Monday, October 01, 2007

Why did he do this?

In a previous post, I briefly mentioned the disappearance of my 4th Great Grandfather, James Joslin, sometime between 1850 and 1860. That is a mystery that will likely go unsolved; it is not known whether he died or took off for parts unknown. However, there is yet another enigma concerning James. . .

In July 1841 he sold 40 acres of the original 80 acres he had purchased from the government on August 25, 1838 in Whitley County, Indiana. In itself, that is in no way unusual. However, he sold it for $50 to his 16 year old son Lysander! Then, three years later, on August 1, 1844 James sold the remaining 40 acres - 20 acres to each of his other two sons, Edward and Joseph. Edward, whose name was actually Edwin, was only 14 years old at the time and Joseph was 12. That seems more than a little unusual to me. Was there no minimum age requirement for purchasing land? It just makes you wonder what was really going on. There must have been a reason that James sold the land to his young sons, but again, that's something we'll probably never find out. The land record does not provide any clues, it simply gives the basic facts involved with the sale.

In the 1850 census, Lysander is the head of his own household since he is married and living with his wife and the first four of their 15 children. James too is listed as head of his own household. He does not own any real estate. Listed in James' household are Edwin, age 20 who owns real estate valued at $200 and Joseph who owns real estate valued at $160. I haven't found the records of the transactions yet, but by 1860, Lysander was sole owner of the original 80 acre tract that was purchased by James in 1838.


Terry Thornton said...

Becky, Take a look at when the deeds were recorded. Compare the dates carefully. I ran into a case in my family where two deeds were given on the same date: one buying the property (father selling to son) and the other (son selling the property to someone else). The second sale deed was for less money than the first one!! And neither deed was recorded for a period of almost three years. So check on those dates of signing and of recording.
Terry Thornton
Hill County of Monroe County, Mississippi

Becky Wiseman said...

Terry - the dates I gave were the dates when the deeds were signed, thus the ages given for the boys are the ages they were when the deeds were signed.

The sale to Lysander was dated July 2, 1841, filed on June 13, 1842, and recorded on June 16, 1842.

The sales to Joseph and Edwin were both signed August 1, 1844, filed August 14, 1849 and recorded on August 15, 1849.

Lysander born May 1, 1825; Edwin was born about 1830; and Joseph was born September 11, 1832.

The original land purchase by James Joslin on August 25, 1838 was not recorded until October 14, 1885!

Terry Thornton said...

Becky, One other thing to look for in situations like this --- is the signature a mark or the person's actual signature. If a mark, look carefully at the official who signed and at the two witnesses. Sometimes strange things happened in the real estate world of yesteryear to help heirs avoid probate and problems of one's dying intestate. Just some ideas.
Terry Thornton
Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi

footnoteMaven said...


I have found your mystery to be very intriguing.

Perhaps James contracted an illness that he knew would eventually kill him and he set about to secure his sons' futures by giving them their inheritance through sale prior to his death rather than probate after his passing.

The oldest first and when James lived three more years to the two younger sons. Six years later James has disappeared.

There can be so many reasons. It's fun to play "what if", but the reasons were probably very innocuous.


Becky Wiseman said...

Terry - the signatures on the copies of the land records that I have are in the same writing as the clerk that recorded the transaction. This makes sense since the transaction is being recorded after the fact.

fM - Perhaps I should also have mentioned that there is no death record for James. Indiana didn't start keeping those records until the 1880's and then only sporadically until about 1907 when it was mandated by the state. There is no obituary for him in the available newspapers for that time period. There is no cemetery record for James. Several of his granddaughters (children of his son Lysander) died in Whitley county between 1850 and 1860 and are buried in the Adams Cemetery, not far from where they lived. There is no estate record for James, no will record, no probate record, no guardianship records for what would have been his minor children had he died during that time period. The last record I have for James in Whitley County (or anywhere for that matter) is the 1850 census.

My first thought when I found this years ago was that he'd done something stupid and this was perhaps his way of protecting his land. If he didn't own it then it couldn't be taken away for bad debt or whatever.

With that in mind, there is another set of records that I have not checked yet and that is the civil court records, i.e., any actions that might have been taken against him or that he might have taken against someone else in a court of law. So that will be my next step.

Thanks to you both for your suggestions and ideas.