Mi Casa Es Su Ca. Sa. – Expanding Your Genealogy Search Keywords

While transcribing County Court Minutes in one of my ancestral counties, I came across a legal term that I had not seen before – “casa” – in the following entry.  Look for the word near the beginning of the 4th line from the top and the middle of the 3rd line from the bottom:



I have been reading 19th-century handwriting for many years, but I started second-guessing myself because what looked like “casa” to me couldn’t possibly be that.  From the context, I was sure that it was a legal term, so I turned to my trusty friend, Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (1856 edition).  I opened the page that contained the legal terms beginning with “C”, then used CTRL+F in my browser to search the entire page for the word “casa”.  Nothing.  Naught.  Nil.

I then turned to other trusty friends – my genealogy friends on Facebook, providing the above sample and soliciting their wisdom.  Collectively, we quickly agreed that there were no Court Appointed Special Advocates in 1824 Tennessee.

It didn’t take long for one of those smarter-than-average friends to post the following definition:

CAPIAS AD SATISFACIENDUM, practice. A writ of execution issued upon a judgment in a personal action, for the recovery of money, directed to the sheriff or coroner, commanding him to take the defendant, and him safely keep, so that he may have his body in court on the return day, to satisfy, ad satisfaciendum, the plaintiff. This writ is tested on a general teste day, and returnable on a regular return day.

2. It lies after judgment in most instances in which the defendant was subject to a capias ad respondendum before, and plaintiffs are subject to it, when judgment has been given against them for costs. Members of congress and of the legislature, (eundo, morando, et redezzndo,) going to, remaining at, and returning from the places of sitting of congress, or of the legislature, are not liable to this process, on account of their public capacity; nor are ambassadors, (q. v.) and other public ministers, and their ,servants. Act of Congress of April 30, 1790, s. 25 and 26, Story’s Laws United States, 88; 1 Dunl. Pr. 95, 96; Com. Dig. Ambassador, B; 4 Dall. 321. In Pennsylvania, women are not subject to this writ except in actions founded upon tort, or claims arising otherwise than ex contractu. 7 Reed’s Laws of Pa. 150. In several of the United States, the use of this writ, as well as of the capias ad respondendum, has been prohibited in all actions instituted for the recovery of money due upon any contract, express or implied, or upon any judgment or decree, founded on any contract, or for the recovery of damages for the breach of any contract, with a few exceptions. See Arrest.


I was relieved not only to have the question answered (it was late in the evening and I was at genuine risk of losing sleep over this), but also relieved to have my handwriting skills vindicated.  I had indeed seen “casa” on the page.

I went back to my trusty friend Mr. Bouvier to see why I had missed this entry.  Here is part of the Bouvier entry for capias ad satisfaciendum:

This writ is, in common language, called a ca. sa.

My CTRL+F search for “casa” had failed me, and I have learned to think more out-of-the-box when using search functions in my research.




Will the Real William Travis Please Sign In? Do Loose Records Prove a Forged Will?

Epilogue:  August 21, 2014 – I have discovered additional examples of this ancestor’s signature and have updated the bottom of this post with ‘revised’ conclusions.

I love finding an original signature of an ancestor, especially when I know that I will never find a photograph of that ancestor.  Even better than finding the signature is seeing and touching the original document that my ancestor signed, which gives me a unique connection to that ancestor.

While volunteering at the county archives in one of my home counties (Stewart County, Tennessee) a few years ago, helping to clean, folder and index the loose records of Circuit Court, I came across a court case contesting the probated will of my ancestor William Travis, who had died sometime prior to 1 July 1861, when his will was probated in Stewart County Court. 

