Document Type

Book Chapter


Religion (CGU)

Publication Date



Arts and Humanities | History | United States History


Anyone studying farmers in early American must go to court, as the farmers themselves did so often throughout their lives. As young farmers, they registered deeds to their first lands or received inheritances from their fathers at courts; as old men, they passed on farms to their children. At every stage, they went to court to sue for debt or be sued, to petition for mills or taverns, to have roads laid out and repaired, and to register cattle marks. In most places, county courts imposed the taxes assessed to the farmers' names on the tax lists. If a farmer kept no diary or account book and saved no letters, as few did, court documents are about the only record of a farmer's life. To recover the lives of the great mass of farmers, a historian of farming must come to terms with the deeds, wills, and debt cases now stored in court archives.


From THE MANY LEGALITIES OF EARLY AMERICA edited by Bruce H. Mann and Christopher L. Tomlins. Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. Copyright © 2001 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher.

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© 2001 University of North Carolina Press