Monday, December 31, 2018

Lancaster Family in Rockwall County, Texas: The importance of not just collecting deeds but actually transcribing them

This week, now that I have more time to spend on my own family research, I decided to work on some back-logged records I had collected from microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City back in 2015. I had nearly 200 deed images from Rockwall County, Texas, which used to be part of Kaufman County. Actually it was more like 75 deed records, as most had two or three images per deed record.

I didn’t fully transcribe each record, but created abstracts of the important information, especially the description of the land being sold, but also kept track of the buyer and seller’s residence, how much they paid for the land, and whether they paid cash or on credit.

I entered each deed into the RootsMagic database on my computer, and tagged anyone who was also in the database. Sometimes family sells land to other family members. Now that I’m writing this, I wished I had kept a log of all of the deeds I collected. The images have been renamed and moved to the appropriate folder, so I really don’t remember how many images I started with. Next time I will create a spreadsheet to keep track of the grantor, grantee, date of deed, description of land, volume and page numbers, citation, and which folder it went to. This way, the data as a whole can also be analyzed and sorted.

The best part of this exercise of abstracting and entering the data, was discovering information about my three times great-grandfather, George W. Lancaster*, that I did not know before. I knew he lived in Rockwall County and I knew he lived a short time in Maricopa County in Arizona Territory. I assumed he moved to Arizona Territory from Rockwall County. Reading the deeds carefully told me he made other moves in-between.

On 26 August 1870, George W. Lancaster sold two town lots in the town of Rockwall to his future father-in-law, N.[Nathan] H.O. Polly.[1] Was this a coincidence, or did George already know Nathan’s daughter, Martha? They married 25 October 1871 by the Justice of the Peace in Kaufman County, and not by Martha’s father, who was a Minister of the Gospel.[2] Why didn’t Martha’s father marry them? Had the families not approve of the marriage? Was George not religious and thus did not want a church wedding?

1871 Kaufman Co TX marriage between
George W Lancaster & Martha J Polly

However, on 9 September 1873, George and his father-in-law, purchased land from Susan McCurry. This 258.5 acres of land was located on the waters of Bois D’arc fork of the Trinity River.[3] Five years later, on 13 April 1878, the two men divided the property and prepared a deed for that.[4]  George took the east side of the property, while Nathan took the west side.

Then on 3 July 1884, George and his wife, Mattie of Dallas County, sold that east side property to H.D. Lanham.[5] Here is a hint as to when they moved from Rockwall County—sometime between 1880 when they appeared in the federal census and this deed transaction.[6]

However, he still owned land in Rockwall County. George W. Lancaster of Johnson County sold 27 2/3 acres of land to James C. Way on 22 March 1886.[7] George and Martha had moved yet again and were now living in Johnson County. Rockwall County is located northeast of Dallas County, and Johnson County is located southwest of  Dallas County.

George purchased the land in Johnson County from E.R. and M.A. Kelly on 18 August 1884, while still living in Dallas County, probably using the funds from the sale of land in Rockwall County in July.[8] He was listed on the 1886 tax list in Johnson County, owning two parcels of land totaling a little more than 170 acres. This was the only tax list he was on.[9]  He and Mattie J., his wife, of Johnson County, sold this land to RH Stoval on 11 May 1886. However, the examination of Mattie J. was done by the clerk of the District Court in Maricopa County, Territory of Arizona on 22 May 1886.[10] Mattie, at least, had already moved to Arizona.

Examination of Mattie J Lancaster in Maricopa Co, Territory of Arizona
In the Territory of Arizona, George W. Lancaster purchased 40 acres of land at $2.50 per acre in the NE quarter of NW quarter of Sect 14 in Township One North of Range 3 East. However there is no patent image available on the BLM website for any of the purchases in that section.[11] According to the BLM tract book, he made the purchase on 19 February 1887, but there is no notice of the patent.[12] The BLM site gave an issue date of 15 July 1890.

