Small Bits: Introducing Historic Arizona Law
William Crittenden moved with wife Ella and son Ray to Arizona Territory from Illinois in 1907. William was dead in two years, but Ella saw statehood.
Widowed Ella, administratrix of William’s estate, petitioned the court in an Order Setting Aside Exempt Property. William’s property consisted of two Phoenix lots, both community property. Ella claimed the parcels were, “exempt from execution for debt, under the laws of the Territory of Arizona.” The court agreed. Her home was safe from creditors.
Curiosity about the order led to the 1901 edition of The Revised Statutes of Arizona Territory. The “Provisions for Support of Family, and of the Homestead” chapter of “Procedure in Probate Court” states:
“Upon the return of the inventory, or at any subsequent time during the administration, the court of the probate judge may, on his own motion or on petition therefor, set apart for the use of the surviving husband or wife or the minor children of the decedent all property exempt from execution, including the homestead. The judge of the court must select, designate and set apart a homestead for the use of the persons hereinbefore named, in the manner provided in this chapter, out of the real estate belonging to the decedent.”
Ella’s use of the law to protect her home, perhaps routine for that time and place, surely represented a big moment in a new widow’s life. She and Ray, far from family, stayed in Arizona.
Identifying the reasons behind a single action might masquerade as minutiae, but the small bits in a person’s life make up their whole. Genealogists better understand people and their actions when thorough research fleshes out those bits.
I welcome Historic Arizona Statutory Law and Historic Arizona Case Law to The Advancing Genealogist’s online law library.
*William Crittenden was the brother of my great-grandmother, Lucille Emeline (Crittenden) Hickey.
**Thanks to Linda McCauley for updating my law library map. Linda maintains a website, Documenting the Details.
 Ruth Crittenden Wills, Ruth: My Adoptive Family, My Birth Family, My Family (Phoenix, Arizona: American Educational Press, 1997).
 “Arizona, U.S., Death Records, 1887–1968,” database and images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/8704/ : accessed 12 March 2023), Wm. M. Crittenden, 1909, Phoenix; citing Arizona Death Records, Arizona Department of Health Services, Phoenix.
 “Arizona, U.S., Death Records, 1887–1968,” database and images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/8704/ : accessed 12 March 2023), Ella Amelia Crittenden, 1916, Phoenix; citing Arizona Death Records, Arizona Department of Health Services, Phoenix. Arizona became a state 14 February 1912; “Arizona’s Chronology,” Arizona State Library, Archives, & Public Records, website. (https://azlibrary.gov/arizona-almanac/arizonas-chronology : accessed 12 March 2023).  “Arizona, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1803–1995,” database and images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/9043/ : accessed 12 March 2023), Wm. Crittenden, probate file no. 1402 (1909), Maricopa County; citing Arizona County, District and Probate Courts.
 The Revised Statutes of Arizona Territory (Columbia, Missouri: Press of E.W. Stephens, 1901), Title 17, Chapter 5, 1726 (Sec. 517.), “Provisions for the Support of Family, and of the Homestead,” p. 502, digital image 502 of 1516; digitized book, Arizona Memory Project, “Historic Arizona Statutes” (https://azmemory.azlibrary.gov/nodes/view/38230 : accessed 12 March 2023).
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