Monday, May 21, 2012

Mystery Monday- Is there a Clue in the Court of Appeals?

Because my great-great-grandfather, Erastus Murray, had a half-brother, David L. Stanford, who was a prominent businessman in their hometown of Auburn, NY, I thought maybe I could uncover information about their mother, Ruth Snow, by researching David.  I’ve searched many times on variations of David Stanford based on census listing spellings, but this time something unexpected popped up—a New York Court of Appeals case with a William Murray as plaintiff and implied David Stanford or one of his associates might have committed fraud. 

I’m going to have to read the case more thoroughly, but it appears Stanford may have led Murray to believe that he had purchased property from Stanford when in fact the ownership of the property was in doubt.  It looks like the case lasted several years from the late 1850s into the early 1860s with the decision turning against Murray.  It meant not only did Murray not own the property, but he also had to pay court costs and other fees. 

Worse yet, it appears David Stanford may have been involved in a similar fraudulent real estate transaction on a second occasion with another person.

One of the mysteries I’ve been trying to unravel is why my great-great-grandfather deserted his family around 1860-1861.  The timing of the desertion and this court case could be mere coincidence, but I have lots of questions to answer before I can let it go.  Was William Murray connected to Erastus Murray and did William’s misfortune affect Erastus?  Was Stanford’s rise to prominence on the back of a family member?  Will I need to hire an attorney to help me understand the legalese?

I’ll need to be careful in my research…I know I’m biased toward finding someone other than Erastus to blame for children being sent to an orphanage.


  1. Have you submitted your case to Judy Russell (legalgenealogist dot com slash blog)? She won't give legal advice, but she welcomes readers to submit a story or case for her to discuss.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion! I've been reading these two cases until my head is spinning...the hardest thing is keeping track of which person is being referred to when different events are described..let alone determining the legal issues. I've started a timeline to help unravel it.

  3. Judy was my first thought, too, when you mentioned the legalese. It sounds like you have a challenge on your hands. I hope the results will be helpful.

  4. Contacting Judy is on my to-do list, although my additional efforts to understand this lead me to believe it's not a fraudulent transaction, but a failure on William's part to understand the fine print of the mortgage he thought
    he had---some things never change, huh?