Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Court Proceedings--Early Colonial Court Matters

court proceedings -- early colonial court matters

In going throughout some of our old correspondence, I came across the following from the Connecticut Society of Genealogists Inc of Glastonbury, Conn 06033 which was part of a article in the Nutmegger of March 1982 V-14 #4  [AWF]

One must be always mindful that the court proceedings are public records; therefore, available to us as researchers. The challenges to the genealogist are to discover the location of these records and then to search the pertinent documents for references to our people. Unfortunately we cannot identify a standard for all states as to the exact cases for which each court shall be responsible, or even, for that matter what the court shall be called. Each state possesses its own criteria for court jurisdiction; our job as a serious researcher is to become familiar with the state in which our research is centered. 

We can, however, list some of the matters dealt with in most early courts: 
Adultery 
Assault 
Being a Vagabond 
Calling the Deacon Bad Words 
Change of Names 
Corrupting Tar 
Cow, Hog, or Horse Killing 
Debt 
Divorce 
Embezzlement 
Infamous Writing 
Failure to Assist Marshall 
Lascivious Carriage Personal 
Property Disputes 
Quaker 
Refusing Court/Jury Duty 
Singing in the Tavern 
Smoking 
Theft 
Trespass 
Witchcraft 
Affronting of an Officer 
Bastardy 
Breach of Peace 
Card Playing 
Church Attendance 
Counterfeiting 
Cursing and Swearing 
Dishonest Behavior 
Drunkeness 
Fornication 
Failure to Take Oath of Allegiance 
Killing Deer 
Lying 
Profaning the Lord's Day 
Real Estate Disputes 
Sale of Guns or Liquor to Indians 
Slander 
Speaking Evil of Him That Dispenses the Word of God 

An interesting aside when discussing early colonial court matters is a study of the most frequent crimes brought to court in the Plymouth Colony and later Plymouth County, Massachusetts: 
I. 1660-1669 
Quaker 
Drunkeness and Fornication (tie) 
Assault 

II. 1686-1774 
Fornication 
Assault 
Theft 

It is imperative that the serious researcher has a general knowledge of the basic procedures of a civil court case from a genealogical point of view: 

1.  Counsel retained - PLAINTIFF employs 
2. Declaration of Complaint - Document describing complaint; filed by PLAINTIFF'S counsel 
p. 556A  Nutmegger

Enjoy
Take care and God Bless
Alex W Fraser
Courtenay, BC

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