Example Information in Circuit Court Records

Circuit Court Records contain a wealth of information including:

  1. summons issued to compel appearance before the court (and stating where that person resides if outside Bedford County)
  2. lists of minor orphans of deceased persons (in cases regarding guardianship bonds);
  3. lists of all devisees of estates (in disputes over the performance of executors and administrators) (e.g., ",,,The governor of the state of Tennessee for the time being sues for the use of Elizabeth Stewart, James M. Johnson, David Johnson, Powell Kimbro and Rebecca his wife, Robert Patton and Elizabeth his wife and Willis, William, Susanna, John B., and Elvira Johnson minor heirs of James Johnson deceased who sue by their guardian James M. Johnson Jordan C. Holt and John Barrett had been appointed administrators of all and singular the goods, chattels, rights, and credits of Daniel Johnson deceased...");
  4. dates of death, names of executors, and other information regarding estates;
  5. owners of businesses (e.g., "... Thomas Wilson and John Dougherty trading under the firm and style Wilson and Dougherty...");
  6. more complete names of individuals who often used initials only (e.g., "...Jesse M. Yowell by the name J. M. Yowell...");
  7. venires of jurors (that list the civil district in which each juror resided);
  8. admission of attorneys to the practice of law;
  9. exparte petitions for the division of property among joint owners (often the devisees of estates) (e.g.. "...it is therefore decreed by the court that all right, title, and interest of all the heirs of Moses A. Morgan be divested out of them and be vested in the widow, Elizabeth Morgan...");
  10. records of criminal cases (e.g., Curtis Snell who was indicted by the grand jury for assault and battery pleaded guilty and was fined $5; Bartley Sotherland was charged with "selling spiritous liquors by the swallow", pleaded guilty, and was fined $10);
  11. divorce decrees, typically including details such as the date of marriage (e.g. "...it appearing to the satisfaction of the court that the defendant and plaintiff intermarried in Bedford County, Tennessee about six years before the filing of said bill...", the time of separation (e.g., "...that they lived together in said county until about one year before the filing of said bill..."), the number and ages of children (e.g., "...that the complainant is the mother of several small children of tender years..."), decisions on the custody of children, and the division of property between the parties;
  12. case records of disputes over payments of promissory notes, failure to comply with the terms of contracts; 
  13. implied marriages and maiden names (e.g., "Elizabeth M. Cunningham, formerly Elizabeth M. Williams" and "...it appearing to the satisfaction of the Court that since the last term of this Court that Emily Earnhart, one of the petitioners, has intermarried with Thomas Baxter...");
  14. reports of the deaths of parties to suits (e.g., "...the death of the plaintiff [John A. Gant] was suggested in the August term of the Court in the year 1853...");
  15. the names and positions of various officials (e.g., "Honorable Hugh L. Davidson, Judge, Fifth Judicial Circuit", "James M. Johnson, high Sheriff of Bedford County", and "James L. Turner, a constable for the 9th District");
  16. records of grand jury indictments, bonds, judgments, petitions, warrants, affidavits etc.; and 
  17. considerable detail concerning the property owned by individuals, including the names of slaves (e.g. "...certain negro slaves to wit: Edmund, Frank, Stephen, John, and Henry belonging to said plaintiff [Sallie Elkins]...")

You can view an example page image of Circuit Court court records here. GSC Associates publishes the early Circuit Court Records of Bedford County, Tennessee on CD-ROM.

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