GRIP Day 3 (AKA, My 20th Anniversary)

I don’t know how you guys celebrate anniversaries, but I’m guessing there only a few of us fool-hardy enough to do it by leaving our spouses and heading to a genealogical institute for a week of intense learning. I’m lucky I found a good spouse…make that a great spouse, and really, I’m not just saying that so I won’t be beaten when I return home. Really.

Yet another rocking day here at GRIP. After a late night of homework and blogging, I was a little groggy this morning. When you need to jump right in and get going, starting off the day with Claire Bettag is a good thing. It also helps that we share a favorite topic – land records. Most of what I know is more at the deed level, so I really enjoyed learning more about federal land records – primarily original land entry files, but also bounty land and private land claims – all instruments by which land passed from the government to an individual, granting original title.

Because the government only holds records for the 30 federal land states, Claire said anyone who didn’t have any interest in those states could take a break or leave…ya, right. As if anyone was going to miss out on this gem. Interesting things learned included the fact that the indexes on the BLM-GLO website index both a preemption file and commuted Homestead file as a cash sale, and there is really no way to know until you order the file and see, Why is that important? If your ancestor was involved in one of those transactions, you can find lots of additional info such as marriage information, children, affidavits of the applicant as well as neighbors, and even naturalization records. I also learned I probably need to spend more money getting records from NARA. Don’t we all?

Next up was Tom Jones. How intense is the class? How much info is packed into it? Well, coming into today, we were still in the middle of Monday. Documentation and citing sources may not seem like an exciting topic, yet somehow it is. Often genealogists are told that we primarily cite sources so we can follow our trail backwards or so others can re-create our work. In reality, we do it so we can better understand the sources we use, and so that readers can assess the quality of our sources and decide for themselves the soundness of our research. Yet another gem of a quote from Tom in this lecture: “Placing two footnote numbers separated by a comma is like wearing a T-shirt that has ‘AMATUER’ [sic] written across the front – and it’s spelled wrong.” Classic.

We then raced through census and census-substitute strategies, finally making it to Tuesday morning by lunch on Wednesday. Lesson of the class: Genealogists often fail because they focus too narrowly rather than broadening their search geographically or chronologically, One of the examples from this session featured another quotable line: “This was not a very literate family, or a very sober one.”

After lunch, we were off to the races with Rick Sayre and Map Strategies – basically documenting resources and techniques for using maps in your research. You all probably know I’m a land geek, but I have much less experience with maps, so this was a good one for me. Many excellent resources were mentioned, including: the online map room at the Library of Congress, David Rumsey, USGS Map Store, as well as other sites like Historic Pittsburgh and Places In Time (Philadelphia). The summary seems a little short, but the demonstrations are something you’d want to have seen. Another great lecture and lecturer. I am hoping I can make it back to GRIP 2013 to take his land class.

Last, but certainly not least was Tom Jones again. We took on two presentations – Tax roll strategies and the beginning of the land records session. Again – especially to the non-genealogist – sounds like a pretty boring afternoon, but ohhhhh the stuff you can learn from tax records: estimates of birth, death, marriage; actual direct evidence of those things; and much, much more. Tax research can be tedious, but as Tom warns, the year you skip to save time is guaranteed to be the year in which the taxman noted your ancestor’s father’s name. We didn’t get too far into the second lecture about land – a topic near to my heart, but I agree with Tom’s assertion that land records are probably the most reliable genealogical record – although we all know that ALL records can lie to us.

The day ended with yet another Tom quote: “I know you all are dying to get to the homework…or just dying.”

And what a homework assignment it is, so I better get to it. I had to skip the evening lecture tonight to make sure I get some time in on the assignment. Too bad, as this was a two-hour presentation by Rick Sayre about Pennsylvania research and I would have loved to have heard it.

So long today from GRIP. See you all tomorrow!

Posted in Fun!, Thoughts and Musings | 6 Comments

GRIP Day 2 Recap

Day 2 is in the books, and by the time I post this, it will likely have turned to Day 3. I had planned to post a stunning summary of the day, but was slightly stunned by the homework. I vowed to tackle it, and I did, even though it cost me most of the evening. It’s also entirely possible that I over-thought it, and did a little more than I probably had to but I’d rather err on the side of over-doing versus under-doing.

