Margaret Smith turned up in 2006 to a taping of the Antiques Roadshow with an interesting document, the marriage licence issued in 1805 to Davy Crockett (the frontiersman and Alamo hero with the silly hat) but never executed (apparently because Crockett’s intended later eloped with someone else).

Mrs. Smith claimed that the document had been obtained by her father in the 1930s or 40s, when the courthouse in Jefferson County, Tenn. was being ‘cleared out’. The County was more interested than most to see the broadcast, having unsuccessfully negotiated with Mrs. Smith for the document’s return in the 1990s. Seeing as negotiation hadn’t worked, the county government went to court this time, obtaining a declaration that the licence was county property. The trial judge’s assessment of Mrs. Smith’s story of the document’s acquisition is memorable (read it aloud in a fake Southern accent): ‘that dog just won’t hunt ... it just don’t make sense’ (especially given that documents immediately preceding and following the licence were still in the county archive).

The Tennessee appeals court agreed: the balance of the evidence showed that the licence had been wrongfully removed rather than abandoned; it defied credibility that the county would keep a whole raft of relatively uninteresting stuff from the relevant period but not a unique piece of demonstrable historical interest. The transcript of Mrs. Smith’s Roadshow appearance was not admissible as an exception to the hearsay rule for recorded recollections [Link available here].