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When "Late" Doesn't Mean Dead

When "Late" Doesn't Mean Dead

I introduced you to Ignatius Grantham in Playing Hide and Seek with Records from Burned Counties. Ignatius was a very interesting man so I did a followup post, Ignatius Grantham and the Land Entry Files. I want to go back to Ignatius and Catherine's 1825 divorce one last time because there is a term that was used in one of the documents that might confuse a researcher. 

“To the Sheriff of Hancock — County Greeting 
We Command you, that of the goods and chattels Lands
and Tenements of Wm C. Seaman for Catherine Grantham —
late of your county…” 
[emphasis mine]

late of your county sounds like Catherine is dead, especially since someone else, William Seaman, is acting on her behalf. In this case “late of your county” simply means that she used to live in Hancock County, Mississippi but no longer resides there.

Appellate court document
(click image to enlarge)

Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals, Drawer no. 65, Case no. 15, Catherine Grantham vs. Ignatius Grantham, 21 February 1825; Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson. 

When analyzing your own records be sure to check for words that might have multiple or historical meanings and then make sure you choose the correct contextual meaning. It could mean all the difference in how you interpret a document!

What kind of double meaning words have you come across in your research?


Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.



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I was surprised that people were not aware of that the word "late" in this context meant.

There are researchers and family historians of every level of experience out there from the absolute beginner to the most advanced :) If you weren't familiar with the wording used in court documents you might not understand "late" on this document, especially since William Seaman was acting on her behalf. It would be easy to interpret this as Catherine had died and William was handling her estate. It would not be far fetched for someone to have died in the middle of a divorce especially one that was drawn out like this one. Court documents are the worst for this sort of thing because they are filled with all kinds of weird legal terms that might not mean what you think they do. Boilerplate language drives me nuts :)

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