20 February 2015

52 Ancestors: Tracing Margaret Still through her deeds

Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small, challenges fellow geneabloggers each week with her 52 Ancestors Challenge. This week’s prompt is: Does this mean a generous ancestor or one you found through land records? You decide. Land records indicate that my 4x great grandmother Margaret Still just showed up one day. Instead of answering questions, her land records simply create more questions. With her though, I am not surprised. Since today’s topic is simply land records, a little background on Margaret is necessary. Margaret was no saint and she is certainly not the ideal mother figure. 

Margaret Still, according to my Aunt Helen (Margaret’s great granddaughter), “got herself knocked up and her father put her up on a farm in Goosetown away from the family.” She was right, my Aunt Helen. 

Margaret Still was born in 1788 to Charles Still and Margaret Rhoades, his wife. She had several brothers and the family lived in nearby Uwchlan Township in Chester County, PA. Her father was well off. In 1807 Margaret Still got pregnant. She was not married. She was not engaged. There is no proof that she was even involved with anyone specific. My 3x great grandfather, George David Still, was born the next Spring on 3 May 1808. 

Fifteen years later, she had a second son – David Still. He was born in 1823. 

On 25 December 1828, Margaret was the highest bidder at a sheriff’s sale for a property in East Fallowfield Township, Chester County. The sale was finalized on 2 February 1829 and the deed was recorded by Sheriff Oliver Alison on 12 February 1829 at the Chester County Courthouse in West Chester. The land had previously been owned by the late Thomas Kennedy. The deed looks to be for two adjoining tracts of land. 

The first curiosity is that there was a sheriff sale on 25 December. The other question I had when I first found this deed was how she could afford this. Her bid was $554. 

Just a side note here: I found a court record involving Margaret Still which may explain at least how she could afford property in 1828 being a single woman with two minor children at home.

The Grand Inquest for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, inquiring for the County of Chester, upon their oaths and affirmations, do present that David Phipps, late of said County, yeoman on the twenty eighth day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty seven at the County aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of this Court, with a certain Margaret Still did commit fornication and on the body of the said Margaret Still did then and there beget a male bastard child, contrary to the form of the act of General Assembly in such case made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

The court record shows she won the case and that David Phipps was ordered a fine as well as weekly child support payments. The amount she won however did not cover the cost of the purchase. Hence she must have had an income or money left from when her father displaced her. 

She eventually sold the land to her two sons. I found two deeds, both dated 23 January 1851, involving Margaret. The first she deeds land to George D Still, my 3x great grandfather. She sold it to him for $552.50. The land adjoins that of David Still and contains 17 acres. The deed also mentions that this land is a “part of that same tract which Oliver Alison High Sheriff of the County of Chester … second day of February 1829 did grant and convey to the above named Margaret Still …” 

That same day she deeded land to David Still as well.  It is also land from the aforementioned 1829 sheriff sale. 

The deed I am still looking for is the rumored tract of land that Charles Still bought for his daughter in 1807 or 1808 in Goosetown, East Fallowfield Township, Chester County. 

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is a weekly genealogical challenge issued by Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small. Click HERE to read my past 52 Ancestors posts.
© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.