Tract Book entry for Geo. W. Lancaster across two pages. Can see that there is no patent number.

So, were they living in Arizona from 1886 on rented land and then George purchased the property from the U.S. government in 1887? Though the tract book makes it seem like he was not issued a patent, George and Mattie sold the property to Mary E. Coulson on 8 January 1889 for a nice profit of $1900.[13]

Sometime after this, George left Mattie and the children and returned to Texas. The records of the divorce complaint by Mattie J. Lancaster, stated George was living in Stephenville, Erath County, Texas, and since August 1889, he had not supported her and the children. She wished the marriage to be dissolved and she have custody of five children: Lonnie, Maggie, Eldon, Reginal, and Jesse. The eldest son, Carlton, was of age at nineteen, was not living with her.  She received the decree on 23 December 1893.[14]

The records of the deeds improves the timeline for the life of George W. Lancaster. Next on the agenda is to check the deed records for Erath County. Mattie claimed in her testimony that he had land in Erath County.

* George W. Lancaster was the paternal grandfather of my grandmother, Pansy Louise Lancaster, aka Mam-ma.
[1] Rockwall County, Texas, Deeds, v. 2, p. 617, GW Lancaster to NHO Polly, Family History Library (FHL) film 1289128.
[2] Kaufman Co, Texas, Marriages, 2: 51, Geo W. Lancaster-Martha J. Polly, 1871; FHL 1302500.
[3] Rockwall County, Texas, Deeds, v. C, p. 511, Susan McCurry to NHO Polly & GW Lancaster, FHL 1289129.
[4] Rockwall County, Texas, Deeds, v. D, p. 444, NHO Polly to Geo W Lancaster, FHL 1289129.
[5] Rockwall County, Texas, Deeds, v. G, p. 191, GW & MJ Lancaster to HD Lanham, FHL 1289132.
[6] For the population schedule, see 1880 U.S. census, Rockwall Co, Texas, pop. sched., Rockwall Village, ED 30, George W. Lancaster, digital image, Ancestry ( accessed 13 Jul 1995), NARA T9. For the agricultural census, see 1880 U.S. census, Rockwall Co, Texas, agricultural census, E 30, p. 1, line 2, Geo W. Lancaster, digital image, Ancestry (, NARA T9, roll 38.
[7] Rockwall County, Texas, Deeds, v. H, p. 165, Geo W. Lancaster to James C. Way, FHL 1289132.
[8] Johnson County, Texas, Deeds, v. 31, p. 70, ER Kelley to GW Lancaster, digital image, FamilySearch ( 29 Dec 2018), citing FHL 1435027.
[9] "Texas County Tax Rolls, 1846-1910," Johnson Co, 1886, p. 84, no. 25 & 26, G.W. Lancaster, FamilySearch ( : 29 Dec 2018). He did not appear in the 1885 or 1887 list.
[10] Johnson County, Texas, Deeds, v. 34, p. 80, GW & MJ Lancaster to JJ Stovall, FamilySearch ( 29 Dec 2018), citing FHL 1435028.
[11] Bureau of Land Management, US Dept. of the Interior, Patent Search, Maricopa Co, Arizona, George W. Lancaster, doc. no. 400, BLM ser. no. AZAZAA 014321,
[12] “United States Bureau of Land Management Tract Books, 1800-c. 1955,” Arizona, vol. 3, p. 5, Section 14, George W. Lancaster, digital image, FamilySearch ( 7 Feb 2015).
[13] Territory of Arizona, Maricopa County, Land Deeds, Bk 21, p 32, 1889, Lancaster-Coulson; FHL film 2196859.
[14] Pima County, Arizona, RG 110, Superior Court Records, SG 8 case 2250, Lancaster v. Lancaster, decree, 23 December 1893; Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, Phoenix.

Copyright © 2018 by Lisa Suzanne Gorrell, Mam-ma's Southern Family

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