Li: ritual, propriety, etiquette. Hsiao: love within the family (parents for children and children for parents. Yi: righteousness--the noblest way to act in a situation. Xin: honesty and trustworthiness. Jen: benevolence, humaneness towards others. Chung: loyalty to the state and authority. --Confucius (Kong Fuzi)

All articles appear in reverse chronological order [newest first].

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I believe the past is relevant, sometimes more than others of course. In most cases we are seeing history being repeated, so it is most relevant.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Nee, nee, nee, a horse is a horse of course…

updated 2-24-2017

I have come across a public notice from a 1932 newspaper (below) concerning a family I’m researching. The notice either clears up the identification of the family, or creates more questions than it answers. This is a common paradox of genealogy, that most evidence proves something while raising more questions.

In the case of the following article the usage of a certain word is the culprit. Does the word have a narrow, specific, legal meaning?

The dilemma:

  • What I knew before discovering this article: That an ancestor, James Pope had a daughter named Maggie, and that Maggie married Pastor Sidney M. Puryear… all of Indianapolis.
  • What I suspected: That Maggie might have died in 1916.
  • What I didn’t know: If Maggie and Sidney had any children, who was Sidney’s family, and what ever happened to Sidney.

The article:

In The Court Marion County, Indiana
Estate Docket 88 Page 30234
Daniel W. Jones
Executor Of Estate Of John A. Puryear, Deceased, Laura Bennett, et. al.
To Laura Bennett and Holman P. Bennett her husband, Maggie Puryear Kimbro, nee Puryear, and Edward Kimbro, her husband, Sidney
M. Puryear and Clara Ellison.
You severalty hereby notified that the above named petitioner as Executor of the estate of the aforesaid, has filed in the Probate Court of Marion County, Indiana, a petition, making you defendants thereto, and praying therein for an order and decree of said court authorizing the sale of certain real estate belonging to the estate of said decedent, and in said petition described to make assets for the payment of debts and liabilities of said estate; and has also filed an affidavit averring that you and each of you are non-residents of the State of Indiana, or that your residence is unknown and that you are necessary parties to said proceedings, and that said petition so filed, and which is now pending, is set for hearing in said Probate Court at the court house in Indianapolis, Indiana, on the 6th day of September 1932.

Witness the Clerk and Seal of said court, this 2nd day of July 1932
GLENN B. RALSTON. Clerk of the Probate Court of Marion County
R. L. Bailey. Atty. 7-9-32

The question and word that causes some possible confusion is “nee” (emphasis added above). The use of the word in genealogy has fallen in signifigance as divorce and remarriage has become more common. The original use of the word was to indicate the maiden name of a women. Nee being added after the married name and before the maiden name. What is more common today is to indicate the maiden name by having it preceed the married name and usually indicated by quotes or parentheses. The practice of a woman keeping her maiden name and hyphenating it with her married name has further eroded the use of the word nee. In addition with divorce and remarriage (wash, rinse, and repeat) the “nee” becomes useless in its original use, to indicate maiden name, and would have us ‘nee, nee, neeing’ like a hungry horse.

In regards to the ‘legal’ use of the word the paragraph naming the defendants is what troubles me. Does the word here have a specific, narrow, legal use similar to the traditional and genealogical use of specifically designating the woman’s maiden name?

  • Maggie Puryear Kimbro: I would normally assume this was Sidney’s wife who had remarried, to Edward Kimbro, but “…nee Puryear” raises a suspicion that this Maggie might be a different Maggie, a Puryear by birth, either a sister, aunt, niece, or cousin of Sidney’s. I would have been surprised to find that Maggie and Sidney had divorced and would also be surprised to find a divorced and remarried daughter-in-law being included in an estate settlement.
  • I would have assumed Laura Bennett to be the a married relative of the deceased and that Clara Ellison is an unmarried relative, probably a grandchild of the deceased. Why isn’t Laura Bennett identified by “nee (maiden name)”?

Most of my encounters with legal notices and documents in genealogy research can usually be clarified with other evidence such as additional probate records or census data, but this is the only thing I have that identifies Sidney’s family, or anything on either Maggie or Sidney after 1916. It is also my first encounter with probate/legal records in Indiana.

If not for the use of the word “nee” in this notice the following is what my probable assumptions would be:

  • That Maggie (Sidney’s widow) had remarried to Edward Kimbro, but the executor had no knowledge of her whereabouts or if she was still living.
  • That Laura Bennett was probably the married daughter of the deceased and sister of Sidney’s.
  • The executor presumed that Sydney is probably deceased, but not certain.
  • That Clara Ellison was an unmarried granddaughter or niece of the deceased

My experience has always been that legal notices and documents did not follow strict verbiage, form, and semantics in the 1700 and 1800s to the same degree that they do today, but this is the newest (1932) probate notice that I have dealt with to date.

In the 1700 and 1800s doctors and lawyers didn’t always need a license or formal education to practice law or medicine. Dealing with my first legal document from the 1900s, particularly the 1930s, I wonder if the rules had yet become so defined or formalized. Thus my inquiry from a legal person like yourself.

I hope you can help me on this, and welcome any opinion legal or otherwise, but if you can’t don’t worry, the beauty of doing this kind of research is its like a never ending detective story… answering one mystery while creating a new one that needs to be solved.

I apologize for my grammatical and spelling errors. I have to save the favors of my proofing editor (my daughter) for the big projects.

Thanking you in advance, your 1st cousin, once removed,

Glenn Littrell

Rex’s reply:

Hi Glenn.  I am Rex and Nancy’s son.   My mom asked me to review the message you sent to her and my sister Penny relating to your questions relating to the use of the word “nee” in the 1932 probate record for John A. Puryear.    As you know, that post related to the use of the phrase “nee Puryear” following the name Maggie Puryear Kimbro.  I am not a probate attorney – and certainly was not one in 1932 in Indiana – but I think your initial inclination that the word “nee” denoted a maiden name of possibly another Maggie may be correct.  I did a quick check of some other much more recent Indiana probate records on line, and the word “nee” appeared to be used to denote a maiden name.  Of course, without further proof, there is no way of know if the court clerk in 1932 was using the term in that manner, but that would be my assumption.  I am not aware of any formal legalese or formal rules relating to the term.  If my assumption is correct, it would not appear that “Maggie Puryear” was the Maggie Pope who married Sidney Puryear. 

I wish I could offer more, but that is my take on the situation.  I am sure this is the type of puzzle that makes genealogy so fascinating and so frustrating at the same time.  Good luck with your search!


As luck (translation: my occasional confusion) would have it my dilemma, though real, was misstated. Maggie Pope did not marry Sidney Puryear, her sister Hattie did. In spite of my mistake the reply by Rex cleared up not just my mistake but led me to find me additional information and the identification of the Puryear extended family and Hattie’s family.


anyone having an opinion on this can email me at

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