Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, September 25, 2017

Women, Property, Inheritance and Genealogy -- Part Two: Coverture

Earliest recorded deed for land in what is now North Carolina. Pasquotank County, North Carolina Register of Deeds, Deed Book 286:240 and Norfolk County (now City of Chesapeake), Virginia Register of Deeds, Deed Book D:293

This early deed from North Carolina documents a transfer from a "Mr. Mason and Mrs. Willoughby" to "Kiscutanewh Kinge of Yausapin" and the further transfer of that same property to "Nath. Batts." This note is interesting because back in the 1700s American property law was, of course, governed by English law and the legal doctrine of "coverture" (sometimes couverture) was in effect.

Quoting from the Wikipedia article "Coverture:"
Coverture (sometimes spelled couverture) was a legal doctrine whereby, upon marriage, a woman's legal rights and obligations were subsumed by those of her husband, in accordance with the wife's legal status of feme covert. An unmarried woman, a feme sole, had the right to own property and make contracts in her own name. Coverture arises from the legal fiction that a husband and wife are one person. 
Coverture was enshrined in the common law of England for several centuries and throughout most of the 19th century, influencing some other common-law jurisdictions. According to Arianne Chernock, coverture did not apply in Scotland, but whether it applied in Wales is unclear. Further quoting from Chernock, Arianne (2010). Men and the Making of Modern British Feminism. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-6311-0.
In this context, the word "subsumed" means that all the rights a woman had passed to her husband at the time of the marriage. 

In the United States, this concept or doctrine was dominant until the mid-1800s when some of the states began passing women's property laws such as this one from 1848 in New York reported by the Library of Congress:
AN ACT for the effectual protection of the property of married women. 
Passed April 7, 1848. 
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly do enact as follows: 
Sec. 1. The real and personal property of any female who may hereafter marry, and which she shall own at the time of marriage, and the rents issues and profits thereof shall not be subject to the disposal of her husband, nor be liable for his debts, and shall continue her sole and separate property, as if she were a single female. 
Sec. 2 The real and personal property, and the rents issues and profits thereof of any female now married shall not be subject to the disposal of her husband; but shall be her sole and separate property as if she were a single female except so far as the same may be liable for the debts of her husband heretofore contracted. 
Sec. 3. It shall be lawful for any married female to receive, by gift, grant devise or bequest, from any person other than her husband and hold to her sole and separate use, as if she were a single female, real and personal property, and the rents, issues and profits thereof, and the same shall not be subject to the disposal of her husband, nor be liable for his debts. 
Sec. 4. All contracts made between persons in contemplation of marriage shall remain in full force after such marriage takes place.
Genealogists who are faced with researching their families back into this early time period in English law countries often experience difficulty in determining a women's maiden name due to this concept of coverture. Other countries, even in Europe, do not present the same problems. For example, in countries derived from the Spanish Empire, where Spanish is spoken, women retained their maiden names even after marriage.

Understanding land and property conveyances, probate records and many other legal documents drafted before the mid-1800s requires the researcher to understand the importance of coverture in all these historic legal transactions. By the way, knowing this will also explain many obscure passages and references in English literature. Coverture also partially explains why women were not allowed to vote for so much of English and American history. The issue eventually became highly politicized and laws derived from coverture are still the subject of major political movements in the United States and elsewhere.

England was not the only country with laws that relegated women to a subordinate role in a marriage. For example, it was only in 1965 when married women in France were given the right to work without their husband's consent. See Carolyn Hazel, French Reforms in Domestic Law, 35 La. L. Rev. (1974) Available at:

It is literally impossible to do adequate genealogical research without understanding a great deal of history and a large measure of the law in the countries and times where the research is taking place. Ignorance of law, history, and geography is the most common cause of ridiculous entries in online family trees.

One exception to the law of coverture was the woman's dower interest. But that is another post for another time. Stay tuned. 

2017 Worldwide Indexing Event
FamilySearch is finally announcing it 2017 World Wide Indexing Event. It is scheduled to take place on October 20-22, 2017. The official website is here:
If you look closely, you can see that right now you could be one of the first 100 volunteers. I found out about the event through an email of the blog post above because I happen to be subscribed. But I am not sure how I would know about the event if I did not happen to subscribe to that particular blog. Perhaps if this event is worldwide, it needs some more publicity? There is a World Wide Indexing Event Facebook page but it is dated 2014.

I did find a few notices from others posting on Facebook, but nothing official.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Mission Call for Records Preservation Specialists

My wife and I have recently been called to serve as full-time missionaries in the Washington, D.C. North Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as record preservation specialists. We will serve for one year. We enter the Mission Training Center (MTC) on December 4, 2017.

As many of our friends and acquaintances know, we have both been serving as part-time Church Service missionaries for many years, first at the Mesa FamilySearch Library and then, most recently, at the Brigham Young University Family History Library on the campus. But since this mission is a full-time calling, we will have to spend whatever time is necessary to fulfill our callings and likely I will have to take an extended vacation from regular blogging.

