Thursday, February 12, 2015

Overcoming a Research Challenge

A common problem for all family historians is being able to get access to key documents in distant counties and court houses. In tracing my Hampton family roots in Montgomery County, Indiana, I turned to the Career Services Department of my alma mater, Wabash College, for help in overcoming the distance between Indiana and home base here in Virginia.

Back in January, I reached out to the College Archivist, who suggested that I ask Career Services to find a capable student who might be able to pull documents at the Montgomery County Court & Recorder's Office. They helped me set up an externship, where I offered to provide some compensation in exchange for the opportunity for the selected student to learn how to pull land records and wills at the Court, and help me get copies of documents that I would not be able to get without going to Crawfordsville in-person. Once I had chosen the student and provided the instructions on where to find the documents and which families I wanted researched, he very quickly found a first set of records. This is a possible option that researchers may think about using resources & student time in counties where one may need help but distance prevents going there in person.

I had also made arrangements in advance with the Montgomery County Clerk's Office to allow for limited non-flash photos to be taken since the purpose of this project was for personal family history research. This helped save time and provided higher quality images than relying on the standard copy machine from the Court. I am very thankful for this proactive approach by the Clerk's Office. I wish more County Courts would provide this as an option.

The student is currently following up on the second phase of the project, going back to the County Recorder for land records on my Hampton, Booher, Vail and Armstrong lines.

The images below are from the probate file of Michael Hampton, who died on 7 February 1854 in Montgomery County.

According to the above page, Michael left behind his second wife, Catherine Booher Hampton (daughter of Jacob Booher and Elizabeth Barnett). The Court selected Guardianias Booher as a "disinterested householder" to do an appraisal of Michael Hampton's estate. Guardianias was Catherine's half-brother (he was the son of Jacob Booher and Catherine Barnett), and also brother-in-law of Michael Hampton through his marriage to Michael's sister Mary Mahala Hampton.

There are no other documents in the Hampton file, so I can't tell how Michael's estate was appraised or how his property was distributed.

Thanks go to Wabash student Paul Snyder for his assistance in the project. There are quite a few documents to go through, and I am just now back today after 28+ hours of travel from Singapore. It will be a few days before I post more documents from Paul's research time.

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