Ancient Records will Come Forward
If one has a visual of the past, it is the night sky of exploding stars and planets which were borne millions of years ago. An interesting phonemona, to witness the past. As we reside on this earth, we are consciously aware of our own past, although it is not visible to us in such a way. Nevertheless, mankind has recorded its history since the days of Adam and Eve starting with the reference of Enoch as a "Book of Remembrance" kept by Adam. The thirst to keep records is a natural desire. The discovery of the Shabako stone is evidence that previous civilizations wished for their knowledge to survive. Scientists have introduced their own theories, many of which have been disproven with new discoveries of old records. The genealogist knows that the written records even earlier than we have in the modern age, exist somewhere and will come forward in time.
But does one wonder what happened to the written records from 1000 A. D. to 1099 A. D.? It has been said that "man could not read nor write" during that period. Really? Then, suddenly, in the year of 1099 A. D., a book consisting of thousands of pages of names, dates and descriptions is prepared for King William which he used to collect taxes? For now, our most legitiimate source dates to the Domesday Book of 1099, a tax record kept by William the Conqueror. Common sense tells us that the hieroglyphics inside old temples and pyramids dating back to 5000 B. C.), were a precurser to writing as we know it.
The Dead Sea Scrolls reveal a common thread. They were written by ordinary people who took great pains for preservation. During the Roman era when groups of people removed into the desert to avoid tyranny, they took with them sets of ancient records which were recopied again and again. And these records continue to be recovered, restored and translated into English using modern technology.
While we can witness the past in a visual of the night sky, the raw earth has its own history of floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions both above and below the surface. Does the evidence of sunken cities deep in the seas surprise you? Or, how how deep into the soil the ancient discoveries lie?
So it is that the genealogist has every reason to believe that more records will eventually emerge and enable him to connect his families!
The Tally Stick
The tally stick was first an staff, then a staff, upon which the names of the contracting parties were written. Then, the staff was split down the middle, and one half (called the "stock") was retained by one of the parties, while the other, "the bill", was held by the other. When the time came to settle the contract, the two parties would present their halves of the stick to the king. If they matched perfectly, it was plain that neither party had attempted to tinker with the document, and all conditions having been met, the two halves were rejoined and bound with a string in the hand of the king, and stored in the archives. The oldest known tallies were written in Latin and Hebrew. Found among the Dead Sea Scrolls in the the Bar Kochba Cave, at least 23 samples known as "tied deeds," a very old practice known in the ancient world carried forward into the first and second centuries.
Ever Hear Tell of Silas John?
In the Bible, we read that the project of the Tower of Babel was discontinued because God changed the common language and the people could no longer communicate. Does one conclude that the people sat on their hands afterwards and did nothing to write a new language?
Then there is a 1904 article which appear in the journal Science. concerning a deeply religious Apache Indian by the name of Silas John who suddenly produced a highly sophistocated and perfectly funtional system of writing. The Apache claimed that he had a single vision of it while dreaming.
Although many writers in science journals deplore the way in which scientific conclusions were reached in the long ago, the story of Silas John reveals that man is creative and inventive. And that he prides himself in his accomplishments.
Chattahoochee County Georgia Ancestor Databases: Wills, Estates, Annual Returns, Appraiements, Inventories, Homesteads
Chattahoochee County was created in 1854 from Marion and Muscogee Counties. It was named for the Chattahoochee River.
Online Chattahoochee County Records Available to Members of Georgia Pioneers
- (Index) 1854 to 1907
- (Index) 1866 to 1876
- Marriages from newspapers 1885 to 1886
Index to Probate Records
- Inventories, Appraisements, Sales, Homesteads, Book A (1863 to 1883)
- Inventories, Appraisements, Sales, Homesteads, Book B (1882 to 1940)
- Annual Returns, Book A (1854 to 1858)
- Annual Returns, Book B (1858 to 1860)
- Annual Returns, Book C (1860 to 1865)
Wills and Estates
Wills (abstracts) 1853-1885
Traced Genealogies for Chattooga County Families