Since we have been doing genealogical research for our own families and for those of many others, we feel this is an opportunity to contribute directly to the information available to genealogists and family historians around the world. Here is another link that explains what we will likely be doing.

FamilySearch Records Preservation Missionaries

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Apple Users: Watch Out for iOS 11 and High Sierra

Well, Fall is here and apparently, it is time for two new operating systems from Apple: iOS 11 and High Sierra. Because I am an early adopter of most technology, I upgraded my iOS devices to the new iOS 11. Hmm. Interesting adjustment. I am now waiting for the release of High Sierra and I expect some of the same adjustments.

First of all, upgrading to iOS 11 was as easy as it usually is to upgrade an Apple device. I didn't notice any real differences. There were minor changes in the way that the icons looked and some differences in the organization of the icons on my iPhone. Some of the functions of the operating system have been entirely redesigned. For me, the big change came in the camera and the way that files were stored on the devices.

Of course, I wanted to try out the new camera functions and took a picture and explored the new editing features. But the surprise came when I tried to save the image off onto my computer. Apple has implemented a new format referred to as HEIC. Immediately, there was a problem. None of my programs and even Google Photos could recognize this file format. Took me a while to figure out how to resolve the problem. I finally found some instructions and looked in the camera section of the settings menu and found an entry called "formats" that allowed me to save the images as the standard.jpg. That temporarily solved the problem. The HEIC file format is apparently a filename extension for the High Efficiency Image File Format. The benefit of this file format is that it saves a great deal of storage space on the device. The problem, of course, is that there will be a transition time before the file format is generally supported.

By the time that I had figured out the problem, Google had already begun to support the new file format. So any problems I have working with the new file format disappeared.

As genealogists, we should be aware that some of the programs that were presently using may need to be updated to support the new file format and the new operating system: High Sierra. I have already received a notice from Ancestral Quest suggesting that I upgrade the program before upgrading the operating system. As is also the case, some software programs will fall by the wayside because their developers do not wish to adapt the programs to the new operating systems.

Back to the HEIC image file format, apparently none of my Adobe programs recognize this file format. I did find a file converter option online that seems to work. It may be some time before all of this is worked out.

Friday, September 22, 2017 another Ancestry website

At the bottom of the startup page for, there is a link to "Visit our other sites." Here is a screenshot of the menu:

Interestingly, has other websites that are not listed. is one of those websites. Although, upon examination, it appears to be mostly a "feeder" website but it does have extensive reference and explanation material. Here is an example:

 An interesting feature of the website is the list of "Top Member Websites." This is a list of 123 websites around the Internet related to genealogy in a number of different languages. Most of these websites have almost no traffic as shown by the "hits" count provided by the listing. Apparently, at some time in the past, websites could apply to join as a member website but the link now shows that feature to be inactive. I couldn't find any history online about the website but it appears that it was once an independent website acquired by That was the case with and I am guessing further that wanted to make sure that it owned both the .com and the .org websites with the word "genealogy."

Some of the links listed for the websites seem to be broken and some have redirects which I would avoid. In this age of mega websites for genealogy and sweeping searches such as those done by Google make these older listing websites less useful. But they remain interesting artifacts of the way that technology is changing.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

FamilySearch Partners with

My guess is that FamilySearch will have a lot of partners in the future. Right now in addition to the existing partnerships, FamilySearch is recently added Here is an introductory video for the new partner.

There is another video linked from their startup page. Here is a quote from the recent announcement by FamilySearch of the partnership.
Famicity is an intuitive, app-based tool. It is simple to use, and encourages more communication between family members. Stories, photos, and videos are easily added and conveniently time stamped. It also allows users to give other family members permission to add to a story. 
Today, families are spread out geographically and lean heavily on technology like social media to communicate and share family moments. Websites like Facebook aim to bring families closer together; however, these websites can be overwhelming and lack family focus with all the content being posted by a growing subscription of friends. Famicity is private and allows invited family members to focus on sharing and preserving family-focused content. 
Created from the beginning as a social media platform, “Famicity understands the needs of users and that's why we've reinvented social media for each and every member of a family to bond, grow, and celebrate their lives privately and securely,” said Famicity co-founder Guillaume Languereau. “Famicity members can already create their family tree on their own. This partnership makes it even easier for FamilySearch members to sign up with their account and automatically upload their family tree into Famicity to start an online family reunion in private.”
 Presently, the program is free.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

#RootsTech 2018 Now Open for Registration

 #RootsTech 2018 is now open for registration. This year's theme is Connect. Belong. The conference will be held February 28 through March 3, 2018 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. Quoting from the website:
RootsTech is excited to add a theme to the annual conference: Connect. Belong. We love this concept as it encompasses what family history adds to our lives. We understand that the journey of connecting and belonging is different for everyone, and while each of our experiences and journeys is unique, family history connects us in many different ways and helps us feel a sense of belonging. 
It’s our goal at RootsTech to advance your personal journey. Come see what’s new at the conference this year, make connections, and discover where you belong.
 Of course, I will be an Ambassador again this year.