Or "Rednecks, County Clerks and Archivists"
by Uncle Hiram
I was sitting in a genealogical chat room the other day swapping surnames and discussing various aspects of our mutual hobby. As always I was hoping to pick up a new research tip or an ideal for a column, when the host (Host GFS Bears) said something that just reached out and slapped the bojangles out of me.
Now I will admit, I ain't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I don't normally overlook the obvious. In the past I have written columns praising volunteers, genealogy societies and various other people that have contributed to the world of genealogy, but like a lot of other folks, I have overlooked a group of people that can make or break your research.
I am, of course, talking about the county clerks that control those precious records we all crave. Now before y'all start burying me in emails full of horror stories about bad experiences you have had, I want you to stop and think for a moment. (If you are a Michigan Jaymaker or a certain Canadian truck driver please mark your spot so that you can find it next week. Grin). I am willing to bet that all of us who have been doing the courthouse two-step for a few years have a horror story to share. What folks (including me) tend to overlook is the wonderful courthouse trips we have had.
Most of the times when we visit a courthouse the clerks go out of their way to help us. Let me relate to you one of my personal "good" experiences. I was down in Henderson County, Texas going through the old wedding licenses trying to chase down the descendants of one of my "lost" Hocutts. The clerk, whose name I never caught, had repeatedly brought me books or made suggestions on areas to look through. As I was getting ready to copy (Thank You Mr. Xerox) some of these old marriage licenses, this clerk asked me if I was aware that in Texas if the old license was "unclaimed" a blood relative could claim it.
This was the first time I had heard of that. I excitably asked her if there were any old Hocutt licenses unclaimed in their files. As a result of this clerk taking a few extra moments to help me, I have in my safe three Hocutt marriage licenses from the turn of the century (1900). I have since added about a dozen other licenses, all as a result of this lady's help. This clerk could have just minded her own business and just pointed me in the direction of the files but like most of the clerks, she went out of her way to help me.
The point I am trying to make in my own oddball style is that all of us doing genealogy need to occasionally stop and thank the county clerk or archivist that guards the records we want. Without them and their cooperation it would be almost impossible for us to succeed with our research.
- Adios and Keep Smiling!
- Bill Hocutt (Uncle Hiram)