HomeMisc.Interesting Delaware Statute Regarding Revolutionary War Record Losses

One of the great things about speaking to genealogy groups is that each presentation reminds me to do something that I’ve left on the back burner too long. In this case, I was speaking  about using land records and the clues they contain. I have a certain deed that was proven in Supreme Court in New Castle, Delaware. It is part of a very confusing estate, and noticing where it was recorded, I needed to determine if there was a reason based in law that it may have been recorded in Supreme Court versus Common Pleas. I still have not completely answered that question, but I did come across an interesting act in the process.

On my several trips to the Delaware Archives to research, the staff likes to remind me that the British carried away many records during the Revolutionary War. While I don’t doubt its accuracy, and it’s far more romantic than  a courthouse fire or flood, I’ve never dug for any factual information concerning this. Well, as they say, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

I don’t know if this will generate any new leads or not, but it certainly provides some new ideas in pursuing that all-important exhaustive search. In addition to checking Supreme Court records for New Castle, it looks like I’ll probably want to check Philadelphia newspapers as well. Sounds like something I might need a genealogy vacation this summer to take care of, doesn’t it? If you agree, tell my wife that it’s really, really important, okay?

Here is the act:


“An ACT for supplying the loss of records in particular cases

WHEREAS in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven, during the late war, the enemy then invading this State, seized and carried away many of the records for the county of New-Castle, which have not been recovered, and the mischiefs arising from such loss, ought as reasonably and justly as may be to be remedied:

BE it therefore enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Delaware, in General Assembly met, That if any person shall present to the judges of the Supreme court, any instrument of writing purporting to be a copy of a patent, deed, will, letters testamentary or of administration, or account admitted in the Orphans court, or any proceeding of a Court of record in that county ; and shall by an application in writing request the judges aforesaid to confirm and establish such instrument as a true copy respectively of such patent, deed, will, letters testamentary or of administration account or proceeding, it shall and may be lawful for them, to make enquiry, and by all lawful ways to examine whether the said instrument is a true copy of an original, lost as aforesaid, and if upon such enquiry and examination, it shall satisfactorily appear to them, that the instrument exhibited as aforesaid, is a true copy of an original lost as aforesaid, they shall confirm and establish the same accordingly by a writing under their hands and seals, therein ordering the same to be lodged in the register’s or recorder’s office in that county, as they shall judge most suitable, where it shall be forthwith recorded in one of the books of such office, and safely kept among the other records, and the copies thus confirmed and established, and the entries thereof in the books aforesaid, are hereby declared to be public records of this State.

Provided always, That before any enquiry and examination shall be made as aforesaid, the person ap plying as aforesaid shall publish once each week for six weeks in some news-paper within this State, and also in some news-paper in the city of Philadelphia, an advertisement fully stating the nature of his application, mentioning the time and place when and where the Judges are to make the enquiry and examination aforesaid, thus giving notice to all persons who may suppose themselves to be interested in the premises, to appear before the Judges aforesaid, and make their objections, if any they have to make, why the instrument aforesaid should not be confirmed and established as aforesaid.

Passed at Dover, January 29, 1799″[1]


[1]Delaware General Assembly, Laws of the State of Delaware, Volume 3, (Delaware:1816), 72; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com/books?id=gS9EAAAAYAAJ: accessed 12 Oct 2011).



Interesting Delaware Statute Regarding Revolutionary War Record Losses — 1 Comment

  1. That is one of the most fascinating Acts I’ve ever seen! Makes me wonder if other locales faced similar problems and arrived at similar remedies.