Category Archives: Old Wills

Will of Ann Duncan of Jessamine County

Ann, wife of James B. Duncan, died March 20, 1849, aged 48 years. ‘god shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’

I’m always excited to see the will of a woman back in the early days!  From her gravestone, located in the Duncan family cemetery in Nicholasville, we know that Ann was the wife of James B. Duncan.  At the time of her death in 1849, Ann has three children, Charles, Julia who married a Brown, and Margaret Ann, unmarried.  Notice there is no date on the will – an unusual fact.  I love the descriptions of silver table spoons, tea spoons, tongs, dessert spoons, etc.  This gives an idea of the type of life this family led.  When Ann Duncan talks about securing these items ‘with the property’ I suppose she means they must be handed down as family heirlooms, and not sold.

Feeling myself daily declining and believing that my end is near I wish to make some distribution of the little worldly goods I possess.  After my just debts are paid I give to my second daughter, Margaret Ann Duncan, a piece of land containing about fifty acres, lying in Mason County, four miles from Maysville on the Flemingsburgh Turnpike, and also the hire of my old man Billy while she remains single.  She is to have the whole benefit, but if she marry, then it is to be divided in three equal parts and entailed on their posterity made secure so that they cannot spend it.  I also wish that at my death a division of my bed clothing and furniture.  I have already given to Charles Duncan and Julia Brown a share of each, therefore I wish Margaret Ann to have the largest share in this last division.  I also give her my bed stead, my dressing bureau and a pair of poster tables that are now in my house.  I give Charles Duncan a half dozen silver table spoons, a half dozen silver tea spoons, they are to be secured with the property so that he cannot spend them.  I give Julia Brown my silver cream spoon, she now has a half dozen silver table spoons of mine in her possession.  I wish them also to be secured with the balance.  I give Margaret Ann Duncan, my daughter, a half dozen silver dessert spoons, a half dozen silver

tea spoons, a pair of silver sugar tongs, two salt shakers(?), one mustard spoon, one silver soup spoon, two silver butter knives, all to be secured as spoken of before.  I also give Margaret Ann, my daughter, my gold watch in consideration of her kindness and attention to me during my illness.  I had omitted to mention that I have four hundred and fifty dollars in the hands of Mr. Ely Anderson, living in Maysville, which will be due the second day of June; that I also give to Margaret Ann my daughter, and wish it secured with the rest.

Ann Duncan

Attest – J. Asline, William Duncan

State of Kentucky              Jessamine County April Court 1848

I, Daniel B. Price, Clerk of the County Court for the County of Jessamine, do certify that this writing was at the court aforesaid, produced and proven in open Court according to law by the oaths of William Duncan and J. Asline, the subscribing witnesses thereto, to be the last will and testament of Ann Duncan, deceased, and ordered to be recorded and a certificate of probate granted, whereupon the same together with this certificate has been duly entered of receipt in my office.

Attest.  Dan B. Price

Will Book G, Pages 415-416 – Jessamine County Clerk’s Office

Will of William McBride – Killed At the Battle of Blue Licks

William McBride was born January 5, 1744, in Fauquier County, Virginia, and died August 19, 1782, in Blue Licks, Nicholas County, Kentucky.  He was the son of William McBride, Sr., and Sarah ?  He married Martha Lapsley October 17, 1765, in Augusta County, Virginia.  William McBride made his will in October of 1781, and died a year later, almost to the day, at the Battle of Blue Licks, one of the last battles of the Revolutionary War – after Lord Cornwallis had surrendered in October 1781 at Yorktown.

Lincoln County, Virginia (Kentucky) Will Book 1, Pages 7-9

In the Name of God amen.  I, William McBride, of Lincoln County and Commonwealth of Virginia, being in perfect health and of sound mind and memory, but calling to mind the mortality of my body and that it is appointed for all men once to die, and first I recommend my body to the earth to be buried in a Christian manner at the discretion of my Executors, hereafter to be appointed, and my soul I Commend into the hands of almighty God, who gave it me, and as to which worldly goods God has been pleased to bless me with in this life I give and devise in manner following.  To wit, and first, I require that all my just debts be paid or discharged.

