Welcome to my first post utilizing the Amanuensis Monday blogging meme! What is amanuensis, you ask? The definition offered by John Newmark, author of the Transylvania Dutch blog is this:
“A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.”
As I was working through my current research project, one which has been a focus for a few years now, it occurred to me that I had a perfect case: a deed that has mislead researchers for many, many years.
This indenture made the seventh day of October in the year of our Lord 1800, between Elijah Staats of the state of Pennsylvania and County of Fayette and John Callahan of Appoquiminink Hundred and New Castle County, Witnesseth, that the said Elijah Staats for and in consideration of the sum of $30 good and lawful money to me in hand paid by the said John Callahan, received where of the said Elijah Staats doth acknowledge, the said Elijah Staats hath granted bargained and sold and confirmed, by these presents doth grant bargain sell and confirm unto the said John Callahan his heirs and assigns all my right title claim interest and demand whatever of equal share part or parcel of land falling to me by the death of my father Jacob Staats Senior, and also my share of land coming to me by the death of my sister’s son Jacob Irons containing in all 24 acres more or less, together all woods, underwoods, water and watercourses, commodities, profits, advantages, hereditaments, appurtenances whatsoever to the said [?] or premises above mentioned belonging or anywise appertaining. And all the right title claim interest and demand and whatsoever of the said tract, tenement, lot, or parcel of land to the said John Callahan to have and to hold the said parcel of land and all and singular the premises above mentioned, with every part and parcel thereof unto the said John Callahan his heirs and assigns, and to their own proper use and behoof forever. And the said Elijah Staats against himself his heirs or assigns, or any other person whatever claiming any part or parcel of said land, I do forever warrant and defend the same.
In witness whereof hereunto set my hand and seal this day and year first above written
Signed, sealed, and delivered in the presence of
Richard Taylor, William Dolan Elijah Staats
Received this seventh day of October 1800 of Mr. John Callahan stipulated sum of thirty dollars as his above mentioned. As witness my hand attests
William Dolan, John Collins Elijah Staats
(New Castle, Delaware, Deed Books, U2: 466-467, Elijah Staats to John Callahan, 7 Oct 1800.)
At first glance, this would seem to be a wonderful piece of proof. The deed names his father and nephew, indicates where he currently lives, and where his father’s land is, right? Not quite.
I have several other documents which show it is impossible that Jacob Staats Senor is the father of Elijah. Elijah is definitely a descendant – most likely a grandson – but not a son. I can clearly show through other evidence that Elijah’s mother is Sarah Richardson. I can also show that Sarah Richardson is not the Sarah that Jacob Sr. is married to, and that she (Sarah Richardson) was most likely married to two different sons of Jacob — at different times, of course. Unfortunately, what I cannot yet uncover, is exactly who Elijah’s father might be — other than an unidentified son of Jacob Staats Senor.
It is understandable that many researchers have stopped at this deed – it is direct, primary evidence citing Jacob Staats as the father of Elijah as well as an unnamed sister of Elijah who married an Irons and had child whose share fell to Elijah (among other heirs).However, keeping in mind the Genealogical Proof Standard, it falls short in two areas: 1) it is not in itself a thorough search, and 2) it is not a skillful analysis when compared against other evidence that a thorough search would produce.
“But Chris, how can you argue with a direct statement, presumably by Elijah himself, about the identity of his father?” The challenge in meeting the GPS for my own argument lies in the analysis and resolution of the direct conflict of evidence. I won’t get into my complete refutation here of this deed and all the evidence involved- partly because my own research still has a few more steps to complete before publishing a finding – and partly because it will almost certainly be part of my BCG application, so I want to keep specific discussion under wraps until I submit that application. But the main thrust of the argument is this:
Yes, the deed is direct. Yes, the deed is primary. However, it is also a derivative. This deed was copied at least once by a clerk, and quite conceivably dictated to someone when it was first written. As Elissa Powell pointed out in a recent lecture I attended, each time something goes through copying, there are three chances for a mistake: what goes in the eye, what goes through the brain, and what comes out of the hand. (Thanks, Elissa!). All of the deeds recorded near this one are in the same hand. Whether it was the original clerk’s hand or whether it was copied further is something I have to explore. Did Elijah initially dictate “grandfather”, but whoever initially penned the deed wrote “father”? Did a clerk read, either from the original deed or an earlier copy, “grandfather” and write “father”? Admittedly, the Jacob Irons thing is trickier to explain.
This transaction was a part of several in a three day period between Elijah Staats, John Callahan, and a few others. The deeds between Elijah and John Callahan were in both New Castle County, DE and Washington County, OH. The deeds of other heirs were all in New Castle County, but clearly this was not a simple sale of land — it was one part of a more complicated land swap.
To be sure, this deed has a huge part to play in helping to unravel the mystery of the estate of Jacob Staats. The simple way the descendancy of land is worded helps explain two other deeds that occurred several years earlier with more cryptic wording. It links Elijah as an heir to the land of Jacob Staats Senor. But the specific relationships mentioned are not correct. Now if only I could figure out who in the heck Jacob Irons might be… or even find a single reference to him somewhere else…
Thank you to John Newmark for his uncannily-timed blogging theme — exactly what I was working on!