Taking Back What Was Once Lost

Court Records Rock

I absolutely, positively LOVE court records! OK, I guess I should caveat that: I don’t particularly like court records about myself, but historical court records in search of those ever-elusive ancestors are way, way cool. They are second on my “genealogical excitement” scale only to Civil War pension records. I have an entire brief I do on Court Records because they’re so incredible.

Hardin County, TN courthouse

Hardin County, TN Courthouse

Guess what I found tonight buried in the Hardin County Court Minutes that I ordered and viewed at my local Family History Center? Well, I had been wondering for years how this particular man, Felix Barnes, fit into the community. I have Barnes ancestors, but had never seen him in the household of any of my Barnes kinfolk. So tonight, I found a record of Felix being apprenticed out. But the good part was this phrase, one that we live for in genealogy:

“…the apprenticeship of Felix Barnes, minor child of Lou[isa] Barnes (now wife of Sam[uel] Holt) said boy being an illegitimate mulatto child.

WOW. I knew Samuel and Louisa Holt’s family well, but never guessed Felix was Louisa’s child. This record doesn’t name his father, but implies the father was white. What’s written here is the kind of stuff you hardly will ever find written anywhere else, or written period, and that’s why court records are a-rockin’-and- a-shockin’.;)

I don’t usually recommend you dive into court records at the very beginning of your research; they can be complicated and many aren’t indexed. But when you get past your oral history, census records, vital records, land records and probate records…endless possibilities await you in the dusty old record books of your county’s courthouse. I’ll talk alot more about these records in future posts and how I’ve used them to advance my research.


  1. May 3, 2009    

    I just loved this site, especially the links to other documents. This is quite interesting.

  2. Vivian's Gravatar Vivian
    May 4, 2009    

    On of the pictures that you copied was of the son of Lucy Holt’s son. Aunt didn’t remember his name but she did say that it was her son. I will go through and fine the picture and send you a copy.

    • May 4, 2009    

      You have such a good memory…you mean of a son of Felix Barnes? Or just one of Lucy Holt’s? Did I tell you the exact same picture Nella had and thought was Lucy Barnes is the exact same picture that the other descendants had framed in Inkster Michigan of Sam and Lucy? I think it is so interesting that I have gotten the same pictures through completely different channels. Do you like the blog so far? I’ve very excited about it.

  3. Vivian's Gravatar Vivian
    June 9, 2009    

    Aunt told me Lucy’s son was named, Joe Doran. However, I think she may have been thinking about the Dorans that he lived with as a servent when he was 16. The 1880 Hardin County Census shows “Felix Barnes” living in the household of William P. Doran.

    She also said he was raised by Samuel Holt and when he be came of age, Sam gave him a horse and some money and he went out on his own.


  4. Vivian's Gravatar Vivian
    June 9, 2009    

    I am really enjoying the site. Great job! No, I haven’t set up a blog as yet. I just got the program you recommended and I am trying to transfer information and get use to the program. Hopefully soon I will be able to devote more time to getting my information in order. Hope to talk to you soon!

    • June 9, 2009    

      Thanks for checking me out here and your kind comments. I know your blog will be up soon, you are quite a tech-savvy person if I’ve ever seen one. I plan to see Sonja this weekend, I’m only sorry I missed you. That’s good info on Felix Barnes. I’ve seen that Joe Doran you refer to in the records. I really am trying to get down to Hardin to spend a day in the courthouse before the year is out. I just have to find the time.

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  1. Back to Court « Reclaiming Kin on June 16, 2009 at 3:17 am
  2. My Terrific Tennessee Research Trip « Reclaiming Kin on March 8, 2010 at 3:24 am

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About Me

I blog, teach, write and lecture about family history research and it's just as rewarding today as it was when I began 18 years ago. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my past and I've taken back--reclaimed- my kin and some of that lost memory.  

Post History

What I Talk About

Locations and Surnames

Hardin, Chester and Lawrence Counties, TN
Holt, Barnes, Harbour, Bradley Springer and Fendricks
Lawrence County, AL
Springer and Fendricks
Montgomery County, MD
Prather, Simpson
Somerset County, MD
Waters, Fountain, Curtis
Duval and Madison County, FL
Smith, Harris, Garner

Favorite Family History Quotes

"The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past."
-William Faulkner

"Call it a clan, call it a network, all it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one"
- Jane Howard

"Friends are God's apologies for relations."
-Hugh Kingsmill

"No matter what you've done for yourself or for humanity, if you can't look back on having given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished?"
-Elbert Hubbard

"Families are like fudge; mostly sweet with a few nuts."

"If you can't get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you might as well make it dance!"

"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city;)"
-George Burns

"Where does the family start? It starts with a young man falling in love with a girl. No superior alternative has yet been found."
-Winston Churchill

"The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never ever introduce yourself to had life not done it for you."
-Kendall Hailey

"If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all the generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people."
-Thich Nhat Hanh