Given Name(s) Last Name

Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill 12/8/1999

Case Study: Killing the Hogs and Threatening the Neighbors - Court Records Solve a Kentucky Problem

I was desperate to determine the father of an Enoch Tinsley who resided in Fleming County, Kentucky in the 1830s. Research in census, marriage, and tax records indicated the presence of a James Tinsley in the same location at about the same time as Enoch. Old enough to be Enoch's father, there was no other connection between the men besides proximity and the same surname. James could easily have been Enoch's uncle, an older relative, or just a man with the same last name living nearby. I needed a more substantial connection between the men besides residences.

Vital records were not helpful in this case; the time period is too early, at least in the area where these people lived. Probate records for James or his wife could not be located. It had been hoped that this information would provide information on James' children or his heirs. Land records had not resulted in any finds either. I thought I was at an impasse.

Court records seemed to be my next option, although I was not holding out much hope. But I went ahead and obtained the records. For $80 I had a researcher copy EVERY court case regarding James Tinsley in Fleming County, Kentucky. It was not cheap, but I was desperate.

The huge package of papers came in December of 1987, while I was away at college. It was the first thing I opened when I came home for Christmas break.

And it was well worth the wait.

Most of the cases were fairly mundane and centered on financial matters mentioning only the parties involved. One case piqued my interest. It appeared that two of James TINSLEY's neighbors butchered two of his hogs in January of 1827 without purchasing them or asking. James was not too happy. As I read through the records of the case both James and Enoch were mentioned. While hinted at the relationship between the two men is never explicitly stated.

Fleming County Circuit Court Case 4209, Commonwealth against William and Elijah ROYSE, Sept 1827
[portions omitted]

"Margaret REEVES stated that they [ROYCEs] brought two hogs to her house on the fourth day of Jan 1827 and cleaned them and divided them between her and sd ROYCES and she did not know who they belonged to

"Landin BERHAM stated that he found [a bed ?] where 8 head of hogs lay that is five pigs and three old hogs that he thought was James TINSLYs and sent him word and Enoch TINSLY went to sd BENHAM and they went to the bed and there was but one sow and four pigs and in looking around they saw appearance of where there might have been A hog killed there being snow on the ground and where something had been dragged along A little way further [--] another trail of something draged[sic] A long and sow blood and followed the trails till they came together and went down the hill

"Enoch TINSLEY stated that he was with sd. BERHAM and saw as above stated and followed the trail to Margaret REEVES house and saw where hogs had been cleaned and asked for the mark she told him that Wm ROYSE took the heads away but before that he asked her who had draged hogs down the hill she said Wm ROYS & Elijah ROYS & Hiram REEVES had and [sic] cleaned them the next day Enoch TINSLY and his father went back and asked her where the hogs was . . .

"Wm ROYSE said one was marked and not in his mark the other not marked and no hog in the company in his mark and Elijah ROYS said he shot both of the hogs at the bed or near it and got part of the meat and knew them not to be his . . .

Fleming county to wit be it remembered that James TINSLY Enoch TINSLY Landin HERHAM Margaret REEVES & Hiram REEVES this day personally appeared before us [and] Acknowledged [their statements] before us this 10th day of Jan. 1827

Bertis RINGO
[signed by the following]
Landon BONHAM (LS)
Margaret her (X) mark REEVES (LS)
Hiram REEVES (LS)"

The signatures of James and Enoch are extremely similar. While interesting, it does not prove anything by itself. Enoch's statement provides strong evidence for the parent-child relationship.

Another court case was to provide stronger and direct evidence of the parent-child relationship.

Fleming County Circuit Court Case 5229, Benjamin REEVES vs.Milly, Mary, James H., Antimercy, Levi E., Elizabeth, Sarah, Melinda, and Cynthia PENLAND and James TINSLEY, June 1834.

Briefly, this was a property dispute that centered on Benjamin REEVES, James TINSLEY, and William PENLAND (Milly PENLAND's deceased husband). Relevant to the parentage problem was a deposition Enoch TINSLEY gave at "the house of Lewis HORD in Flemingsburgh on Saturday the 2nd day of June 1832 . . . That he [Enoch TINSLEY] became a renter under Wm PENLAND & that he paid to & discharged to father James TINSLEY for and on account of said Wm PENLAND, the three hundred bushels of corn which said Wm PENLAND had agreed to pay said James TINSLEY in part for the tract of land he purchased of said TINSLEY & described in the contract referred to in this cause - -

There it was.

Amid the stolen hogs and property dispute with the neighbors was information on James' son Enoch. Unfortunately, none of James' other children are mentioned in these records. Fortunately Enoch was.

Researchers wishing to learn more about court records would be well served by reading Chapter 7 of Ancestry's "The Source: A Guidebook," edited by Loretto Szucs and Sandra Luebking (today's product special - - see below). My print copy is falling apart, not from faulty binding but from overuse. Those who wish to know more about the records for specific counties and states should refer to "Ancestry's Red Book" by Alice Eichholz. Those wishing to access court records via microfilm may wish to search the Family History Library Card Catalog online at (go into "custom search."). Many court records have been microfilmed.

They won't solve all your problems, but court records can shed light on situations where other records do not. While divorces and estate disputes are excellent genealogical sources, other types of actions should not be overlooked, especially when other sources have already been exhausted. Court records should always be included in any family history research design.

Might seem like James' neighbors were always giving him a hard time. James was no innocent himself. An earlier court case indicates James had threatened to kill one of his neighbors.

Ah . . . life on the frontier. Maybe one of your ancestors had to "take it to the judge."

Good Luck!


Copyright 1999, Michael John Neill. Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including "Ancestry" and "Genealogical Computing." You can email him at: or visit his website at:

Used by the Author on his website with permission.

Other Genealogy Articles by Michael John Neill

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