The original will would normally have remained in the County Court Clerk’s office after being probated, but because the will had been contested, first in the County Court and then on appeal in the Circuit Court, the original document ended up among the loose records of the Circuit Court.  In this county, the loose records of the County Court did not survive, so had it not been for the suit contesting the will, and that suit being appealed to the Circuit Court, we wouldn’t have the original

The suit was brought in 1869, eight years after William Travis died, by one of his granddaughters who thought that she had not received her fair share of the estate.  The legal basis of her petition was that the will had not been properly witnessed, the signatures of the witness(es) having been blotted out.  Here you can see the end of the will, including William’s original signature and the blotting where the witnesses should have signed:


This original will was included in the loose records of the court case, which began in 1869 and did not conclude until 1887, when the parties settled out of court and the granddaughter dropped her suit contesting the will.

Lucky for me as a descendant, I had the privilege of seeing and touching the original document, and added a photo of William Travis’ original signature to my collection.  That photo became the primary photo of William in my Ancestry.com tree in 2010.

Flash forward to 2013 – during another volunteer day at the same county archives, I came across another original signature of William Travis – this one as an election judge in 1841 in his home district.  I made a photo of this signature as well, filed it on my computer and added it to William’s Ancestry profile.  Wow – two original signatures of the same ancestor – what luck!


And as if my luck couldn’t get any better, a couple of weeks ago on another volunteering trip at the same archives, I found a third original signature of my William, this one from an 1811 receipt for serving as a witness in a court case.

But then I ran into a surprise:  I made a photo of this third signature and filed it on my computer in the folder with the other two signatures I had found.  I casually happened to line up the three signatures to enjoy the fruits of my labor:




The first one is from the 1811 receipt, the second from the 1841 election returns, and the third from his contested 1854 will.

My Sesame Street skills kicked in and I immediately felt like “one of these things is not like the other.”  I concluded that the will was a forgery.  That granddaughter of William Travis sued because the will was not properly witnessed:  did I just discover that there was an even bigger issue with the will?

A few days ago, I returned to the same Archives, looking for additional sample of William Travis’ signature.  I was thrilled to find three more – here they are, juxtaposed with the signature on the will as the 4th image:

William Travis signature 1847 election

William Travis signature 1848 election

William Travis signature 1847 court case


With six samples of his handwriting ranging from 1811 to 1854, I now conclude that the signature on the will is valid after all.  While I would have been excited to have discovered a forged will, I’m even more excited to have found six documents that include an ancestor’s original signature.  It’s a real treat to touch these documents and make a connection with an ancestor.

The signature on the will is only one of dozens of discoveries that I made in reviewing a single set of loose records from one court case.  I could write a whole blog post on all of the genealogical facts about this family that are to be found only in the loose records.  In this county, the loose records have never been microfilmed, so you wouldn’t even know about these treasures unless you had made the effort to contact that archives and do the research there (or order records by mail, which this archives supports).

Have you checked for surviving loose records in your counties of interest?  If not, you’ll never know what family facts you might be able to prove – or disprove.

Is Your Lost Family Bible on Fold3 in a Pension File?

Genealogists are always in search of that long-lost family Bible that will conveniently fill in all missing branches of our family trees.

  • We diligently trace all living descendants of our target family.
  • We post queries to every online genealogy board that we can find.
  • We scour the antique shops in our ancestor’s community.
  • We write endearing letters to every distant cousin (self-addressed, stamped return envelope included!).

Then at some point, we either resign ourselves to the fact that the family Bible was lost in a fire years ago, or convince ourselves that it is not-so-lost, in the house of that one distant cousin who refused to return our self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Imagine that you are a descendant of Winborne Futrell of Trigg County, Kentucky.  You know that he was a veteran of the War of 1812 – it says so on his tombstone.  You know his wife’s maiden name, Colson – the marriage records for their home county survive.  But you don’t know that his widow filed for a pension for his War of 1812 service, or else you know but you never make the effort to send for a copy of the pension application from the National Archives.  After all, the real genealogical gold will be in the family Bible, right?  Your valuable genealogy research time is better spent looking for that Bible…but you never find that Bible and write it off as lost (or in the clutches of that unresponsive Futrell cousin).

