Saturday, January 3, 2015

Affidavit of Heirship by Essie Gwartney, Memphis, TN, 1961

In this Affidavit of Heirship[1], Mrs. Essie Gwartney makes a sworn and notarized statement, dated 16 June 1961, that she knew the decedent Ida B. Slesser for 81 years and Ida's only children are Aimee W. Thompson and "Hattie" D. Robertson.  An image of the affidavit and commentary follow:


By 2010 Tennessee law[2], if a person dies intestate, then at the moment of death, the title to real property vests with the decedent's heirs. A sworn Affidavit of Heirship[3] is subsequently filed with the Register of Deeds, by a person knowing facts about the heirs to the decedent, and thereby completes the chain of title to the property. Although, this affidavit declaration was made in 1961, it is assumed here that the 2010 law is the same in principle.
The affidavit describes the real property which Ida had owned as "Lot 68, McLaughlin Land Company subdivision, known as 1980 Young Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee." Since there is no record that Ida owned any other property, this is likely the property referred to in the 1921 deed.
The affidavit also helps establish the identities of the children of Ida B. Slesser. Hallie D. Slesser has been traced from Carrsville, Kentucky to Memphis, Tennessee by census and city directory records. Her surname change to Robertson was also noted in the city directories, indicating a probable marriage sometime after 1927. As Mrs. J. L. Robertson, she was also the informant to Ida's death certificate. And now this document establishes her as an heir to the property at 1980 Young Ave., Memphis, Tennessee.
For Aimee W. Thompson, there are fewer records with only a census entry in 1900 for Ama Washer. However, from 1921 when the family first appeared in the city directories at 1980 Young Ave., Theodore D. Thompson was living in the household with Ida and Hallie. Although the city directory entries beginning in 1921 do not include Aimee with Theodore, later in 1926 they are listed together. Nevertheless, it is likely she was in the household from 1921. Knowing she is a daughter and an heir helps clarify the close association with the Thompson family.
Essie Gwartney, also a resident of Memphis, appears to be have been a life-long relative or friend of Ida. Given how long they knew each other, it is likely that Essie also has roots in Livingston County, Kentucky. Ida's age at death was 73, so Essie's claim that she knew Ida for 81 years, probably tells us Essie's age when the affidavit was declared.

1. Shelby County, Tennessee, Deed Book 4520:197, index entry for Ida B. Slesser to Aimee Slesser, 15 June 1961; digital images, "Property Records," Shelby County Register of Deeds ( : accessed 30 Nov 2014). [Although indexed as a Warranty Deed, the document title is Affidavit of Heirship.]
2. "2010 Tennessee Code, Title 31 - Descent And Distribution, Chapter 2 - Intestate Succession, 31-2-103 - Vesting of estate Net estate," Justia US Law ( : 2 January 2015).
3. "2010 Tennessee Code, Title 30 - Administration of Estates, Chapter 2 - Management, Settlement and Distribution, Part 7 - Distribution, 30-2-712 - Affidavit of heirship," Justia US Law ( : 2 January 2015).