Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What Do You Do When The Courthouse Has Burned Down?

 Courthouse fires, natural disasters or just neglect can be causes for lost records. In genealogy research, what can be done when documentation of events has been destroyed? Don't hit the panic button. First take an inventory of the information that was housed in the courthouse. Documents or copies may have been stored in a different location.   I have some suggestions that might with the exploration.

  • Are all the records destroyed? The new courthouse may have some of the old records.
  • Boundaries of counties have changed over the years. The  dated information being sought could be housed in a different county .  Pike County, Mississippi was derived from Marion County in 1815.  Marion County was derived from Amite, Wayne and Franklin Counties in 1811. Amite, Wayne and Franklin Counties were formed in 1809. Walthall County was derived from Pike and Marion Counties in 1912. I might have to investigate all these counties.
  •  Many times a small portion of the information is  available in another location.   According to the United States Census Bureau, there is portion of the 1890 Federal Census that was not destroyed in the 1921 fire.  Cincinnati, Hamilton County 1890 census is available.  I plan on looking at this census record in the future.
  • Some states have a state census.  Louisiana has a state census for 1853 and 1858.  Georgia has a state census for these years 1798, 1800, 1810, 1827, 1834, 1838, 1845, 1852, 1853, 1859, 1865, 1879.
  • Family history genealogical information is  available at local libraries. The McComb, Mississippi Public library at 1022 Virginia Avenue  has a genealogy collection with books and family genealogy information from the area. Located there is information that you probably won't find anywhere else.
  • Land records can establish that an ancestor lived in an geographic area.  In the case of the homestead records the Bureau of Land Management has homestead information including land title.
  • Family members may have attended the same church and were buried in the same cemetery. Baptismal, marriage,  cemetery and funeral records maybe available.  
  • Newspapers from the area may have information that preceded  the fire.
  • Military records of ancestors. There is a 1890 Veterans Census which enumerated many Union veterans.
  • Native Americans were enumerated in the general census as well as on reservations in 1900. There are separate  census of different tribes such as Pueblo Indians 1850 to 1879 and the 1857 Shawnee census. 
  • Look in all the places your ancestor lived. An ancestors maybe an expatriate or was born in another country.  
  • Make sure the information you are looking for was  stored at the courthouse.

If anyone has other ideas please make a comment.

------The  Tree Gardener

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Calvin Caston & The Courthouse

Calvin Caston homestead took many years to establish a title to the land. It was not totally clear to me what  impediments  prevented him obtaining his land.  When I searched his homestead documents, one of reasons became clear why there was a delay.  The  Pike County courthouse burned down in 1882. The following is documentation:


The State of Mississippi
Pike County

I A. P. Sparkman Clerk of the Circuit Court in and for said County and State hereby that the cause for not forwarding the Final Proof of Calvin Caston was my inability to secure blanks #369 and that said proof was forwarded as soon as I received said blanks. I further certify that Calvin Caston Homestead Prcht #4260 was destroyed by fire in the Courthouse in 1882 and that he has never obtained a duplicate.

Gurr under my hand and official
 seal this 24th day of May A.D. 1889

The documents that were destroyed in the 1882 fire where important over a hundred years ago as they are in genealogical research today.

----- The Tree Gardener

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Calvin Caston Homestead Part 2

Homestead Witnesses

Calvin Caston had to have two witnesses for final proof  to complete his homestead application.  His two witnesses Tom Brumfield  35 years old and Joe McEwin 40 years old  gave testimony in Magnolia March 16, 1889. They both lived at Walkers Bridge, Mississippi . 

Calvin Caston documentation of homestead witnesses Tom Brumfield & Joe McEwen

Tom Brumfield testimony solidified his connection to Calvin Caston. He gives brief information about himself in question 2 stating  his present occupation is farmer not employed by anyone since January, 1872.  Question 4  asks how far from the residence of claimant on same tract do you reside and how long have you lived there?  "1/2 mile have lived there 3 years. before that lived have lived in the same neighborhood."  Question 6 he states he has known Calvin Caston "all his life .(Calvin Caston) has lived on his claim 17 years ...."  
 Question 19 asks the claimant's actual residence and how often he was seen him upon the land. Tom states " I live in sight of claimants house, see his family on the land nearly every day know he has lived there .... "
First page of Tom Brumfield testimony for Calvin Caston's homestead 

Joe McEwin and Andrew Johnson lived near the claimant was testimony also given by Tom Brumfield.

Joe McEwin in his testimony states he is a farmer. Question 4 How far from the said claimant on said tract do you reside, do you reside and how long have you lived there? " 1/4 mile have lived there 9 years." In question 6 he says that he has know Calvin Caston  for 17 years.

First page of testimony of Joe McEwen for Calvin Caston's homestead
Joe describes that Calvin has cultivated 50 acres of land planting cotton, peas and potatoes with unknown value. Question 22 asked Give the size, construction, and material of claimant's house on said tract, and state the same is habitable during all seasons of the year. Ans. "18 x 22 ft big house with kitchen. is habitable all seasons of the year." 
Question 28  Does claimant , with his family, reside an said land as the present time? You will explain how you know he has resided there, as you heretofore stated. "They do. I live in sight of claimant house see him his  family on the land nearly every day, know he has lived on the land ...."