Item.  I give and bequeath unto Martha McBride, my well beloved wife, one Negro wench due to me from Hubbert Taylor and one good mare to be 20 pounds value old rate, a good side saddle and feather bed and furniture and all the ? furniture as also an equal third of my cattle and further she is to have all the utensils for husbandry and privileges of supplying the plantation I now live on to enjoy during her widowhood, as also a Negro man due to me from said Taylor.

Item.  I give and bequeath unto my two

beloved sons, William and Lapsley McBride, all singular my lands not otherwise devised to be equally divided between them, as also all the horses and cattle not already bequeathed and all the utensils for husbandry together with the Negro men and the plantation at the said Martha McBride’s death or marriage, whichever may happen first, as also the above said wench and her increase, if any, to be equally divided between said William and Lapsley McBride at their mother’s death and provided either of said sons should die before they come of age the survivor to be heir to the deceased.  I further require that my Executors do sell 300 acres of land (for the best advantage) this due me from John McEntire as will more plainly appear by a bond on said McEntire for said land the money arising from said sale to be applied in purchasing cattle and other necessarys for my daughter hereafter named.

Item.  I give and bequeath unto each of my beloved daughters, Sarah, Martha, Elizabeth and Mary, a good feather bed and furniture, a silk gown and other clothing suitable so as to make up one decent suit to each, four cows and a good horse and saddle each, with dresser furniture proportionable to each, also a new Bible and Confession of Faith to each, these legacies to be paid to each of my daughters when they come to twenty years of age or at their marriages as they be arrived at eighteen years, to be paid by my sons William and Lapsley McBride, or by my Executors out of said estate, and I do hereby constitute and appoint my well-beloved wife Martha McBride, John Lapsley and James Davis, Executors of this my last Will and Testament and to see to it that my children may be properly educated and brought up in a Christian manner, hereby revoking and disannulling all former wills, testaments and bequests heretofore made, ratifying and declaring this to be my Last Will and Testament, in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 3rd day of October 1781.  Sealed and declared in presence of James Curd, John Marshall, James Calley.

William McBride

At a Court held for Lincoln County 21st January 1783 this instrument of writing was exhibited into Court as the last Will and Testament of William McBride, deceased, and proved by the oaths of James Curd and John Marshall, two of the witnesses and ordered to be recorded.

Solomon Ryan – Dying of Consumption

Solomon Ryan names his illness in this 1829 will – something I have never seen before.  Ill with consumption he makes this will in preparation for his near death.  Solomon must have been a young man, having only one child and one on the way.  Interesting that he wanted his wife to have a marriage contract if she decided to remarry, to insure that the property he gave her would remain under her control.

Mercer County Will Book 9, Page 274.

After having lingered for some time with the consumption, for near eighteen months, I have thought proper to make my will as follows.

First.  I will my body to the grave and my soul to God.

Second.  I will all my personal estate to my beloved wife, Elizabeth, after my just debts are paid.

Third.  I wish my land to be equally divided between my wife and child or children.

Fourth.  If my child or children or either of them should die before they arrive at the age of twenty-one, or without issue at the time of their death, in that case their part of the land is to go to my beloved wife, she to have that as well as her own part to dispose of at her death as she thinks proper.

Fifth.  It is my will and desire that if my beloved wife should get married that she use this precaution to have a marriage contract so as to secure her own estate within her own control.

Sixth.  I wish my wife to be permitted to qualify as Executor without given security.

Seventh.  I further wish no sale to take place of my estate further than in my wife’s judgement shall be necessary.

Given under my hand and seal this tenth July 1829.

Solomon Ryan

Test.  Chr. Chinn, I. L. Sutfield, R. M. Sutfield

Mercer County Set, February’s County Court, 1830

The forgoing last will and testament of Solomon Ryan, deceased, was this day produced into court and proved by the oaths of Isaac and Richard Sutfield and Chr. Chinn, subscribing witnesses thereto and ordered to be recorded.

