Notes from the past…

1 Comment

Using Google Books in your genealogy research: an example

A couple of years ago, I blogged about the 1886 adventures of my 3GGM and the Texas Supreme Court. I had put her name into the search box on the Google News Archive page and found a transcript of the Court’s decision in the case of Kennedy vs Upshaw. Wow! Pretty exciting!

Only problem was… I couldn’t understand much of the paper’s language! Apparently lawyers speak (and write) something other than English :)

In a nutshell: the lower court determined that part of the will was a forgery and therefore invalid and my 3GGM appealed, with the case eventually reaching the Texas Supreme Court.

Flash forward to yesterday.

I was updating my 3GGM Susan William Lee Martin in my RootsMagic database and did a routine Google search, looking for anything new.

To my surprise and delight, Google Books found another transcript of the Texas Supreme Court’s decision in this case, more of a review actually, written in plain English!

From this new “translation”, I learned the case apparently dealt with a codicil to the last will and testament of my 3GGM Susan William Lee Martin’s father, James Harris Martin. In the original will, James Martin’s estate was equally divided between my 3GGM and his other daughter. The codicil (a document that amends a previously executed will) added about 2 weeks before James’ death and witnessed by Susan Martin and her husband Dr N B Kennedy and signed in the Kennedy home, changed the distribution of the estate. Susan would continue to get her 50% of the estate, with the other 50% to be divided between Susan’s 2 kids and the other daughter!

James Harris Martin was apparently quite ill at the time the codicil was signed (according to his attending physician’s testimony) and his hands were very shaky. Martin’s signature on the codicil was “written in a smooth and regular hand”, unlike the signature on the original will, thus it came into question and was determined to be a forgery.

The Supreme Court did not question the final verdict in the case, but did find several mistakes in the way the trial was conducted and returned the case to the lower court for retrial.

What was the genealogical value of these documents?

The transcript that I found 2 years ago gave me the full name of James Harris Martin ( I previously had James H Martin, from his 1850 Federal Census entry) as well as the date and location of his death (28 Mar 1883 in Hillsboro, Texas). Armed with these new details, I was able to locate Martin’s burial location and headstone photo at Find-A-Grave, which contained his exact birth date, 21 Jun 1807. All that from a court transcipt… AWESOME!

And what genea-goodies did I get from yesterday’s “translation” document? Remember the other daughter who was originally supposed to get half of Martin’s estate? Martin’s 1850 Federal Census enumeration lists his kids as Susan W L and Sarah A D (apparently this family had a thing for 2 middle names!). Susan was of course my 3GGM and I have been able to follow her life and amass quite a bit of data on her. But what of Sarah A D Martin? We all know the difficulties in tracking down female family members, especially from this time period. I have found essentially nothing on Sarah and even thought she might not have survived childhood, as frequently happened in those days.

Thanks to Cases Argued and Decided in the Supreme Court of the State of Texas, Volume 66 , Sarah A D Martin is now Mrs S. A. D. Haigler! I now have her married name! This is a major find for me, as hopefully it will begin a new line of research!

Leave a comment

Women’s History Month, Day 14: Mrs Kennedy’s in the news again!

Following the death in 1897 of her husband, Dr Nathan B Kennedy, Susan William Lee Martin Kennedy appeared fairly regularly in the Dallas Morning News. A lawsuit on her behalf was filed against the Pacific Express Company after her buggy’s horse was not kept under control and flipped the buggy over, “permanently injuring” Mrs Kennedy:

SusWLMartin 18 Nov 1902

Dallas Morning News, 18 Nov 1902


SusWLMartin 21 Jul 1904

Dallas Morning News, 21 Jul 1904


That suit was apparently dismissed, but my third great-grandmother’s name still appeared with regularity in the Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio papers, this time as President of the Old Ladies Home Society of Texas, an organization based in Houston, intended to assist destitute elderly women (and later, men). She traveled all over Texas, attempting to raise funds for this project:

SusWLMartin 4 Apr 1901

Dallas Morning News, 4 Apr 1901


SusWLMartin 26 Nov 1901

San Antonio Daily Express, 26 Nov 1901


SusWLMartin 10 Nov 1904

Dallas Morning News, 10 Nov 1904

All of these delicious little tidbits of posterity were found at!