Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Tuesday turned out to be a great day for rambling around. I wasn't so sure when it started, but I needed to get out of the house for the day, so I made a plan to keep me busy and occupied. I had some loose genealogical ends to tie up and I decided that would be the goal. Monday's jaunt to San Marcos was part of the plan and today I decided I would target LaGrange and Giddings.

The non-genealogist might not understand, but I like county clerk offices in small town courthouses. The atmosphere is quite different from the atmosphere in the law office where I work. There are generally 3-6 women clustered in a bull-pen, chatting back and forth about anything and everything, including husbands, shopping, the latest town scandal, doctor visits, recipes, and on and on. They are so used to the background of folks drifting in and out checking records that they tend to forget they are being overheard. It can get quite entertaining, especially if you are the only one in the records vault and they've forgotten you are back there.

But I digress. I started out in LaGrange to check on deed transactions that might be on file for the rascally Dr. Henry Hodge. Sure enough, I dug out a few and learned something along the way. I knew the Hodge family lived briefly in Cistern but what I did not know was that Cistern was originally called Milton. The family was briefly in possession of a good-sized chunk of Cistern, not that that's saying much if you've ever visited Cistern. However, I wouldn't mind owning some property in that area. It's very pretty down there.

As I left, I decided to inquire whether they had possession of the Physician's Register for Fayette County. Around the turn of the century the State of Texas required all medical doctors to register with the County Clerk if practicing in the county. The clerk was sure there wasn't such a thing, but decided to check their list of records and, guess what, the dumb visitor knew what she was talking about. The register was shown residing in the store room.

They had already figured out I was a genealogist (who else spends 2 hours happily digging around in the early deed books?) and knew that once the existence of the record was established, I wasn't going to leave without seeing it. She headed for the store room.

To make a long story short, the book wasn't there and they finally puzzled out that it would have been moved to the District Clerk's possession and I headed across the street with 20 minutes to go before they closed for lunch. The clerk there was equally overjoyed to have a stubborn genealogist arrive at her desk. She wasn't about to tackle the issue before lunch, but took my name and phone number and promised to check and call me. I figured that would be the last I would hear of that.

A brief little sojourn at a Hallmark shop in LaGrange, a visit to the LaGrange Public Library and a stop at Weikel's Bakery to pick up kolaches for Mother and I was ready to head for Giddings.

It was much quieter at the clerk's office in Giddings. The two clerks and I were the only ones there for the first half hour. One of the clerks was in earnest pursuit, by phone, of a particular cosmetic. I decided to tackle the Physician's Register first thing this time. There was a brief consultation between phone calls and they declared there was no such record. I decided it was not worth arguing about and concentrated on chasing deed records.

I learn something every time I dig in court records. One thing I've learned over and over, seeing the real thing is much better than scanning the microfilms of the records in Salt Lake. I had found a deed reference on microfilm years ago that I had accepted as belonging to Dr. Hodge, but when I re-read the deed in person something didn't ring true. I could find where he acquired the property, but there was no record of when he sold it. I could not find a transfer out anywhere.

Sometimes you get really lucky. Lee County has computerized their indexes and I was able to do some creative searching and finally found the missing transaction. It turned out that the Henry Hodge who bought the property was not my Henry Hodge. The transfer dates conflicted with other records that placed my Henry elsewhere at the time, plus the wife's name was on the transfer out and did not match, plus all the signatures were made "by his/her mark" and my Hodge folks always signed their names. Just goes to show that you should never be satisfied with half the picture when the whole picture may be a lot different than you expected.

It's been awhile since I've spent the day rambling the countryside between stops for research. The high gas prices had put a stop to that months ago. How nice it was to fill up for under $1.40 a gallon in my 46 mpg hybrid and hit the road for a day of following my muse. Reminds me of what I used to do for fun. I may just have to spend New Year's Day making a cemetery run.

Oh, yes, the clerk in LaGrange called me after all to report she had checked the register and Dr. Hodge was not listed. I've only found him on one register, in Leon County. I'm still wondering if he just didn't bother to register or he wasn't a practicing physician in Caldwell, Bastrop, Fayette or Lee counties when he was in residence. Curiouser and curiouser.


1 comment:

MiniKat said...

It sounds like you have a mystery on your hands. How fun and frustrating at the same time.