Thursday, April 8, 2010

IN/IL Research Trip...Day Two

The previous post was about a very long, but exciting day out to an Indiana courthouse and a few fun sites in IL last week. The second day of my research trip was devoted entirely to exploring the Parke County, Indiana courthouse located in Rockville, IN.

Parke County is located in the Western-Central part of the state and I'm going to go ahead and tell you that I will be making many more trips in the near future and will be posting pictures. I really loved it there. The northern part of the state isn't exactly known for gently rolling hills and winding streams and flashes of green moss, that's more like a description of the Southern, especially South-Eastern, part of the state. But sure enough, that's exactly what we saw upon first entering the county. It was a lovely rural area made all the more quaint by the Parke County sign with the picture of an Amish buggy and the excitement of being the first members of our branch of the Gilkison family to visit the county in roughly 100 years. My Great Great Grandfather, Ira E. Gilkison, was born in this county in 1870 but by 1910 he had moved to IL. His father, Simpson Gilkison, was born in KY in 1830 and moved to Parke County with his family when he was a young child. When exactly the family came to IN from KY was one of my research goals for the day but I wasn't able to accomplish that. Looking at land records in the recorder's office for the 1830s did not show me what I wanted. What I was looking for was the earliest land transaction for Simpson's father, John Gilkeson. What I found instead were a few later transactions made just before his death in 1854, including a pair of sales that confirmed the given name of his wife and also confirmed that she sold her husband's land just after his death. So it wasn't a total waste. But considering that the family appears in the 1840 Parke County census enumeration, I was expecting to find a land transaction showing the John obtained land before that time.

Looking back on it now, I may have made a fatal error. The 1840 census does not include information relating to property ownership so I relied upon the 1850 census which showed that John had $500 worth of real estate. Because of this, I assumed that he would have owned land however, this may not have been the case. It's very possible that, as a farmer, he could have just lived off of rented land, been a day laborer, etc. without actually owning land. Or maybe he just didn't have the means to obtain land for himself until the 1850s, just before his death. My error was that I made an assumption that he owned land because the 1850 census said he had real estate when what I was actually looking for was proof that he was there as early as the 1830s. Normally, I would turn to tax records in a situation such as this (where the subject may not have owned land making personal property taxes and other community taxes a vital resource for placing someone at a certain place at a certain time) but the earliest tax records for the state of IN are 1842, which postdates my time frame; I already know they were here by 1840. So now I need to figure out other options, right now though, it's a loose end. Ugh!

In another area of research, I was more successful. Besides the Recorder's Office, the Parke County courthouse also houses the Clerk's Office which is where I found marriage records going back almost as far as the formation of the county in the 1820s. Here I found several family marraige records, mainly just the standard return in both handwritten sentence structure and the pre-printed standardized form. It was a pretty exciting run though to go through the ledgers and find so many hits. We were able to find all of the marriage records we were hoping for which was great.

We also made a quick stop at the Department of Health, located in the basement, for a couple death records (they did not have one but they had another which had a bunch of helpful info), and headed back up to the Clerk's Office for a look at estate records. The estate record search was surprising in that we did not find record of the estate we were looking for, Simpson's estate, but instead found the estate proceedings of his father, John, which were not supposed to be included in the ledgers according to the dates printed on the spines. So there's yet another lesson from the week: Don't believe what the ledgers seem to tell you. If the ledger says it covers 1882-1900 and you're looking for an 1854 estate, don't bypass it. It may surprise you what you'll find inside because that's exactly what happened to me last week.

So this was a rushed visit to the courthouse and I know I tried to take in more than was probably advisable, but I wanted to get in as much as I could. Next time, I'll focus a little more on trying to find out how to pinpoint the Gilkisons arrival in Parke County better, or on just one or two objectives rather than sticking my head into every office in the building. But overall, it was worth the trip and I can't wait to go back.

I had one more day for a little research and I'll cover that in the next post.

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