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Courting

by Gary D. Crawford Sorry, but I just don’t know what else to call this… this... well, hobby of mine. I must confess that, sometimes, I find myself rummaging around in the court records of colonial Maryland. Just to see what might catch my eye, you understand. Not every day, of course. This isn’t something I’m proud of. The first volume of the Archives of Maryland came out in 1883, and now they’re up to Volume 864 and counting. The Archives contain an array of records, proceedings, journals, correspondence, and (my favorites) the court records. The complete list is online, and some of the early volumes can be read there. I, naturally, have an actual book. (That’s a thingy with a bunch of papers printed on both sides, bound together along the left edge; some of us are still fond of them.) The volume I have on my desk is Number 54; it was lent to me by a friend, who got it from his sister-in-law. It was published in 1937 and is entitled Proceedings of the County Courts of Kent County (1648-1676), Talbot County (1662-1674), Somerset County (1665-1668). Here’s the big news. This isn’t likely to be the next best-seller. Much of it is tedious and repeti-

tious. Often it is difficult to decipher because legal-ese was rampant then, too, and the English language itself has changed a bit in the last three centuries. Some words are unfamiliar or are used differently, and abbreviations were common. Most of the cases involve one party suing another party for payment of a debt. For example, here is an action brought in Talbot County Court on August 18, 1668, by one Hugh Sherwood. Hugh Sherwood Plant Jame Shacklady Defft The Plant declares for One Thousand three hundred pounds of tobacoe due by Accompt, and makes Oath to his Accompt. The Courrt hath Ordred that James Shacklady make present paymt of One Thousand three hundred pounds of Tobacoe Unto Hugh Sherwood with Cost of Sute &c. [sic] Perhaps a more modern rendering would be helpful: The plaintiff (Sherwood) claims that the defendant (Shacklady) owes him 1,300 pounds of tobacco according to the record he has in hand and which he swears under oath to be true. Apparently Shacklady offered no defense, so the Court ordered him

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June 2014 ttimes web magazine  

Tidewater Times June 2014

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