Att.  Thomas Allin

1826 Will of John Meaux and Emancipation of His Slaves

You will enjoy this will – most interesting!  John Meaux names two grandsons and two sons – no wife or daughters in this will.  But the biggest part of the will is given to the emancipation of sixty-one of his Negro slaves.  Not only does he give them their freedom, but some of his land and personal estate is sold, in part to give money to his former slaves, but he directs his Executors to purchase land in a free state for the Negroes.  His crop and plantation tools and utensils are to be given to the slaves.  John Meaux did give fourteen slaves to his son, but the majority he gave their freedom.  It would be interesting to know where land was purchased and where the slaves lived after they were free. 

Will of John Meaux

Will Book 1, Pages 272-274, Mercer County, Kentucky

I John Meaux of Mercer County, Kentucky, do hereby make this my last will and testament, revoking all former wills by me made.  First, I will and direct that all the slaves of which I am possessed as the owner be and they are hereby forever emancipated and set free, being sixty one in number and now in my possession, and the increase of the females also hereafter to be born.  I wish the young Negroes to be bonded out to trades, at the direction of my Executors.  I give unto my two

grandsons, John W. Meaux and Richard Meaux, each two cows and two ewes, the whole of stock except what is otherwise devised; and all my crop and plantation tools and utensils I direct to be divided among my Negroes hereby emancipated in such way and proportions as my Executors shall think right.  I direct the land I purchased of Edwards and which I have not conveyed away to be sold, as soon as the title is settled, and also all my household and kitchen furniture to be sold and the proceeds to be applied by my Executors to the use of my slaves hereby emancipated in such way and portions as my Executors shall think proper.  I give unto my son, Nathaniel B. Meaux, the tract of land in Mercer and Franklin, near Lillards, on which I settled him and also all the stock and Negroes which I have put into his possession, being Miller, Pompey, Charlotte, Armistead, four of Charlotte’s children now with her, Nelly and her five children, Washington, and two ewes.  If I should leave any money on hand I direct it shall be laid out at the discretion of my Executors for the benefit of my Negroes.  I direct that my Executors, out of the personal estate proceeds of the land which is to be sold and money in hand, if any, and all of which is herein division, for the benefit of my Negroes, in the first instance paying all the expenses of having the slaves emancipated and a fair compensation to themselves for all their expense and trouble in attending to the due execution of my will I hereby nominate and appoint my sons John G. Meaux and Nathaniel B. Meaux, also my friend John B. Thompson, Executors of this my last will and empower them or either of them to do all things herein directed to be done.  Witness my hand and seal this 23rd day of October 1826.

John Meaux

Test – Lanty Holman, Richard Holman

In addition to the foregoing will I now put into the hand of my Executor John B. Thompson five hundred and twenty-nine dollars 50 cents to be used by him in defraying all expenses and charges necessary to the freedom of my Negroes and authorize him to lay out all money deposited with him after paying the expenses and charges and also the money arising from the sale of my estate before directed in this will, in lands in Indiana, Ohio or some other free state for the use and benefit of my slaves in such proportions to each family as in his discretion he may deem right and proper, witness my hand and seal this 9th June 1828.

John Meaux

Eleven pieces of gold in the foregoing money supposed to be $70.00.

Test. – Lanty Holman, Vance Wilson

State of Kentucky Court of Appeals January 7, 1830

The foregoing last will and testament of John Meaux, deceased, and the codicil attached thereto were produced in this court and fully proved by the subscribing witnesses thereto and admitted to record in the office of said County and ordered to be certified to the Mercer County Court for record also.  Test.  J. Swigert, Clerk

Mercer County February County Court 1830.

The foregoing last will and testament of John Meaux, deceased, was this day produced into Court which together with the certificates of the Clerk of the court of Appeals I have made of record.