You hear about Fold3.com’s growing collection of War of 1812 pension records and decide to take a break from licking envelopes addressed to newly-discovered cousins.  You look in the Kentucky index and quickly find your Winborne Futrell listed.  A few clicks later, you are looking at the family Bible, which has been in Washington, DC since the pension application was submitted by his widow in 1880:



You quickly utter a silent apology to your distant cousins and spend the next 14 hours browsing through the vastness of Fold3’s collections looking for other lost family Bibles (including their complete set of Revolutionary War pension applications).

Only a portion of the War of 1812 pensions are available on Fold3 (as of this writing, they are a little over half-way through surname letter H).  You can accelerate the digitization of these invaluable records by contributing to the Preserve the Pensions effort being co-sponsored by the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National ArchivesFold3 and Ancestry.

While enjoying the rush of finding that long-lost family Bible, you notice the added benefit of a historical fact that your ancestor noted at the bottom of the second Bible page:

“The locuses [locusts] caim in the year 1868”

Can Voting Records Prove a Murder? “Captain” Jack Hinson’s ‘Secesh’ Voting History


Tomorrow is an Election Day in Tennessee.  I am reminded of the value of county voting records that can provide information found in no other records.  Here is an example of how voting records may lead us to new conclusions in our previous genealogical and historical research.

Albert Rougemont of Stewart County, Tennessee was murdered on December 31, 1862.  Following the fall of Fort Donelson in February 1862, law and order in the area had been dispensed by the office of the Union Provost Marshal at Fort Donelson.  The Provost Marshal conducted an inquiry into Rougemont’s murder in March, 1863.  The leading suspect was a local man named John (“Jack”) Hinson.

Over the years, Jack Hinson has become a local legend as a documented Civil War sniper.  His Civil War career as a sniper is said to have come about following the murder of his two sons in December 1862 by Union troops occupying the area.  Books have been written about him and heated debates have taken place among the quietest of citizens.  The prevailing opinion has been that Hinson was neutral in the war until the Union troops murdered his sons.  Do the surviving records substantiate this opinion?  Let’s take a look…

The records of the Union Provost Marshal at Fort Donelson survived and are at the National Archives.  In the collection referred to as the “Union Provost Marshal Records Pertaining to Two or More Citizens”, document numbers 04220 and 04221 contain the Provost Marshal’s inquiry into the Rougemont murder.  Rebecca Lancaster, a neighbor of both men, had the following to say about them:

Rebecca Lancaster

“I know there was some difficulty between Rougemont and Hinson, but knew but little about it.  I know but little of Rougemont’s character, only he was a good enough neighbor.  I do not know whether he was for the union or not.”  About Hinson, she said,

Rebecca Lancaster2

“I do not know, but have heard from neighbors, that he was on Southern side in politics.”

Elijah Lancaster, another neighbor nearby on the night of the murder, testified about Hinson:


“He was an open secessionist.  He use to be a fighting man.  I know his sons – do not know that any of the family have been among the guerillas.”

This deposition took place in March 1863, a few months after Hinson’s sons were supposedly killed by Union troops, yet this close neighbor makes no mention of the sons being dead but speaks of them in the present tense.

Most of the neighbors deposed by the Provost Marshal knew of some disagreement between Hinson and Rougemont going back several years, due to the fact that Rougemont had testified against Hinson in a Circuit Court case in which Hinson had been accused of altering the course of a road in the neighborhood. 

Now back to the voting records – what can they confirm or refute about the opinions expressed by the neighbors of Hinson and Rougemont?  First, let’s look at the June 8, 1861 secession election in Stewart County “for separation and representation”.  Note that Albert Rougemont and Jack Hinson lived in District 7 of the county:


Hinson was #669 on the district voter’s list.  Rougemont’s name does not appear.  The district vote was unanimous in favor of secession.

