07 April 2016

Texas Form Book: Decipher those difficult words

In many of my presentations and as a reply to mail list postings I have provided a reference to a Texas Civil Form Book. A recent posting on a mail list for professional genealogists reminded me I never made this available in a blog post where it might be more easily found.

Several years ago I attended a BCG Education Fund Putting Skills to Work workshop presented by Barbara Vines Little titled “Working with Documents: From Discovery to What Comes Next.” During that workshop, I learned that most states have a "form book" used by clerks and lawyers when drawing up documents. These form books provide templates and example wording that can be followed to properly draw up a legal document for a specific situation. In many cases, the laws define the required wording that must be included to create a legally-binding document or a specific type of document. The form books include that wording. While not every clerk copied the exact wording used in a form book unless it was required by law, many clerks did.

These forms can often help us decipher a faded word or words written by a clerk with poor penmanship. It also helps explain why so many documents contain the same boilerplate text. Several Texas form books (and other useful resources for research in Texas) are freely available on the Internet Archive. One form book is:

J. W. (Jonas William) Moffett, Texas Civil Form Book, with Forms of Pleadings, Removal of Causes from State to Federal Courts, The Forms and Law of Bankruptcy of 1898 and Amendments Approved February 5, 1903, and Court Rules of Texas (El Paso: Gammel Publishing, 1907); online archive, Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org/details/texascivilformbo00moffiala).

The story of how I learned of this resource shows how we can all learn new things at any time. After more than twenty years of research and a decade of attendance at conferences and institutes, I had never heard of form books before Barbara mentioned it as an aside in her document analysis workshop. You never know when or where a critical piece of information about a resource will pop up.

And many thanks to the BCG Education Fund for continuing to provide workshops to teach us essential skills. There are only a few seats left in this year's workshop. See http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/2016/02/build-firm-foundation-transcribe.html for more information and for a registration link.

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "Texas Form Book: Decipher those difficult words," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 7 April 2016 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2016, Debbie Parker Wayne, Certified Genealogist®, All Rights Reserved

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