Attest.  Thomas Allin, County Clerk

John Neal’s Will – Boone County

This will of John Neal, of Boone County, was written April 11, 1818.  In it Mr. Neal states that he is in good health, but being of advanced years.  In the year 1818 I’m not sure what would be considered ‘advanced.’  But the gentleman lived another 13 years!  Evidently his wife is still living at this time, as a codicil for the will was written March 3, 1831, which states that the land has been conveyed to his children, but the rest of the will stands as is.  I’m sure he would have mentioned the death of his wife if she had pre-deceased him.  The will was proved three months later.  Every will always has some interesting points!

neal-mcpherson-wills-1In the name of God amen.  I, John Neal, of the County of Boone and State of Kentucky, being in health and of perfect mind and memory, but being advanced in years and calling to mind approaching mortality, do make and ordain this my last will and testament and first I give and recommend my soul to God who gave it, and my body to the earth from which it was taken, to be buried in a decent and Christian-like manner – and as touching the worldly property wherewith it has pleased God to bless me, I do hereby dispose of it in the following manner, that is to say, I give and bequeath to my beloved wife, Agnes Neal, my whole estate (not otherwise specially disposed of) during her natural life, viz., about one hundred twenty-five acres of land whereon I now live, all my household furniture, stock, farming utensils and one Negro man named Frank, who at her death or mine, in case I should outlive my wife, is hereby emancipated and set at liberty, and the land aforesaid at my wife’s death to be equally divided between my children John Neal and Anna Ruddell and all my personal estate after the death of my wife to be equally divided between my children Benjamin Neal, Sarah Shackleford.  Also I give and bequeath to my son Matthew Neal the sum of five shillings to be raised out of my personal estate.

To my son William Neal I give and bequeath the tract of land on which he now resides containing fifty-six acres and twenty-two perches of which he has a plat land of by Moses Scott, October 16, 1817.

Also to my son Thomas Neal I give and bequeath the tract of land whereon he now resides containing about seventy acres, more or less, as surveyed and laid off by Moses Scott on the date above, a plat of which has been given him.

Also I give and bequeath to my daughter Elizabeth Hodges the tract of land on which she now resides containing about seventy acres, more or less, as surveyed and laid off by Moses Scott on the date above, during her natural life, and then to her children, the heirs of her body.  And moreover I do hereby nominate, constitute and appoint my son William Neal sole executor of this my last will and testament.  In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 11th day of April in the year of our Lord, 1818.

John Neal

Signed, sealed and acknowledged the last will and testament of John Neal before us – Moses Scott, Elijah Nyle, Joseph Hawkins

Codicil – The land as described in this will is this day disposed of according to the provision of the foregoing will by deed of conveyances respectively therein named or their representatives, therefore the will so far as it relates the land is hereby declared void.  But as it relates to other matters it is hereby again ratified and confirmed.  Witness my hand and seal this 3rd day of March 1831.

John Neal

In presence of Moses Scott, Robert Piatt, John Piatt

Boone County Court, June Term 1831

This last will and testament of John Neal, deceased, was produced in court, examined and proven by the oaths of Moses Scott and Robert Piatt, two subscribing witnesses thereto which are ordered to be recorded and accordingly recorded.  Willis Graves, Clerk.

Book C, Page 2

Actual Will of Captain John Linton – With His Signature

The last time I was at Washington County Courthouse doing research, I pulled out the original wills of citizens of the county, and among those was that of my fifth and fourth great-grandfather, Captain John Linton.  There is previous post that lists the will and its contents, and you may click here to read that information.  I am more interested today to share with you photos of the actual will – yes, an Iphone has many uses!

img_0866The first page of the will starts with the usual ‘being or sound and disposing mind,’ and starts the list of bequests.  At the bottom of the page is the bequest to his daughter, Nancy Edwards, my fourth great-grandmother.  Nancy married Edward Barbour Edwards in Loudoun County, Virginia, before the family made the trip to Kentucky in 1818.

img_0867More bequests on this page, especially to daughters.  I notice when the husband is still living the Captain writes, ‘to my daughter, Susan Moran, and her husband, William Moran,’ if the husband is still living.  Sadly, with the case of Nancy Edwards in the previous page, her husband Edward was deceased.

img_0868Page three lists the bequest to my third great-grandfather William Linton.  As mentioned before, he was somewhat of an embarrassment to the Captain as he seemed to spend money like there was no end to it.  The assets that would have been his were left in trust to son John H. Linton for the use of William’s wife and children.  Even at the great age of 84 Captain John Linton was a wise man and knew to set this agreement in writing.  Unfortunately the Captain died two years later, and John H. Linton, two years after his father.  William’s son, Edward, my second great-grandfather, was born in 1824, and soon after John H. Linton’s death in 1838, he took over the management of his father’s money and property.  It seems young to be given such a task, but he must have been up to it, as he continued throughout the lives of his parents.