I can’t add much to what my classmate, Cathi Desmarais, posted this evening about the details of the day, other than to say yet another awesome day with two new and awesome instructors – Claire Bettag and Rick Sayre. We took Washington D.C., NARA, and the LOC by storm! It was kind of like driving by on the freeway, but the handouts were excellent, and will serve as pretty good tour guides when I get a chance to go back.

I’ve taken lots of classes from lots of places. Lots of them claimed to be challenging. I can honestly say that there is something unique and special about this environment in general, and the course in particular. I think all of my classmates will agree: each successive class causes you to re-evaluate what you thought you might have known when you walked in the door. Even in the cases where we actually did know end up knowing what we thought we knew, the material is challenging enough to rattle that knowledge around, and you really have to fight to keep it straight in your head. I love that.

I’m exhausted and excited for tomorrow’s classes!


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GRIP: Day 1 Recap

My opening lessons came in the wee hours of the morning today. First was the reminder that I had forgotten to bring my own pillow. The dorm beds had a least I think there was a pillow inside the case – it was really hard to tell.

Secondly, for all you folks here at GRIP who are over 4’6″ tall and having trouble with your dorm temperature: You’ll need to squat down to see the magic control lever that you use to adjust that rather important setting. All the way to the left is “Woolly Mammoth Preservation”, which is what mine was set on last night.

On to the institute. Wow, just wow. As expected, billed, and reviewed, I am loving Tom Jones’ class. We had four sessions today…and we were still somewhere in the middle of the second lesson when the end of the day arrived. We were forewarned that this would happen, though. The focus of most of today was on evidence orientation – evaluating source, information, and evidence. In the last session, we moved on to research planning, which I really enjoyed given that I just did a presentation on this topic at the OGS Library in Bellville. The structure was part lecture/part group discussion within our tables, and really got people thinking about the topics discussed. Somehow, I ended up being the table spokesperson. I swear – I’m actually very quiet. Why will no one believe me?

There’s really no way to try and capture in a simple blog post what you cover and learn in the course of a day at something like this – especially given the rather exhausting schedule. The only thing that is probably saving me tonight is that our homework assignments don’t start until tomorrow. What I do want to highlight is the opportunity that the institute offers for making new friends.

While the schedule is pretty demanding, there is ample opportunity to get to know people. In fact, if you don’t take the time to do that, you are pretty much wasting ample opportunities. At breakfast, lunch, and dinner I sat with different groups each time. Again, I am pretty quiet (really…no really), and that’s not necessarily something that’s easy for me to do, but I love listening and participating in different conversations. Everyone has something different to offer, yet we are all united in out passion and interest in genealogy, so there aren’t a lot of pregnant pauses.

I won’t get on the networking soapbox, but I will provide a specific example of why you might want to do it: Talking to people here, there are a number of us that are either on the BCG clock, or are doing the work to be ready to submit once they are. After lunch we were discussing our fears, concerns, specific examples about certification. Suddenly, someone had a revelation about their submission idea. Then we discovered we were making more of some of the requirements then necessary. And then I had a sudden spark of inspiration and discovered a KDP project for which I had done most of the work already and just need to clean it up some. All this because a group of us had the opportunity to get together and talk in a creative and charged environment.

And since being in class all day and talking about genealogy for every available minute wasn’t enough for us genealogy junkies – most of us also attended an additional lecture this evening – an excellent lecture by Pamela Stone Eagleson about writing a family narrative.

I’m telling you – if you are on the fence, get off. This is far more beneficial and less stressful (so far!) than the hectic and disjointed conference experience often is. Now, if I’ve mastered the thermostat and my new pillow purchased from Target works out okay, I’ll be all rested up, batteries recharged for tomorrow

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GRIP: Registration Day Recap

Phew – what a day, and the thing hasn’t even started yet. After a quick stop at Walmart for supplies, I picked up fellow genealogist and friend, Jean Hoffman, and off we went on the 2.5 hour drive to Pittsburgh. Funny how time flies when genealogists get yakking about dead people we’ve known and researched, isn’t it?

