Adventures in Genealogy
The County Courthouse
Or "Rednecks, Hysterical Landmarks and Treasure Troves"
by Uncle Hiram
If yall donít mind Iíd like to talk a little about Court Houses this time. Recently the blonde and I took the family on vacation down to a real nice lake in East Texas. One of the reasons we chose this location for our vacation was so I could run the Court Houses in Franklin, Smith and Hopkins Counties.
Now I aint the most organized person in the world and I do suffer a bit from what my Grandma used to call ďlookinferĒ disease. When I get to Lookin fer something I tend to overlook other stuff. Keeping that in mind I made myself a list of names and time periods to look for in each county.
My first stop was the Smith County Courthouse in Tyler Texas. I had my list and I boldly went exploring in the legendary territory of the East Texas Blonde (my wifeís family is from Smith County.) Now I donít know how it works everywhere else but in Texas every County Clerk gets to set his own rules about how helpful they are gonna be to people like us.
In Smith County I was allowed to go through the Marriage licenses, Death Registers and Land records. It didnít take long till I started finding marriage records for the Dodsons that proved that Aunt Jewell did indeed marry Uncle Zeb. I found their wedding license, the land deed where they bought a ranch and their death certs. Unfortunately the birth register in Smith County does not list the parents only the birth, and the birth certificates themselves are closed to the public. Well you know what I always say a half a piece of beef jerky is better than an IRS audit. So I took what I could get.
Next stop was the Franklin County Court House. Now as far as I knew I didnít have any ancestors in Franklin County but it was right in the middle of three other counties that I had family so I figured it was worth a shot. Now I used the shotgun method of research in Franklin County, in other words I went down there with a notebook and a pencil and started going through the books without any specific names in mind. I went through the birth register first with no luck then I started on the marriage books. I came across the wedding license for a John W Hocutt from 1906. Now John was the oldest son of Israel Hocutt and the husband of Margaret Hocutt. Israel is one of my pet projects since I donít have a lot of info on his line. Margaret was one of my mysteries. I had known when she was born and when she died, and where she was buried cause I had stumbled across her grave. I just didnít have a clue who she was ---- at least I didnít till I found the wedding license. It didnít take much effort to loc
ate her death certificate and prove conclusively that the grave I had found was for Johnís wife.
Since I was feeling lucky I looked through the list of unclaimed marriage licenses on the off chance that John and Margaret never picked it up. In Texas the county is required to turn over any unclaimed marriage license to the first person related who asks for them. Well my luck held and I was able to lay claim to their license. I donít know how yall feel about it but I get a real kick out of actually owning some of these old documents.
My final stop was the Hopkins County Court House. I wanna take a second and tell yall about the Court House itself. It was built a long time ago and itís a thang of beauty. When you picture in your mind what a court house should look like itís the Hopkins County Court House you see. Itís a beautiful old south Court House with columns and personality. I didnít find anything in Hopkins County but the people were extremely friendly and helpful.
Well we come to the end of another one of our little visits and once again we have learned a little. 1) Go to the Court Houses itís a treasure trove of valuable info 2) go organized if you can, know who you are looking for and what time period. 3) Remember Genealogy is the study of History. Stop and appreciate the beauty of the old Court Houses.
It's Time for those Site of the Month Awards again. It seems every month the choices get harder and harder because the sites submitted are better and better.
County Site of the Month for June 2001
Itawanba County, Mississippi
Misc Site of the Month for June 2001
Discovering Family Histories
Home Page of the Month for June 2001
Wurts - Reed's Genealogical Page
- Adios and Keep Smiling!
Return to the Adventures in Genealogy home page.
About the Author
"I am not rich or famous so I don't have a pre-prepared Bio written by some high paid ghost rider. So I will just give Yall the relevant facts."
- Bill Hocutt (Uncle Hiram)
Southern Footprints Magazine
Memorial Day 2001