using courthouse records to turn your research into a memory
january 19, 2014
The courthouse records of the 1900s hold so many more interesting family history records than the legalese found in those dated in the 21st century. Deed records are one of my favorite sources. You just never know what or how much data you might find in those records.
John Greer often sends me interesting snippets of his research on his Greer family. His latest find from the deed books at the Fannin County Courthouse in Bonham was interesting, a good example of the research report or memory of what he found, and I thought I would share it with you.
John’s paternal grandmother, Anna Gage Phillips Greer, lived in Kerrville in a tuberculosis clinic (TB). She died in 1914 and buried in an unmarked grave in the local Kerrville cemetery. She had thirteen brothers and sisters. Anna’s mother, Hanna Gage Smith Phillips, died in 1884 and her father, Henry Marcus Phillips, died in 1903 in Whitewright, Texas. After Hanna’s death, her husband Henry remarried. The second wife, Sara Berger, died in 1931. According to the will John found in the courthouse, Henry provided for Sara after his death by saying Sara could live on the land until her death. It took a year to settle the estate before the surviving children and descendants of the deceased children could sign the papers, finalize the will and sell the property.
His dad, Lee Greer, told John he continued to live in Kerrville, Texas until 1914. He was a member of a group called the “52 Club.” This club had 52 families as members. Each week one of the families killed a cow and shared it with the members so they always had fresh meat each week.
Kerrville resident Charles Armand Schreiner owned a great deal of real estate including the YO Ranch. John’s granddad, also named John Greer, worked in Mr. Schreiner’s department store.
After Anna’s death in 1933, the elder John Greer, now living in Greenville, Texas, received $196 from Anna's share of the estate. With his money from the estate, he bought a train ticket to Kerrville for the sole purpose of placing a cemetery marker on his first wife Anna Gage Phillips Greer’s unmarked grave.
John said he entered the data into his Legacy Family Tree software program before writing his excellent research report after he conducted extensive research in the deed records of Fannin County in Bonham, Texas.
By sifting through the courthouse information, it is possible to reconstruct a portion of the early ancestor’s personal history. Genealogists use the information pulled from those findings to add to their genealogical software database being sure the record the source information accurately. Lastly, the researcher should type the collected information into a brief research report or written record of what was found or not found and save it in the program’s General Notes section. The researcher then has only to read the report of what he or she found before heading out to research at a future time.
A RESEARCH TRIP TO THE FAMILY HISTORY LIBRARY: Road Scholar Tours offers an opportunity for family historians to research in the Family History Library (FHL) with others who share your level of research ability. The itinerary includes some sightseeing but mainly focusing on education. They provide professional speakers each morning after breakfast and often after dinner in the evening. Road Scholar Tours separate the three tours by skill level—beginners, intermediates and those having advanced genealogical research skills.
The March 9-15 and October 12-18 tours are for beginners; March 16-22 and October 19-25 are for those with some genealogical research experience; the October 26-November 1 is specifically for those with advanced research skills.
For more information, visit Road Scholar Tours website at www.roadscholar.org.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: firstname.lastname@example.org.