We were still chatting away at the first toll booth in PA, waiting in line to pay the toll, when a wild burst of horn-beeping broke out. I looked around to see what was the matter (like the “Night Before Christmas” reference? See what I did there?). And what to my wondering eyes should appear but Dr. Debbie Abbott waving and smiling in the next lane over. I knew this was gonna be fun.

Registration was smooth and trouble-free, and we had an hour or so to find old friends and make new ones before dinner. I met Becky Wiseman, who is an occasional commenter on this blog. I met a few other facebook friends for the first time in real life, like Patti Hobbs and Cathi Desmarais (who is a Ruffner cousin by marriage). Of course, I got to catch up with all the Great Lakes APG regulars and even ran into John Humphrey, who will be speaking in Cleveland this fall.

The cafeteria was the next stop. I like these – especially when they have ice cream. Also, I did eat the broccoli so the wife would be happy. Although the place was a bit noisy, good conversations were had, and I finally got to meet my 4th cousin twice removed, Malissa Ruffner. You can bet we’ll be exchanging and comparing info over the course of the week.

After dinner, the ProGen alums met briefly to introduce ourselves and get our picture taken. There are a few folks I need to catch up with from that group over the week . Left to wander on my own, I got to chit-chat with a few other friends before retiring to my room to work on the homework some more and tell all of you about the fun. I’m not sure I’ve ever had this many conversations about genealogy in such a short time span. I can’t imagine what the rest of the week will hold.

A sincere congratulations and “atta-girls” to Elissa Powell, Deb Deal, and all who helped make this happen. Even though we haven’t officially started, it’s pretty clear I made the right choice to attend. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

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Getting a GRIP on the Institute Experience…Like Right Now

Well kids, the time is upon us. Tom Jones awaits. Some of you have already set off for the ‘Burgh, others of us are making our final preparations. Most of my things are packed…and I do mean most of my things. Outside of the lawn mower, stereo system, and dresser – I think I have everything else stowed away in my trunk…just in case. I want to be ready.

This will be my first immersion into the reputedly intense institute experience, and I am embracing it with somewhat trembling arms. I have the exact same feeling that I generally do before playing soccer: that mix of excitement, nervous energy, and fast-muscle twitching as I wait to run out onto the field. I want to get there, figure out what the game is, and rock it to chants of “MVP! MVP!” Okay, maybe not quite that wound up, but close.

I’ll be headed out in about two hours, stop at Walmart for supplies, pick up friend and cohort, Jean, and off to PA we go! Still much to do before then. I have to re-read the homework assignments, try to get some more of it into the databases I’ve started for them, eat something, finish packing up the plantation, heck – I may even shower.

Can’t wait to see you all there, and I hope I have a little time to keep those of you not there at least a little entertained with tidbits about our experiences as the first-ever GRIP attendees!

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One Year Ago Today…My Speaking Career In Review

Warning: This post is not entirely about genealogy and is slightly self-indulgent.

One year ago today I made my speaking debut at the Ohio Genealogical Society’s Library summer speaker series, presenting the first-ever performance of “Using Deeds In Your Genealogical Research”.  Honestly, I was scared to death. They say that in order to grow, you should do things that scare you, and I think that over the course of the past year, I have definitely grown, and not just as a speaker. After that initial presentation, I received several offers  to speak at various local societies. I took them all because I saw it as a chance for continued growth.

And you know what? I’m still not really comfortable speaking – at least not in the first few minutes. I often tell people that, “oh, I’m not a natural speaker.” When I say that, I’m being honest, not modest. I’m really not a natural speaker. Here’s the catch, though: after I survive the first few minutes of terror and my throat doesn’t need me reminding it to open up and breathe now and then, I REALLY like talking to people about genealogy. I like sharing what I know. I love that people want to learn, that they’ve chosen to learn something from me. That’s a responsibility I take very seriously.

Today, I returned to the Ohio Genealogical Society library for an anniversary of sorts. I had about an hour-long presentation planned about developing a research plan. I actually managed to finish in about the right time frame, and pressed on to the case study in which we were supposed to take a look at a complicated real-world research problem, show the initial research plan that I developed, and as a group develop research plans to help solve the larger problem from there.

However, after we created the plans, the audience wanted to know about the results – what actually resulted from the research plans. So I started to explain it on the fly, never having once practiced this part of the program. I explained how I correlated evidence, resolved conflicts, and then made suggestions for further research. They questioned the whole way through. They were absorbed. I was absorbed. Two hours went by and not only did no one leave, no one looked like they wanted to leave. Once we went to the case study, I tried my best to keep relating everything back to research planning but ultimately it evolved into a different, second presentation about evidence analysis – one I hadn’t even thought of, much less practiced.

What is the point of all this? I loved it – more so the second, unplanned half than the first. When you as a speaker love what you are doing, the audience will generally love it too. For me, it all comes back to the research process. That’s what I love. From now on, all of my new presentations are going to be case-study based. Once I have the audience engaged, then I can slip in methodology, the GPS, and whatever else is appropriate.

Do what you love. Money may not necessarily follow, but happiness probably will.

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SNGF: Time Travel Via Microfilm? Yes.

It’s been awhile since I played along with Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, but this week, the planets aligned, and here I am posting it up.

Now, you can’t tell me that you never thought that if you were able to crank the microfilm reel fast enough, you would surely time-travel…or..ummm…am I the only one?

Here’s the scoop:

1)  Go to the The Newspaper Clipping Generator ( and create one or more articles using this tool.

2)  You could generate articles that didn’t appear in the newspaper, or articles you wish had appeared in the newspaper, or even your own obituary (in the future).

3)  Share your newspaper clippings with us as an image or a screen capture on your own blog, or a comment to this blog post, on a Facebook Status post, or a Google+ Stream post.

4)  Please give me a link to your clipping as a comment to this post.

Here’s something I hope you see on Chronicling America one day:

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Probate Files: Little Things Add Up, Pt. 2

In Part 1, we learned a little bit about the immediate family of Garret Staats. He was the second son of Abraham Staats, Sr and Sarah [–?–]. He had an older brother, two younger brothers and a sister. He died in late 1797 or early 1798, probably about 30 years old, leaving only those brothers and sisters as heirs – although his sister was likely already dead by Garret’s death in 1797/8.1

Let’s turn now to the second item in Garret’s estate file – his inventory (forgive the WordPress mangling of the formatting I worked so hard on yesterday!). Here’s the transcription:

Inventory of the goods which were of Garret Staats of Appoquinimink Hundred in the Countyof New Castle appraised by us the Subscribers the 14th day of March A.D. 1798

  Dol. cents
By the Deceaseds Wearing Apparel /30/ 30 00
By a chest, bunk, and whip 2/ 2 00
By a saddle, saddle bags, and some books 5/ 5 00
By a horse 67/ By a pot 1/50 68 50
By 200 Blaids @ 1/50/ per hundred By Cord wood 2/67/ 5 67
By 3 “ ¾ yds. of Cassmore @ 1/50/ per yd By 5 yds blue cloth @ 4/50 per yd 29 25
By 6 yds of Linnen @ /33 cents per yd By 10 handkerchiefs @ /25/ per piece 3 59
By 2 blankets 2 dol/ By 5 moth-eaten hats at 1/ 3
By 1 pair of shoes 1/ By 3 barrals  a 1/ 2
By a quantity of fur 63/28/ By 2 H H[–] 2 dol/ Some meat 24 89 28
By 2 Cows 24/ one two years old heifer 6/ 30
By 1 calf 3 dol/ By old plough irons /50 cents/ 3 50
By pair of of compasses [?] and tea kettle /69 cents/ 00 69
By 29 Bushels of Corn @ /47 cents/ per bushel 11 75
By one Bushel of Wheat 1/25 01 25
By a Watch 12/ 12 00
By a gun 5/ 5 00
By one bed and bedding At 13/ 13 00
Errors excepted per Jacob Ryall and Robert Johnson 315 48

I do certify that Jacob Ryall and Robert Johnson Was Qualified in Due form of Law to the above inventory and appraisement sworn this 19th day of October A.D. 1798 before be

                                    (signed) Abraham Staats     (signed) Gideon Emory 

I’ve highlighted some of the things that caught my attention – things that either tell me something about him or suggest things about him. Also telling are the things you don’t see in his inventory. Here are my take-aways from this inventory:

  • Books! Garret could, and presumably did, read. In the many, many pre-1800 estates from Appoquinimink Hundred I’ve accumulated, that’s not something I’ve seen very often in an inventory. That’s not to say that everyone in Appoquinimink but Garret was illiterate (they weren’t), however, it sticks out as something different from what you’d expect – it’s interesting. Looking at his family, you may recall Garret’s father, Abraham Staats Sr. could sign his name, and interestingly, books were also listed in the inventory of his estate. In fact, Garret’s brother Abraham, eventually served several terms in the Delaware General Assembly’s House of Representatives and Senate.2 would indicate that the family compared to those around them, were more highly-educated. It’s interesting to speculate why things turn out the way they do.
  • Speaking of farming, did you notice any farming tools in the inventory? Me neither. There is an “old plough iron” with a whopping value of 50 cents, but that’s it. Notice any crops “in the ground”? Me neither. Garret was not a farmer. More on that in Part 3.
  • The thing that  jumps out at me is the fact that Garret does have lots of cloth, material, and fur around. The most interesting is “Cassmore,” which I can only assume is “cashmere,” which of course comes from the Cashmere goat. He has a lot of corn to feed animals. He also has “200 blaids” –  likely corn blades to feed the cows, but he only has two. Does he also raise goats? If so, where are the goats in this inventory? He doesn’t appear to be a tailor, as there are no tools – just material, and according to the closest source in time and place I could find, Colonial Williamsburg, “Most tailors did not sell fabric, so people selected fabric from a merchant in town and brought their own fabric to the tailor.”3 . So I’m left not exactly knowing what he does for a living, but it seems to be a combination of husbandry and  merchant (more on this in Part 3).
  • The “5 moth-eaten hats” and “one bed and bedding” doesn’t really tell me much of historical value, but doesn’t it really create a strong image in your mind? Can’t you picture Garret getting up from his one bed just before the break of day in 1790s Appoquinimink, shaking off the dust from one of his moth-eaten hats, and heading out to check on the animals? He has no wife or children, so perhaps his day consists of feeding and caring for the stock, shearing the animals, and taking care of a few locals purchasing some of his stock of fur. At the end of the day, he rides over to Abraham’s place to eat dinner with his brother’s young family, having no family of his own. On his way home, he makes a trip around the perimeter of the property to make sure the fence is in good order – don’t need any fines for animals on the loose.4 Returning to his cabin, he sits down at his bunk and reads for a bit before darkness strains his eyes, and he turns in for the evening.

Romanticized? Yah, maybe a little, but  at least I can back it up (well, all except the dinner part, and even then I could probably make a strong argument of the closeness of this family).

Aside from the goods and chattels, the list of debts and credits at the time of his death needed to be inventoried as well. This is the list of folks who owed Garret’s estate (again with formatting screwed up – thank you WordPress):

A List of out standing Sperate and Desparate Debts belonging to Garrett Staats Deceased at the time of his death Viz-

  L S D   L S D
To Cash in Store and [?] 62 15 0        
Levi Staats 1 5 5 Ephraim Stats 16 00
Charles Williams, negro 2 0 11 James Smyth - 16 9
Jacob Baker 1 14 6 Abraham Fields - 14 -
James Staats 4 15 9 Thomas Goldborough 6 19 11
John Guy Junior - 9 8 Carvel Staats a rent 12 0 0
John Lockerman 4 14 2 Jacob Woodkeeper balof a note 8 11 8
William Marshall, negro 1 8 9      
Bayman J. Wilkinson - 16 3 Matthew Donaho 5 12 10
Abraham Deakyne, negro 1 16 10 Thomas Maberey 1 10 0
David Dave 1 12 0 David and Jacob Staats note 10 12 6
David Staats 1 6 11 Samuel Deshane - 11 3
Robert Congleton 1 3 9 Abraham Starling 1 13 2
William Boyer 1 18 11 Act in my own hands 16 12 5
Peter Staats 1 15 9 Interest on the above 6 years 3 months 6 5 0
Daniel Butler            
John Staats 1 8 1        
Jacob Snwell - 9 4 Act on the Estate of Ephraim Staats deceased 12 15 9
Eleazer David 4 8 9      
John Tuffree 3 1 3        
Andrew Lockhart - 12 1 (signed) Abraham Staats                 administrator      
Hannah Cartwright 1 2 2      
Richard Rayhow 4 18 4        
William Goldborough 2 10 9        
James Brattain - 3 9        
Joseph Bucher - 19 9        
John Heath - 14 -        
Robert Killgore 1 5 0        
Ruben Baker - 15 5        
Robert Bettriage - 13 9        
Robert Johnson - 4 6        
Henrey Brattain - 15 9        
William Hanson - 3 8        
Peter Hanson - 2 -  

That’s a lot of debts owed to Garret. Clearly Garret kept accounts on things he was owed. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that ledger now? I also find folks from my Staats branch listed here – David and Jacob Staats. In fact, David Staats is listed twice. Although when the total of these notes is carried over, it’s listed differently – it’s listed here as cash in store. Is that another clue that he was a merchant – at least to some degree? Notice that two of the largest debts were owed by his brothers, Abraham and Ephraim. Carvel Staats, who owed rent, was likely a first cousin to Garret. I don’t know much about Ephraim, but Abraham seemed to own quite a few animals as well as crops to feed them.5 My guess is that they all were in business together to some extent.

I’ve included this list for two reasons. First, there are quite a few people from this area and time listed here. I wanted to put it online so that it might help people trying to sort out one of these families. Second, my Staats family appears here, and I’ll comment more on that in Part 3.

  1. For sources, see Chris Staats, “Probate Files: Little Things Add Up, Pt. 1,” posted 24 Jun 2012; Staats Place ( accessed 24 Jun 2012). []
  2. Abraham Staats served in the House of Representatives during the 26th, 27th, 35th, 36th, and 37th Delaware General Assemblies (1802-1814), and in Senate for the 38th, 39th, and 40th Assemblies.  (Source, WIkipedia beginning here: Naudain family history cited in the first article, as well as debts owed to Abraham’s estate from the State of Delaware  in 1821 support this Abraham as the one of service. (source, New Castle, Delaware, Probate Files, Abraham Staats (1821), settlement account; Delaware Public Archives. []
  3. “Tailor: The Art of Cutting,” in Colonial Williamsburg ( accessed 24 Jun 2012). []
  4. Delaware, Laws of the State of Delaware from the Fourteenth Day of October, One Thousand Seven Hundred, to the Eighteenth Day of August, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Seven,” (New Castle: Samuel & John Adams, 1797), 180-181; digital images, Google Books ( accessed 24 Jun 2012). []
  5. New Castle, Delaware, Probate Files, Abraham Staats, (1821). []
Posted in Family Findings, Thoughts and Musings | 1 Comment

Probate Files: Little Things Add Up, Pt. 1

At long last, I had an opportunity to sit down with some of my own research. How did I spend most of my time? With a fellow named Garret Staats, who is collaterally related to my 5th great grandfather, of course! Garret’s probate file1 is a splendid example of what you can find when you look a little closer.

The probate file is a total of seven pages (if you don’t count the document jackets). It contains an administrator’s bond, an inventory, a list of notes held, and a settlement account. For a short document, it’s long on information.

Let’s start with the Administrator’s Bond2 . Here’s an abstract of that bond:

Know by all men these presents that we, Abraham Staats yeoman, and Gideon Emory esq., both of Appoquinimink Hundred are held and firmly bound unto the State of Delaware, in the sum of One Thousand Two Dollars…this seventh day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety eight…the condition of this Obligation is such, That if the above bounden Abraham Staats next of kin, and administrator of all singular the goods and chattels, rights and credits of Garret Staats of Appoquinimink Hundred in the County of New Castle..”

Signed, sealed and delivered                                                      Abraham Staats [seal]
in the presence of                                                                        Gideon Emory [seal]
Thos. Gregg
Jas. Booth

First of all, notice that Abraham Staats is named as “next of kin” in the bond. There are a couple of Abrahams running around. Which one is this? Fortunately, I have the original probate file, as well as the original files for several other related folks. I have something to work with. One key is the fact that the documents within these files are signed, and are signed in hands that are clearly different from the clerk’s own hand. Let’s look at a few signatures of Abraham Staats.

Here is his signature on this bond:


Signature of Abraham Staats as administrator of the estate of Garret Staats3

An Abraham  Staats also signed documents in the estate of John Gythen in 1791. Here is his signature, as it appears as a witness on the statement of renunciation of the widow’s right to administrate the estate. There is a variation in the beginning flourish of the “A” but otherwise appears to be the same:

1791 signature of Abraham Staats in the estate file of John Gythen.4


Lastly, here is another signature – this from the 1788 estate file of Abraham Staats, administered by widow Sarah Staats and Abraham Staats :

1788 signature of Abraham Staats, administrator of the estate of Abraham Staats. (New Castle, Delaware, Probate Files, Abraham Staats (1788), administrator’s bond, 24 Oct 1788.))


For the sake of comparison, here are two of the other Abraham Staats signatures – and they appear on one document. One is the signature of Abraham Staats, Sr. The other is Capt. Abraham Staats:

Signatures on the administrator’s bond in the estate of Ephraim Staats in 1784. The top signature is Abraham Staats, Sr, The second, Capt. Abraham Staats (who consistently made his mark with this characteristic “A”)5


How does this fit with what we know from other documents? Let’s compare this with an Orphan’s Court entry, a petition for partition by Elisha Staats asking for the partition of property of Abraham Staats, Sr.:

“Upon the petition of Elisha Staats…setting forth that Abraham Staats was in his lifetime and at the time of his death lawfully seized …of a tract of land…and being so seized died intestate…leaving to survive him a widow named Sarah who is since dead and five children namely Abraham Staats his eldest son, Garret Staats, Elizabeth Staats who married with John Gythen who is since dead [goes on to explain that Elizabeth remarried and names issue from both marriages]…Ephraim Staats, and Elisha Staats the petitioner”6

I’d say that fits pretty well. Comparing the Orphan’s Court information with Garret’s and the other estates above, the relationships are logical and the signature on this bond helps to tie them together. That’s not to say that I’ve “proven” these relationships, but it has established a working assertion to try and debunk. In order to be comfortable meeting the exhaustive search requirement of the Genealogical Proof Standard7 , I still have more digging to do, but here’s a review of the assertion our analysis of the bond has established:

  • Abraham signed the administration bond of his father’s estate in 1788
  • In 1791, the same Abraham witnessed and signed the renunciation submitted by his sister, Elizabeth Gythen, giving up her right as widow to be the administrator in the estate of her deceased husband John Gythen (he also signed the administrator’s bond in that estate). Elizabeth named her other brother, Garret, as administrator in that renunciation.
  • Finally, in 1798, Abraham is the administrator for his brother Garret’s estate.

It’s easy to assume that “next of kin” or “heirs” means a parent/child relationship, but that’s not necessarily so. In fact, looking at Delaware law tells us a little more about Garret, given Abraham’s “next of kin” relationship: “And in case there be no wife or child, then the personal estate of the said deceased to be distributed to and amongst the brothers and sisters…”8There is no evidence of a widow’s renunciation. In lieu of a widow or child, next in line would be brothers and sisters, making older brother Abraham the “next of kin” and proper administrator.9

So now we know a little bit more about Garret and his family.

  • We can estimate that the eldest brother Abraham was likely born sometime in the late 1750s to mid-1760s.10
  • Given that Garret was the second child, he was likely born somewhere in that range also.
  • Sister Elizabeth was married by 1791, so it’s reasonable to assume a birth date in the vicinity of 1770 or so.
  • Brother Ephraim is somewhere in between Garret and Elizabeth
  • No guardianships were filed for children of this family, so Elisha, the youngest brother was presumably of age at the time of settlement.11
  • Garret died single (or a widower) and without any living children, probably somewhere around 30 years old at the time, leaving only his brothers and sister as heirs.

In Part 2, we’ll look at Garret’s inventory to learn more.

  1. New Castle, Delaware, Probate Files, RG2545.001, Garret Staats, (1798); Delaware Public Archives. Files are arranged alphabetically, indexed by name and year(s) of probate proceedings. []
  2. ibid., administrator’s bond, 7 Mar 1798. []
  3. ibid. []
  4. New Castle, Delaware, Probate Files, John Gythen, (1793-1794), renunciation of administration of Elizabeth Gythen, 1 Nov 1791. []
  5. New Castle, Delaware, Probate Files, Ephraim Staats, (1784-1785), administrator’s bond, 2 Feb 1784. []
  6. New Castle, DE, Orphan’s Court Records H: 269, petition of Elisha Staats, 6 Mar 179x; FHL microfilm 0,006,547. Year is not stated in the entry, nor any of the entries included with the copy. Book H ends in 1799. Exact date to be determined the next time I get a chance to review the film. []
  7. For an explanation of the Genealogical Proof Standard, go to []
  8. Delaware, Laws of the State of Delaware from the Fourteenth Day of October, One Thousand Seven Hundred, to the Eighteenth Day of August, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Seven,” (New Castle: Samuel & John Adams, 1797), 287; digital images, Google Books ( accessed 20 Nov 2011). []
  9. ibid., 284-285. []
  10. As administrator of his father’s estate, he would have been at least 21 in 1788 so was born before 1767. See also: Ruth Bennett, Naudain Family of Delaware (Geneva, Nebraska: self-published, 1941), 26. Rachel Naudain, Abraham’s wife, was born in 1765. []
  11. Birth order is assumed from the order the names are listed in the Orphans Court petition of Elisha, starting with “Abraham, the eldest son” []
Posted in Family Findings, Thoughts and Musings | 2 Comments

Startling Delaware Probate Discovery

New Collection Gateway search interface.

It’s not very often that I’m glad I woke up at 4:30am and couldn’t go back to sleep, but this is one of those times. I learned something, entirely by accident, and if you are battling a stubborn Delaware research problem, you’ll want to hear about this.

I’ve posted before about the Collection Gateway, where you can search all of the indexed collections at the Delaware Public Archives in one fell swoop. It’s a pretty nifty search tool. You can also search an individual collection separately. I may have done this in the past, but I’m pretty sure I’ve always used the main search box. This morning, for some unknown reason (probably sleep-deprivation) I clicked on the probate collection. The probate index has been on the site for years, although not in the new format.


It was the old-style search feature that resulted in me owning copies of every Staats estate file from the beginning of time through about 1800. Or at least that’s what I thought until this morning. When I clicked on the probate link on the new gateway, up came an alphabetical listing of all 110,000+ probate files in their collection. The listing was alphabetical by last name, which means the first page was….any guesses?

If you said “A,” you would be wrong. The first page contained probate files that had no indexed last name, just first name, year, and county. So did the next several pages. In fact, there are 439 Delaware probate files that have no surname associated with them in the index. Being the geek that I am, I created a spreadsheet containing the names, sorted them by county and then by date. In New Castle County alone, out of 130 total probate files with no surname, there are over 60 dating between 1684 and 1800. This could be a game-changer in my early Appoquinimink research. Even if it’s not for me, I hope this discovery may help some of you.

The next time I wake up at 4:30am, it had better be to hop in the car and head to Dover to dig into this new find!


I’ve figured out what has happened here. By going back to the old search and searching by first name and year, I am finding all the surnames that aren’t listed in the new search. In each case, the old-search result has an alternate spelling for the surname in parenthesis within the surname field. Apparently, any record with the parenthesis in the surname field returns that record as having no associated surname.

For example here is a new search result: FIrst name = “Elisha”, no surname, year=”1747″, and is in New Castle County. Going back to the old search and searching for “Elisha” and “1747” gives this result:

Name Date Race Location
Rogers (Rodgersk), Elisha 1747 New Castle County

Having searched for about 10 others, each returning parentheses in the surname field can only lead me to assume that the results in the new search with no surnames are a database/front-end error. While not quite as exciting as I had hoped. There is still some value here. Searching for the alternate spellings inside the parenthesis still yield no results – even on the old search. So there may be names that you’ve searched for and not found that may actually be lurking between those parenthesis as an alternate spelling.

Posted in How-To | 2 Comments