Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Warnings Out and other things I learned at NERGC

Were any of your ancestors “warned out” of their New England town? My husband’s ancestor, Ephraim Cutter, was. In 1669 that meant that after three months of moving into a town (the time was later extended to twelve months) a family could receive a “warning out” notice. That meant that the decision had been made that the town would not be responsible for the family should hard times befall them.  It didn’t mean they had to leave, but it did mean they would not receive the same level of support as others in the town.  And it could have brought about a somewhat uncomfortable environment for the family.

Was your ancestor married in a Gretna Green?  For over 250 years this small town in southeast Scotland has been synonymous with quick and easy weddings. Over the years, some states had much easier marriage and divorce laws than others, and those states became known as “Gretna Greens.”  ( An example of Gretna Green in the U.S. is Las Vegas.  What about divorce, inheritance laws, dower rights? Helen Shaw’s presentation, “Genealogy and the Law,” showed a number of examples of how local laws affected our ancestor’s lives.  Since each state had their own particular laws, she repeated over and over, “Check the law at the time in the state your ancestor lived.”  Some Resources to find these answers are: Black’s Law Dictionary, Val Greenwood’s The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, and your state’s law library.


  1. Yes, apparently one of my ancestors was "warned out" - William Floyd of Vermont.

  2. Greta: Thanks for the comment. We found this very interesting - especially when my husband's ancestor was mentioned! Sure got his attention. I enjoy reading your blog. Thank you for writing and sharing.