Calvin Caston witnesses testimony verified his residence from 1872 to 1889. There are additional rules that must be satisfied prior to the homesteader receiving title to the land  which include a thirty day published notice of  intention of  final proof  and an officer authorized to take final proof.

The published notice of final proof was made in the Magnolia Gazette newspaper.  In the notice, the name of the homesteader Calvin Caston, a description of the land (Sec. 22 T 2. N R. 9 E) and the name of the witnesses Henry S. Brummels, David Walker, Joe McEwin and Tom Brumfield all of Walkers Bridge, P. O. Pike Co. Miss. are given.  I do not have the witness testimony of  Henry S. Brummels and David Walker.

Calvin Caston finally received his homestead June 11, 1889.

 ----The Tree Gardener

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Calvin Caston

  What happen to Rosann and Elvira?

At the 2010 Caston-Brumfield family reunion, descendants of Calvin Caston were present. There were several of his children's descendants that were not represented Rosann, Elvira, Eliza, Jessie and Monroe. Through research of the family homestead I was able to determine what happen to Rosann and Elvira.
In the request for the reinstatement of the homestead made by Calvin Caston,  the affidavit mentions that an adult daughter died and he had three children who lived on the land and were dependant upon him.  Who was the adult daughter who died? Who were the dependant children?
Calvin Caston's children attended school in Pike County.   The enrolled children Jesse, Adiline and Monroe are enumerated in the 1885 school census record.  These children are probably the referred dependant children in the homestead  reinstatement affidavit.  There names are near the bottom of the page.

"Mississippi, Enumeration of Educable Children, 1850-1892; 1908-1957," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-14208-41161-22?cc=1856425 : accessed 28 July 2015), Pike > 1885 > image 7 of 178; Government Records, Jackson.

Hollis Caston was child of Calvin and Liddie Caston but he was not born until May 19, 1889 and therefore would not be one of the children mentioned in the affidavit. 

In the 1870 Federal Census for Pike County, Mississippi there are three female children enumerated with Calvin Caston.  It is assumed that his daughters are Elvira 17 years old, Rosann 15 years old and Adiline 3 years old. The 1870 census does not identify family relationships.

Adiine was 17 years old and living at home in 1885.  Her  descendants  have been located and identified in family reunions.  Rosann and Elvira would have been 30 and 32 years old in 1885.  I began to look for Rosann and Elvira.
I looked for Elvira on the website Family Search. I had previously  associated Elvira with the surname Brumfield and was unable to locate her.  I then used the surname Caston and found the following. 

  A death certificate of Earnest Thomas born May 14, 1888 in Mississippi who lived 39 years in Beaumont, Jefferson County, Texas was found in the search. His father is listed as Jeff Thomas and mother Elvira Caston.  I wondered if I found my Elvira Caston. I decided to look for more information concerning Earnest Thomas and Jeff Thomas. Searching military records I located Earnest Thomas. 

"United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KZZG-QGY : accessed 28 July 2015), Earnest Thomas, 1917-1918; citing Allen Parish, Louisiana, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,653,578.

"United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XP5F-GYS : accessed 28 July 2015), Earnest Thomas, 1942; citing NARA microfilm publication M1936, M1937, M1939, M1951, M1962, M1964, M1986, M2090, and M2097 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

I found his World War I and World War II registration cards. His date of birth is listed as May 14, 1888 at Walker Bridge, Mississippi. Walker's Bridge, Mississippi is in Pike County the location of Calvin Caston's homestead.  Is Earnest Thomas the son of Elvira Caston and grandson of Calvin Caston?   

I looked on the census records to see if I could locate Elvira Caston and Jeff Thomas. As a researcher of genealogy, I made the most common mistake not using various spellings of names. After careful review I found them in the 1880 federal Pike county census. I have looked at this census record many times and never notice that the household enumerated before Calvin Caston is Thomas Jefferson, wife Alvira Jefferson, child Horace and child Calvin.   The census taker had recorded the family's names incorrectly.  Thomas Jefferson is Jeff Thomas, Alvira Jefferson is Elvira Caston Thomas and Horace Jefferson is Horace Thomas and Calvin Jefferson is Calvin Thomas.  I have copied a portion of the 188o census

Elvira Thomas was enumerated in Pike County census in 1920 worked in the box factory and 1930  as a laundress  on her premises.
Elvira Caston house number family number 598/612 Year: 1920; Census Place: Beat 2, Pike, Mississippi; Roll: T625_891;
30B; Enumeration District: 102; Image: 744

Elvira Thomas House number and Family number  97/104 1930; Census Place: Beat 2, Pike, Mississippi; Roll: 1162; Page: 4B
; Enumeration District: 0004; Image:723.0; FHL microfilm: 2340897

 Earnest Thomas was born in 1888 and his mother was Elvira Caston Thomas.  Elvira Thomas was found in the 1920 and 1930 census she therefore did not die before 1885.  Rosann Caston must have been the adult daughter who died and was mentioned in the affidavit. I have not been able to find the cause of death.

----- The Tree Gardener