How to Get the Most Out of Your Ancestor’s Court Records

By Sunny Jane Morton and Judy G. Russell Premium

The court document shown has a mix of legal boilerplate, family history details and hints to where you can look for more information. This bond, signed June 14, 1866, in Buncombe County, NC, was required after Davenport Baker died, so his widow Rachel could serve as guardian to her children. Every detail may produce another lead, for example:
1. It wasn’t common for a woman to be a guardian. Why was Rachel named? Look to see if she was named in a will or in court minutes.
2. The bond names all of the children—even those who were of age. Look for marriage records for the older children and court minutes to explain why they were still named.
3. Two men, R.F. Baker and J.T. Israel, agreed to back up the bond. Bondsmen were often family members, so research into these men may turn up clues to a bigger family tree—perhaps even a branch nobody had known about before.

4. Even the $1 revenue stamp can help in comparing this to other documents filed around the same time and same place.   Revenue stamps on documents often reflected the value of the transaction (a $1 stamp on a transaction valued at, say, $100, and two stamps on a transaction valued at $200).

Rachel Baker, 1866, guardianship bond, June 14, 1866, in Buncombe County, NC, Original Estate Records: folder “Baker, Davenport, 1858”; call No. C.R. 013.801.1; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh
From the May/June 2013 Family Tree Magazine

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