52 Ancestors Week 9: At the Courthouse

+18 votes

imageReady for Week 9 of the 52 Ancestors challenge?

You're encouraged to share a profile of an ancestor or relative who matches the week's theme. This week's sharing prompt:


From Amy Johnson Crow:

What neat discoveries have you made at the courthouse? Or, do you have an ancestor who spent a lot of time at the courthouse, either as an official or as someone who ran afoul of the law? 

Share below!

Participants who share every week can earn badges. Click here for more about the challenge and how to participate.

If this is your first time participating, or you don't have the participation badge, please post here.

in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)

74 Answers

+8 votes

Justice Thomas Pinckney was my 7th GGF.  I would assume that he spent some time in a courthouse, but I was not able to find any specifics about what exactly he did.   I wish I had some stories to go with this.  Would love to know more!

by William Catambay G2G6 Mach 2 (22.0k points)
edited by William Catambay

Given the lack of information on Justice Thomas Pinckney, I offer this as a backup... my 7th cousin 3x removed is Wyatt Earp.  He spent some time in the courthouse, and lots of stories to go around! 

"Wyatt Earp was an American gambler, deputy sheriff (Pima County, AZ), and deputy marshal (Tombstone, AZ) who took part in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral."

+8 votes

My parents were married at the courthouse as they could not afford a wedding . no pics no frills just true love.image

by Linda Nevins G2G2 (2.4k points)
+8 votes

My parents were married at the courthouse as they could not afford a wedding . no pics no frills just true love.image

by Linda Nevins G2G2 (2.4k points)
+8 votes

https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Davis-37311My Great-Grandfather, John Peter Davis, was a Probate and County Ordinary Judge for Floyd County, Georgia.  He spent a lot of time at the courthouse in that area.  But, he was also very busy at home as the father of ten children.  He helped his father-in-law, John Lumpkin Camp build and carve decorations for the home at 1148 North Broad Street, Rocky Creek, Floyd County.  It later became a funeral home, probably because it was so big and beautiful.

by Kathryn Wenzel G2G6 (7.8k points)
+8 votes

My Great Great Uncle Powell Sanders traveled from East Tennessee to Riverside, California after he became an attorney. I just realized the occupation listed on his World War I Draft Registration card is "Chief Clerk" at the Court House. I need to add to his bio, but according to my notes on Ancestry (which are most likely from the book his younger brother wrote about the family) he received his certificate to practice law in Tennessee in December 1898 and his license to practice law in California in October 1902.

When the husband of his sister, Myrtle, was killed in France during WWI Powell handled the probate case. 

by Emily Holmberg G2G6 Mach 9 (94.6k points)
+8 votes
My 6th great-granduncle Nathan Dane spent time in the courtroom as a judge in Essex, County Massachusetts.  He also wrote one of the first books of jurisprudence in the United States.

My 8th great-grandfather Samuel Appleton spent a lot of time in court as well - as a plaintiff (inheritance civil suit), an accused (treason) and a judge.
by Bret Cantwell G2G6 Mach 1 (10.4k points)
+8 votes

52 Ancestors Week 9: At the Courthouse


For week 9, I choose my paternal grandfather Bishop Marvin Smith as my subject. He created a problem for me here on Wikitree as his first name was questioned? Yes, his first name is Bishop, and he definitely is NOT a bishop.

At his funeral, my dad and his 7 brothers and sisters were shocked when another family of my grandfather's walked in. Wife and children that none of them knew about.

But I am just leading up to the fact that this man was a Marshall in Morganfield, KY. He was born in 1882 in Morganfield, Kentucky.  He is my roadblock in the family. 

My grandfather did some terrible things to his children during the 83 years he was on this earth, so it was difficult for me to understand that he could have been a Marshall, and dealing with the right side of the law. 

I am sure that during his tenure as a Marshall he was in and out of a very small courthouse in Morganfield. I can picture him taking great pleasure in making arrests, putting the accused in jail, and taking them to the courthouse for their hearings.

I am sure he felt right at home in the courthouse, walking on the all wood floors.

I haven't heard of any famous run-ins that he had, but my dad had his gun and my Uncle Dave had his badge. I am not sure who has possession of them now.

by Cheryl Hess G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
+8 votes

Perhaps the most interesting "Courthouse" connection I have in my family is the testimony given in the witch trials held in Stamford Ct.