Next, the August 1, 1861 election to ratify the constitution of the Confederacy:


Hinson was #199 on the district voter’s list.  Rougemont’s name does not appear.  The district vote was unanimous in favor of the Confederate constitution.

Finally, the November 6,1861 election for choosing electors for President and Vice-President of the Confederacy:

18611106 Jeff Davis-c

Hinson was #46 on the district voter’s list.  Rougemont’s name does not appear.  The district vote was unanimous.

The voting records support the testimony to the Provost Marshal that Hinson was a ‘Secesh’ and that Rougemont was a ‘Union man’.  Do these voting records, then, prove that Hinson killed Rougemont?  No, they don’t.  If Hinson killed Rougemont, as I think he did, it was more likely due to the quarrel between the men going back several years, not due to their opposing views on the war.  But these records add important background information to understanding the greater context of the war and of the stories of Hinson and Rougemont.

Read for yourself the entire Provost Marshal’s case file on FamilySearch.

Search for other Tennessee Provost Marshal records at the Tennessee State Library and Archives index.

Obtain copies of the voting records cited above from the Stewart County (TN) Archives.

And lastly, search your own county’s Archives for voting records that can enrich your ancestor’s story.

Boo! Death, but Yeah! Taxes

No one likes death, although genealogists are overly fond of death certificates, and tombstones.  But every genealogist should love tax lists and should seek them out for their genealogical revenue.  The census-taker only came around every 10 years, but the tax collector turned up every year – surely we can learn something from those extra records, right?

Let’s look at Nelson Griffin of Stewart County, Tennessee.  He was dead by 6 June 1881, when an administrator was appointed for his estate and years’ provisions were ordered for his widow, Nancy.

Here are Nelson and Nancy in the 1880 Stewart Co. census:


So Nelson was born in 1800, right?

Here they are in the 1870 Stewart Co. census:


Oh, so Nelson was really born in 1799 – got it.  That’s close to 1800 – no big deal.

Here they are in the 1860 Stewart Co. census:


Yep, 1799, just like we already know.

What about the 1850 census?


Yikes.  Now we have 1795 as a candidate for his birth year.  At this point, which one would you pick – 1795, 1799, 1800, or none of the above?  Maybe we just average the numbers and be done with it?  Not a chance – we can figure this out using poll tax records!

Nelson Griffin, as a free white male in 1800s Tennessee, would have had to pay a poll tax every year that he was between 21 and 50 years of age.  Poll taxes, among other taxes, helped raise revenue to fund county and state operations.

Based on census records, we suspect that Nelson Griffin was born between 1795 and 1800, and therefore would have turned 50 between 1845 and 1850.  In the year that he turned 50, he would have no longer had to pay the annual poll tax.  Let’s look at the poll taxes that Nelson Griffin paid in Stewart County during the 1840’s:

1842:  paid tax on 1 white poll

1843:  missing from the tax list

1844 & 1845:  tax lists for the county do not survive

1846:  paid tax on 1 white poll

1847:  paid tax on 1 white poll

1848-1858:  tax lists survive, but Nelson Griffin does not appear in them

1859:  Nelson Griffin appears in the tax list, paying property tax on land, but no poll tax

We aren’t too concerned that Nelson Griffin is missing from the 1843 list, or that the lists for 1844 and 1845 are missing.  Based on him appearing in the 1846 and 1847 tax lists and paying a poll tax, but disappearing from the 1848 tax lists and later, we can safely conclude that Nelson Griffin was born about 1798, give or take a few months.

An excellent article on the history of tax laws in North Carolina and Tennessee is Ann Evans Alley’s Taxation and Politics: Tennessee’s Poll Tax Laws, which appeared in the Fall 1997 issue of the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, the journal of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society.

