Monday, July 23, 2012

Two Simple Things Probate Papers Can Do

Beyond wills . . . beyond the probate court books . . . there lie the handwritten papers turned in to the court. They're not just for identifying heirs or deducing the date of death. They can show where the deceased came from and which of his neighbors were friends. The estate papers of William M. Otis, who died in the summer of 1845 in La Porte County, Indiana, contain both.

One paper in his file is a judgment from a Justice of the Peace Court in Chautauqua County, New York, where he paid a $7.19 judgment on 20 June 1843.

Another lists who purchased his personal property (livestock, a sled, a double tree, and more) -- and who guaranteed that purchaser would pay. If you were wondering whether Branson Parker (who offered $5.75 for two hogs) was any kin to William D. Parker, it would be of great interest to know that William gave a note for Branson's purchases.

The first is fairly straightforward. The second can be trickier to find. Lacking a good every-name index to years of county probates, you might have to resort to checking for all the deaths within a certain distance of your research target's home.

Harold Henderson, "Two Simple Things Probate Papers Can Do," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 23 July 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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