In 1692, the witch scare that afflicted Salem, Massachusetts, spread to Stamford, Connecticut. On 27 May 1692, a court of inquiry in Stamford began investigating the case of a 17-year-old French servant girl named Katherine Branch, who in April of that year falsely accused two women named Elizabeth Clausen and Mercy Disborough of using withchcraft to cause her epilepsy. While the Salem Witch hysteria led to a large number of false accusations and executions, the residents of Stamford proved to be far more sensible, with the greater number of them -- including Thomas and Lydia Pennoyer (my 6th Great Grandparents) and several of their relatives -- publicly rejecting Branch's superstitious accusations. On 4 June 1692, most of the citizens of Stamford signed an affidavit attesting to their belief in Elizabeth Clauson's good character -- among the signatures or marks ("X") on the affidavit are "Moses Knap and and his wife" and "ledy Pennoyer" (i.e., Lydia). During the investigation and trial of Elizabeth Clauson, Thomas Pennoyer testified as a witness on 12 Sept. 1692 in Fairfield, Connecticut. In his testimony, Thomas dismissed the sworn statements of another witness, Mary Newman, saying there was long-standing personal animosity Newman and Clauson that motivated Newman to support Katherine Branch's false accusations of witchcraft against Clauson.

Following is a transcription of Thomas Pennoyer's testimony in the Clauson witch trial:

"The Testimony of Thomas Penoir he saith that ye sheep yt mary Newman mentioned/ that dyed which she gives in testimony /as he have\ yt she thought was bewitched to death dyed/ this last spring was four year it being before he went for Ingland: ye next sumer/ after he came whom from Ingland was a contention between godwif clason and/ mary Newman about ye yard taking aples or nuts or graps or sum such things/ out of godman clasons lot: goody clason said to mary newman: as mary/ Newman tould at his house yt if she aloud her children to steal when they was/ young how would they be when they were old: whereby I understood ye contention betwen/ them: Lidda penoir his wife being present at ye same time and can witness/ to all ye above writen: & both are reddy to give oath to ye above written/ testimony when called thareunto/ The above written Thomas Penoir/ appeared this 12th:Septembr 1692: & made/ oath to the above written testimony/ for himselfe before me Jonat [Selleck] comissr/"

Unlike the horror of the Salem Witch Trials in which numerous innocent women and others in Salem lost their lives or suffered unjustly, in Stamford the witch trial of Elizabeth Clauson and Mercy Disborough ended with Clauson being completely exonerated and Disborough, though unjustly convicted, being granted a reprieve due to the finding of technical prosecutorial mistakes in her case. The Massachusetts General Court in May 1693 then issued a report admonishing everyone in the colony never to bring charges of witchcraft against anyone ever again.

by Karen Fuller G2G6 Mach 1 (19.4k points)
edited by Karen Fuller
+8 votes

I have a whole bunch of relations who were lawyers in Nashville, Tennessee, but for the most part they are not yet on Wikitree.

New Haven Colony was a very strict Puritan Colony. My ancestors there were in court frequently, mostly for minor infractions, sometimes for more serious crimes.

John Frost at about the age of fourteen burned his masters house and barn to the ground, because his master took him to task rather harshly. John narrowly escaped execution, but the court decided he was young, and punished him quite severely.

When he was 20, he was caught in sinful miscarriages with the girl who later became his wife and was back in court again.

He did eventually settle down and raise a family.

by Anne B G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
+8 votes
So many ways I could answer AT THE COURTHOUSE.  When I first married in 1973, my Dad had to sign for me: it was Valentine's Day, one week before my 18th birthday! As I was widowed in 1976, my next trip to the courthouse was on December 14, 1979 - when I married my current husband. It was the Iran hostage crisis, and there were MANY people trying to get married in Harris County, Texas. We waited to get our license. We waited to see the Judge. And then he says: "You want the long version or the short version?" I opted for the long version. It was about three minutes.
by Sheri Taylor G2G6 Mach 2 (24.6k points)
+7 votes

I've never been to a courthouse and all the judges or officers in my family are still living.  I do love reading court reports in the newspapers as they really bring people to life for me.  I won't share any from the past century in the interest of sensitivity (even though those are the best ones).  Instead I have made a profile for a convict ancestor, Peter O'Neil.

by Susie O'Neil G2G6 (8.0k points)
+7 votes

I have never done any research myself at a courthouse, but I can pick an older connection on my dad's side.  My10th great-grandfather was Edmund Prideaux (died 1659) who was briefly Solicitor General of England and Wales under Oliver Cromwell  but resigned after deciding not to participate in the regicide of Charles I. He later served as Attorney General and ran the postal service for Parliament.

by Geoffrey Crofton G2G6 (6.8k points)
+6 votes

In 2017 I went to the Argyle Township Courthouse & Archives to solve a mystery.  

My grandmother always said her father was shot when she was a child.  Her mother said she was lying. Based on my knowledge of the two women, I'd take my grandmother's word over her mother's, but she didn't have any proof. Then, when I joined WikiTree in 2016, his profile showed that he remarried and lived for a long time, so it seemed that the proof went the other way.

