Saturday, November 10, 2012
Field Trip... What's New?
Yesterday, I decided to make a field trip to Hopkinsville (about 1.5 hours drive from my home) to check on some deed records in the courthouse. I have made a lot of advances in my genealogical research knowledge about my family since the days that I spent hours and days at the Christian County Courthouse going through indexes and deed books. I had been recently pairing up deeds... as in, when someone acquired property and then finally when it was passed on to someone else. I noticed that I was missing one end of that equation or the other on far too many pieces of land for my family! Thus the reason for the trip. As I was going through the index books, I discovered some family connections that I did not know before.
While Wills & Probate Records are great for showing relationships, deeds often do the same, in fact, in some cases, deeds are another form of an estate settlement (Will) before the person dies! Legal abstracts of land ownership are essential to ensure that property is free and clear of any legal rights of others. The Christian County Clerks Office has the newer deed transactions computerized that you can track back seeing this abstract of previous ownership. It can map out a wonderful picture of the history of that particular parcel of land and how it might have been sub-divided and merged together over time to the beginning of the county (1797 for this county). Unfortunately, most do not go back more than about the 1940's for now, but it can help you work your way back on the computer and then through the deeds on your way back to when the person you are interested in acquired the land (and from whom). Using this approach you will learn the facts behind an acquisition and disposal of the property in connection to the party you are researching. It can provide you with a history surrounding the land and can provide relationships of the owners over time.
I began this quest in search of "Why is the West Cemetery deep in the middle of the woods, abandoned and mostly forgotten?" I suspect the cemetery is on the property of the family of some of those buried there. Who owned the land that this cemetery is located? Why is access to the cemetery no longer in existence? The cemetery seems to be only of West family members, perhaps 20 or less graves... it does have seven grave markers in reasonable shape with burials on the markers from 1875 to as late as 1934. These dates are not all that old as cemeteries go. Being exclusively family members, it suggests that this was not a church or even a community cemetery. This cemetery is not even on the topographic maps. I have lots of questions with no answers... yet! Perhaps some of our readers can make a few suggestions to help me discover the story about this cemetery.
But this was not what I intended to share with everyone. After the courthouse closed, I stopped by the public library a few blocks away. I have not been here for a while - nice library! They have some great new resources and records. I only had about one hour before they closed, too. I discovered a great, very large, wall-mounted, 1878 Farm Plat Map of the property owners of all of Christian County. With my brand new Droid Razor cell phone camera, I took many photos of the map in the area of Wilson Precinct around Ovil, Kentucky where this cemetery and several others that my family are buried is located. By the way, I took many photos at the courthouse of the deed records... a quick, inexpensive way to copy printed data. The library now has most of the county's marriage records and lots of the deed records, wills & county court order books. The library is open all day on Saturdays! The courthouse is only open during the business week: Mon - Thurs 8AM-4PM, Fri 8AM-4:30PM. Look for me in Hopkinsville at the library on Saturdays and in the courthouse on a few Mondays or Fridays (my days off from work).
A tip for all researchers, especially those of us that have been at this family history stuff for a while, is to go back to the places you have not been to for a number of years and see what is new. More records are available & accessible than ever before, plus changes have been made due to advances in technology. Plan for a field trip in the near future before it gets too cold or there are too many threats of snow or icy roads.
- Compiled by Indiana Bones