Monday, March 22, 2010

Alabama research

It was a hard two days' worth of research in Jefferson County and St. Clair County in Alabama, but good things came from it, probably more than we realize even at this point. The first day was split between the Jefferson County courthouse (first picture), specifically the probate office where the land, marriage and estate records are housed, and the Special Collections Library at Samford University (second picture). We were able to obtain copies of actual records related to the Dulaney and Martin families who lived in northeastern Jefferson County in the 1810s and 1820s.

Seeing the actual records helped us clear up some confusion. One of the land records for Thomas Dulaney had previously been abstracted by one person and transcribed by another. An abstract is a short-hand version of a document while a transcription should be the exact wording. The transcription of this particular record indicated that Thomas Dulaney was deceased in 1826 while the abstract did not mention that fact, and there was another abstracted record that indicated Thomas was alive in 1827. The confusion came from the fact that the transcriber interpreted the word "did" as "de'd" or deceased. The dot on the "i" was not an apostrophe in an abbreviation of the word deceased. This was an important lesson on why viewing the actual records is absolutely necessary.

Samford University has a great collection of Baptist records, probably the best collection in the state of Alabama. We only touched the tip of their holdings. In addition to Baptist records, the library also has a great collection of other books and family files that would be of interest to all genealogists. Mrs. Elizabeth Wells, librarian, was a tremendous help and resource and made our time there much more productive with her knowledge of the library's collection.

The second day was spent in Ashville, one of two county seats for the county of St. Clair. The other county seat is over the mountains in Pell City, probably a more familiar name for most of us. Ashville lies in Jones Valley, a valley that is flanked by two parallel mountain ridges, both of them being the tail-end of the Appalachian Mountains. The old courthouse at Ashville is in the middle of a renovation as you can tell from the last picture. A new courthouse is across the street and houses the county's oldest records. Although some time was spent in the courthouse, most of the time was spent in the Ashville Museum and Archives, a very nice facility for a town the size of Ashville. Mrs. Simpson is the hostess and librarian of the archives; she amazed us with her recall of the many families whose information was buried inside the many books of their collection. She just kept pulling out books that we never would have thought to look inside.

As with any research trip, upon return it takes a while to sort through and analyze the information that has been gathered. I'll be posting some of it in the days and weeks to come. A special thanks goes to my husband, Mike, who is great to have in the courthouse because he can sniff out the most illusive records, as he proved once again on this trip. In addition, he was a patient chauffeur and sounding board.


Anonymous said...

Mona, thanks to you, Don and Mike for making this trip to Jefferson and St. Clair Counties this last week so that you may share with some of us who have early roots that touched down in St. Clair County on "their way to somewhere" - mine first traveled to Bibb and Perry County on the way to Marion County while your and Don's (maybe Mike's also) ancestors went on to yet another territory that became Itawamba County.

As you spend time with your notes just let your mind wander to think of how long it took the Dulaney's to make the trek across Alabama to MS and bring it into today's travels that let you make that same trip in just a few hours! At least our ancestors had a much more scenic trip than what you viewed as you drove along all those mountains created by the strip mining!

I can hardly wait for you to go over your notes and tell us all about the great trip to Alabama. bettye

Don Dulaney said...

It was a great trip and I learned alot. Cousin Mike was very patient with us and our addiction. He definetly knows his way around a courthouse. But watching you was like watching a fry cook at rush hour. It was great to step foot on Paw Paw Thomas's land and I am wondering how I can get those squaters, that have been there for the last 200 years, to leave! It was also great seeing natural bridge on the way.

Anonymous said...

Don, Natural Bridge is somethin' "ain't" it? I can relate to that time span thingy - my maternal GGGgrandparents, John A. Dyer and wife, Lennah MNU, came from TN and settled on land that is today a gun club range (I couldn't find proof of what I was told about this hilltop) near James Creek and east of Hwy 23 (more exactly, I have been told it is 5.7 miles north of Smithville. The Dyer's arrived there after 1820 and before 1830. I got to walk on that land in Oct. 2002 so I know how you felt about walking on your Paw Paw's land. I had the same spine tingling chill when I stood on the small road running through the battleground at Ft. Donelson, TN where the Dyer's son, 1st Lt. George B. Dyer and my GGgrandfather, was killed Feb. 15, 1862. Is your Paw Paw the person who came on to Itawamba Co. or did he expire there?

Some day I have hopes of making it to St. Clair Co. also since that is where the Stone patriarch first set foot on to Alabama soil before making a final pioneering adventure that brought him and his family to western Marion Co. after a brief stay in Bibb/Perry Counties; then his oldest son had one more move in him that is where today's maps call Tremont, MS. bettye