The Real McCoy…I Mean Tucker

My McCoy line in Stewart County has long been a brick wall.  I knew that my ancestor C. Perry McCoy (1820-1887) first appeared in Stewart County records in 1842, when he became a constable.  I found evidence linking him loosely to a Daniel McCoy (born ca. 1777)  who had married in 1839 to Martha Rose in Stewart County.  The license for this marriage was issued some 9 months earlier, on 26 Oct 1838.  I had never found proof that Perry was Daniel’s son, however, but had assumed so (and some have claimed so).  That 1839 marriage, as far as I knew, made Martha (Rose) McCoy a stepmother to a then 19-year-old Perry McCoy.

I knew that Daniel McCoy died about 1854 in Stewart County and that his widow Martha lived for some time after the 1870 census (in which she was living with my Perry McCoy).

Based on this brick wall, I had a McCoy uncle DNA-tested several years ago.  The tests came back with no McCoy matches, but with quite a few Tucker matches.  I then wondered where in my McCoy ancestry I might stumble on a Tucker line, but didn’t find any Tuckers around Stewart County that fit the time period.

In 2012, I stumbled upon a War of 1812 pension application index card on Ancestry, in which a Martha McCoy, widow of a Daniel McCoy, applied for a pension.  The index card stated that Daniel McCoy served under Capt. William Chism (state not indicated), who I then learned was a captain of a Tennessee militia company, whose men were mostly from Franklin, Bedford, Blount, Madison (AL), Rutherford, Warren and Wilson counties.  Wondering whether this might be my Daniel and Martha McCoy from Stewart County, I ordered the pension packet from the National Archives.

Here’s some of the information in the pension packet:

On May 4, 1878, in Montgomery County, TN Court, Martha McCoy, age 98, filed for a widow’s pension for the War of 1812 service of Daniel McCoy, stating the following:

  • Daniel McCoy served as a private, having enlisted about age 45 at Nashville (she thinks, but doesn’t know his company or Captain)
  • He was honorably discharged at Nashville (she thinks)
  • He was 5 feet, 10 inches tall, with dark eyes and dark complexion
  • She married Daniel McCoy on 14 July 1839 in Dover, and her name at the time of the marriage was Martha Rose
  • Her first husband’s name was Tucker, and he died in Warren Co., TN in 1820
  • Daniel McCoy died near Dover on 25 August 1854
  • Since Daniel McCoy’s discharge from the war, Daniel had lived in Lincoln Co., Davidson Co. and Stewart Co.
  • Daniel McCoy had obtained a land warrant at some point in the past for his service
  • Her address at the time of filing the pension application was P. O. Box 229, Clarksville

Also in the pension packet is a letter from Martha Caroline (McCoy) Clinard, daughter of Daniel and Martha McCoy, stating that her mother lived for 24 years after the death of her father, so Martha must have died in 1878.

These statements by Martha McCoy, coupled with the DNA evidence, suggest that my C. Perry McCoy was the son, not stepson, of Martha (Rose) McCoy, but by her Tucker husband, not by Daniel McCoy.  At some point her son Perry must have adopted the name Perry McCoy.  I do not know at this time whether Rose was Martha’s maiden name, or the name of another husband.

Now, on to Warren and Lincoln counties for Tucker (and still McCoy) research!

Origins of My Blog Name

My great-great grandfather Henry Clay Long owned a general store in rural Montgomery County (Tennessee), on the road from Clarksville to Lafayette, called Longbranch Store.  Here is a snippet of the 1877 county map showing the store’s location along Fletcher’s Fork Creek:

Longbranch Store 1877

The family home was situated across the Lafayette road from the store.  I have a store ledger from this store dating to the 1910s that gives a glimpse into who the neighbors in the area were, and what kind of merchandise was available at the store.  It’s a treasured family possession.

The house and the store were gone by the mid-1940s, cleared to make way for the Camp Campbell, now Fort Campbell, army post.  This blog is a small way to keep that Longbranch name alive, and will be a way for me to share my genealogical musings with others.  Enjoy!