McCreery's Lessee v. Somerville
22 U.S. 354 (1824)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McCreery's Lessee v. Somerville, 22 U.S. 9 Wheat. 354 354 (1824)

McCreery's Lessee v. Somerville

22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 354

Syllabus

The statute of 11 and 12 William III, c. 6, which is in force in Maryland, removes the common law disability of claiming title through an alien ancestor, but does not apply to a living alien ancestor, so as to create a title by heirship, where none would exist by the common law, if the ancestor were a natural born subject or citizen. Thus, where A died seized of lands in Maryland, leaving no heirs except B., a brother, who was an alien, and had never been naturalized as a citizen of the United States, and three nieces, the daughters of the said B, who were native citizens of the United States; it was held that they could not claim title by inheritance through B, their father, he being an alien and still living.

The case agreed stated that William McCreery was seized and possessed of a tract of land in Baltimore County, in the State of Maryland, called Clover Hill and died possessed thereof about 1 March, 1814. He had previously executed an instrument of writing purporting to be his last will and testament, by which he devised the above tract of land to those under whom the defendant, Somerville, claimed; but it was witnessed by two persons only, and was therefore inoperative to pass lands in Maryland, the laws of which require three witnesses to a will for that purpose. W. McCreery left at his death no children, but a brother, Ralph McCreery, a native of Ireland, who is still living and who has not been naturalized, and three nieces, Letitia Barwell, Jane McCreery, and Isabella McCreery, the latter being the lessor of the plaintiff, who are the daughters of the said Ralph, and native born citizens of the United States.

Page 22 U. S. 355

The devisees under the will applied by petition to the Legislature of Maryland to confirm the will, and the legislature, accordingly, without the knowledge or consent of the lessor of the plaintiff, passed an act for that purpose; saving, nevertheless, the rights of all persons claiming title to the lands devised, by conveyance from any of the heirs of W. McCreery. The action was brought to recover an undivided third part of Clover Hill.

Upon this case, judgment was rendered by the court below for the defendant, and the cause was brought by writ of error to this Court.

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