At the courthouse I found records of his death, exactly as my grandmother described. It seems a relative with a similar name married and lived for a long time.  It also seems my Gran's mother was a bit of a character.

by Laurie Giffin G2G6 Mach 8 (83.1k points)
+5 votes
I already wrote a blog in this years challenge about the person, non living that was involved with the courthouse as a Probate Judge, and that was under week 4, Person I'd Most Like to Meet...so that just leaves me and I won't be blogging about that. Too much information. So my response is only going to be here on #WikiTree.

I've had a couple of occasions to go to court for myself...one after I ran away from home the first time, again after I ran away from home the second time, but that was to get me off the probation I was kept on longer than I was suppose to have been (for my protection from my parents), for my first divorce, because there was a child involved, and I learned that in "Pro Per" meant representing myself. I had two other court appearances that I'm not going to go into detail about, but the charges were dropped in both of those proceedings (concurrently). I had a traffic ticket I didn't pay, then forgot about that I got arrested for that I was going to fight (long story), but in the end I just told the District Attorney (that I had to see before the hearing) that I would just pay the fine, but because of the circumstances involved, and I had since resolved the issue that got me the ticket in the first place, the charges were dropped.

I've also appeared in court a couple of times to keep an abusive person in jail. Worked two out of three times, but the third time, because the person he was beating on wouldn't testify, for fear of retribution, they dismissed the case.

I've had jury duty twice. Once in California, but was dismissed because I had a problem with the way the Sheriff's department handled things with me personally on something unrelated, and once here in Virginia, but was excused because the sound system in the court was as loud as it could be and I couldn't hear most of what the Judge said...turned out I had an ear infection, but didn't know that until later, the other case I was dismissed, but I can't remember why.

Hopefully this is enough for this weeks challenge.

Added: I almost forgot, long before I started working on my family tree, I went to the courthouse to look up something that someone had told me. Found out they lied to me, and also discovered that there was a warrant out for their arrest in relation to what they lied to me about.
by T Counce G2G6 Mach 6 (63.2k points)
edited by T Counce
+6 votes
My 4x great uncle Hiram Higgins (Higgins-2197)    He spend some time in the courthouse on trial, after killing his son during a dispute.   Interesting to reed all the newspaper accounts during that time.
by Brandi Morgan G2G6 Mach 1 (18.6k points)
+7 votes

My GGG Grandparents were no stranger to Beechworth Courthouse. John Cox Gimeson was originally a convict but he seems to have been quite ready to physical solutions, however his poor wife Elspet James also found her way to Court " In January 1864, Anna Tasker prosecuted Elspeth Gimeson for assault . The charge was proven but Elspeth claimed that she had found the plaintiff with her clothes disarranged , and in a position which showed improper intimacy with her husband'. Tasker denied any impropriety with John Gimeson and Elspeth was fined 5s." Reading the Trove newspaper reports, the Judge admonished Her husband to keep better control of his wife. Seems to me that she needed to take better control of him!

by Lynlee OKeeffe G2G6 Mach 1 (16.5k points)
+6 votes

My 2x great grandfather, Josiah, was employed as a messenger for the Court of Probate in London from around 1860 to 1885. 

He was the first in a long line of agricultural labourers to be employed in a position in the city.

by Toni Andrews G2G6 (6.7k points)
+6 votes
this is a difficult one for me. Things are organized differently in the Netherland so the courthouse is mainly used in case of juridical conflicts.  But divorces are handled in the courthouse  so I like to mention the only divorce ever happening in the generetions above me: An uncle and aunt of me who divorced in the 1980's but came together again after a few years. They never married again though. (I won't mention their names though both are deceased bu the privacy laws in the Netherlands only allow me to mention them after their death is more than 50 years ago. And I will respect that)

Since then four of the 12 cousins on my fathers side divorced and 7 out of 27 on my mothers side.... times change
by Eef van Hout G2G6 Mach 8 (86.7k points)
+6 votes
I am still looking for an ancestor with court connections

Unless registry office count I am a stymed by this challange but on the hunt
by Janet Wild G2G6 Pilot (172k points)
+7 votes

My "At the courthouse" story is a sad one, from 1963.

Mary McRae was a teacher in Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, when she was travelling with several other teachers to a conference in a neighboring town. On the way home, her car was struck by a drunk driver. Mary and several other teachers were killed instantly in the accident.

The driver who caused the accident, identified in news reports only as Mr. Barr, was drunk at the time. In 1963, even though driving while drunk was frowned upon, it actually wasn't a crime that carried any legal punishment. There was an inquiry and the tragic event was deemed an accident, and the driver was free to go.

As soon as he left the courthouse, Mr. Barr went across the street to the nearest pub and proceeded to get very drunk, before driving himself home. Clearly, he didn't learn any lessons from this horrible accident.

Mary McRae

by Alex Stronach G2G6 Pilot (299k points)
The sad thing is that there too many such idiots (morons?) still around today!

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