The Down And Dirty

07/22/2012

 
Do you spend your time searching for the well bred? The tea sipping, white glove wearing ancestors of wealth and keen minds; The learned and noble grandfathers of military clout and intellectual brilliance?

Excuse me while I yawn...

I, instead, shriek with excitement at the discovery of an ancestor with flaws. The highs and lows, the ups and downs of grandfathers struggling over lawsuits and bankruptcies. An ancestor dabbling in petty criminal activity send tingles to my toes. Recently, I received a copy of a hand written will that hinted (or should I say shouted) to the disdain felt toward a son-n-law: my ancestor. When I read the will, I practically did cartwheels around my house!

And if you are of the other type, like me: the family historian who relishes in the down and dirty marginal guy that is both good and bad with daily struggles much like our own, then I have a great research tip that will make you drool:

A search through the State Supreme Court Archives.

Could you have guessed your ancestors might be found within the records of the highest court of their state? Well, I have discovered at least three ancestors with such records. And the details of the documents can lead you not only on a head-spinning ride but also to great genealogical finds.

I have discussed my Scottish Loyalist ancestor from Morris County, New Jersey within other blogs. His charges of Loyalist leanings were found within the New Jersey State Supreme Court.

Ok, that makes sense, you must be saying. An American Revolution Loyalist's records would most likely be found within the State Supreme Court Archives.

But what about his son, my great-great-great-grandfather, a simple tenant farmer struggling with poor crops, a life of monetary failures and years of debt? His records are also held with the New Jersey State Supreme Court.

Records of grandfathers living during the Colonial and early 1800's often have court records within their State Supreme Courts. They may be listed as the Defendant or as the Plaintiff. Charges and filings such as Trespass on the Case, Debt, Trespass and Eject, personal lawsuits and petty charges against neighbors; all minor disputes played out in the highest courts of the states.

The Colonial and early 1800's State Supreme Courts were not just appeals courts, they held court for the most trivial of complaints. The lower court system had yet to be well established and on top of that, our ancestors loved to use their Supreme Court system.

They filed lawsuits against neighbors for alleged stolen bushels of apples and criminal charges against their tenants for day-late rent. Those of us who complain about the number of lawsuits filed today should swear at our Colonial ancestors for starting the trend!

The State Supreme Court Archives are overflowing with genealogical finds that can expose tantalizing bits and pieces of the daily lives of our ancestors, revealing leads to more discoveries for your family tree.

Dig through your ancestors' State Supreme Court Archives for genealogical details. And if you don't find great leads within your ancestor's records, I can at least guarantee an urge to do cartwheels around your house!

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl.