Tuesday, August 12, 2008

County Deed Books Include Much More Than Just Land Records

The Itawamba County Chancery Clerk’s office is packed with old 19th century county records including walls of bulky bound deed books. The county is fortunate in that the courthouse never suffered from a fire, as did many southern courthouses, especially during the Civil War era. Most all the county records are intact from the organization days of the county to the present.

The hundreds of deed books housed in the Chancery Clerk’s office contain a huge amount of priceless genealogical and historical information. One would suspect that this record group deals exclusively with land transactions. This is simply not the case. Other types of documents other than land deeds can be found scattered throughout these old volumes. There are all types of miscellaneous records in the bound books including old contracts, conveyances of personal property, and property schedules. There are many old property schedules of married women from the 1840’s through the 1850’s. These old schedules listed all property belonging exclusively to the wife in a marriage, and usually consisted of property the wife possessed in her own name before a marriage.

The Married Women's Property Bill was passed on February 15, 1839, and signed by Mississippi Governor Alexander G. McNutt the next day, making Mississippi the first state in the union to grant property rights to married women. After the act was passed, several Itawamba County married women had their property schedules recorded in the probate court office (present-day Chancery Court Clerk’s office) in the courthouse at Fulton. Earlier last year I wrote an article about the Itawamba County women’s property schedules.

There are other miscellaneous records found in the old bound deed books. Just last year while transcribing an old 19th century deed my eyes wandered to the facing page where I read the words “Copy of order of freedom of Lucretia, Jerry and Milly.” This most valuable document (pictured) details the free status of Lucretia and her two children in 1843 and contains a wealth of genealogical information. From reading the rare old document (view a larger resolution image of the document), I learned that Lucretia was born a free woman during 1803 in South Carolina and was in neighboring Monroe County, Mississippi by 1843 where her copy of the “order of freedom” was recorded. Her two children were Jerry Harris (born during 1819) and Milly (born during 1821). This lengthy document gives a detailed physical description of each member of the family in 1843. On the 18th day of October 1850 a copy of this document was recorded in Itawamba County, indicating at least part of the family had moved from Monroe County to Itawamba County (Jerry Harris is listed in the 1860 Itawamba County census in the Priceville community and Milly his sister is listed in Aberdeen in Monroe County during the same census year).

This “order of freedom” and the “women’s property schedules” discussed above are just two examples of the valuable miscellaneous records that can be discovered in the old deed books of not only Itawamba, but other counties as well – old large leather-bound volumes containing much more than mere land deeds alone.


Unknown said...

WOW! That room is certainly immpressive! Is the room open to researchers?

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Bob Franks said...

Yes, the room is open to researchers and is in the Itawamba County Courthouse in Fulton.