This is Part One of a Three-Part Post.
Click here for Post Two.
Click here for Post Three.
Justices of the Peace
In Massachusetts the Justice of the Peace was the official to whom minor complaints were made. He was entitled to take depositions, impose fines, order property seizures, perform marriages, and try small cases (no jury). Since this lowest court was usually held in the justice’s home, the resultant records are scattered about in repositories and private collections, and are extremely difficult to locate. These complaints would initiate a subsequent court case, so a search in the county courthouse may prove fruitful.
I'm lucky enough to have a good friend who has been collecting ephemera since his boyhood. He's got a house full of precious records of every imaginable ilk. He is a historian, has an encyclopedic mind and a collection that is the envy of every repository in the state! When it came time for me to prepare the "applicant-supplied document" in my certification portfolio, he came up with two delicious documents for me to analyze. I will blog about them separately so as not to make my posts too long, but they are interrelated. I love them for the genealogical questions they bring up and because you can almost feel the emotions they generate.
They concern two distinct complaints of paternity sworn by two women against the same man on the same day! And the man has the self-fulfilling name of Silvanus Savage. Being a respectable woman and all, I can't tell you the translation from Latin form into Anglo-Saxon, but it makes me laugh.
A Complaint of Paternity: Debby Smith vs. Silvanus Savage1
"Τo Michael Gill Esq. one of the Justices of the Peace
within and for the County of Worcester––
County Singlewoman That on this twenty seventh day
of May AD 1802 she was delivered of a Female Bastard
Child and that Silvanus Savage of the same Princeton Blacksmith
is the father of said child She therefore desires a prosecution
against the said Silvanus Savage and that he may be held
to answer this accusation as the Law in such cases
Princeton May 27th 1802 – [original signature] Debby Smith
Worcester ss. May 27. 1802. Debbyah Smith above named
made oath to the truth of the above Accusation by
her signed –– before me [original signature] Michael Gill
The Examination of Debby
County of Worcester Single woman who saith upon
oath that on this twenty seventh day of May AD 1802
she was delivered of a female Bastard Child and that
Silvanus Savage of said Princeton Blacksmith . is the father of said
child, he having begotten the same on the Ninth day
of October Last at Princeton aforesaid.
[original signature] Debby Smith
Worcester ss. Taken and Sworn to before me the Subscriber one
of the Justices of the Peace for the said County of
Worcester this twentyseventh day of May AD 1802
[original signature] Michael Gill”
Transcribed verbatim, 12 October 2006, by Polly Kimmitt.
1. Princeton, Worcester, Massachusetts, complaint of paternity, Debby Smith vs. Silvanus Savage, executed and acknowledged 27 May 1802, Michael Gill, Justice of the Peace. From the manuscript collection of Harry Richardson (private address withheld), Shrewsbury, Massachusetts; unlabelled 9” x 15” blue vinyl 3-ring binder, first page (unnumbered). Provenance prior to Richardson Manuscript Collection is unknown.
To be continued!