img_0869I love the last page!  It bears the signatures – two – of Captain John Linton!  The first seems a bit unsure – but I notice now that if the arthritis is acting up my handwriting is not as neat, and I am not the great age of the captain.  The second signature is after a codicil concerning two of his Negroes – Dick and Conny, a very old couple – who are to be ‘permitted by my executor to go where they please and that they do not suffer.’  These slaves came with him from Virginia, as they are listed in the affidavit containing the list of slaves brought with John Linton from Virginia, dated November 5, 1818, and that he had no intention of selling them.


Other Than A Will, What Can Be Found In County Will Books?


Since I am in the process of typing the Will Books Index for Washington County, Kentucky, it has given me a new prospective on what one can find in these volumes.  Not only are there wills – but also inventories, dower allotments, guardian reports and settlements, executor settlements, division of slaves, division of land, sale bills, administrative settlements, curator’s accounts, list of sales, list of notes, etc.

My first thought is there are not that many wills!  Not everyone left a will – perhaps it wasn’t written and the person died quickly, perhaps there wasn’t much to leave or perhaps it wasn’t given for safe keeping and was lost.  I was very surprised.  But even though your ancestor didn’t leave a will, there are many more avenues in the will books to search for clues about your family.

There are many, many guardian settlements/reports.  In one instance, John W. Inman had five guardian reports in books O through S – that is from 1869-1885.  In Will Book O, page 610, there is ‘A settlement of the accounts of H. B. Wilson, guardian for John W. Inman, son of John F. Inman, deceased, made April 27th, 1872’.  It shows debits and credits to the account.  The other entries throughout the years show much the same.  Sometimes guardians changed, due possibly to death, or inability to continue.  John Inman’s guardian was listed as Thomas O. Wilson in 1874.  In 1876 J. A. Lankford was guardian.  In 1883 a final settlement was made by Mr. Lankford for John Inman.  John Inman received a balance of $311.53 on December 1, 1883.

One can find so many interesting things listed in inventories and appraisements.  An appraisement of articles set apart for the widow of James Isham was given on November 11, 1892.  Five beds and bedding was appraised at $75.00, a wash stand was valued at $3.00.  The cooking stove and utensils were $6.00, a clock and mirror, $1.50.  The total value for articles for the widow was $129.50.  Listed in my fifth great-grandfather’s inventory, Moses Linton, was a violin and a multitude of books.  You never know what you will find, and it makes your great-great’s come to life!

‘A settlement of the accounts of C. I. Hayden, administrator of B. J. Janes, deceased, made this 2nd November 1877.’  The administrative settlement was one of the last, if not the last entry for someone who has passed away.  These are divided into debits and credits – but be aware they are actually backwards to what you would think – I suppose the clerks used the double-entry bookkeeping we used in our school system.  So a debit is actually money coming in, and a credit is money paid out.  At least they used this system in Washington County.  On the debit side Mr. Janes had his account of his sale bill, $159.70, plus interest for four months, $3.19, for total debits of $162.89.  His credits were paid to several gentlemen, tax receipts, interest on debts, judge’s fees for settlements and clerks fee, of $69.19.  The widow was entitled to the sum of $93.17, but it had to be apportioned among several creditors.

An appraisement of the property of the deceased was generally made before the sale.  In the case of Samuel Janes the appraisement and sale were held on the same day – February 4, 1843.  A grindstone that was appraised at 37 cents, sold for 12.  A field of standing corn was appraised for $18.00 and sold for $15.75.  A man’s saddle appraised for 50 cents sold for six and one fourth cents.

The executor’s settlement is pretty self-explanatory – the executors give an account of how they have settled the estate.  Hardin Gregory and Humphrey Jett were the executors for Elijah Jett.  On August 6, 1850, they gave an amount of sales as $183.59.  Receipts were paid to appraisers, the clerk, sale clerk, J. P. Montgomery for the coffin, McElroy and Rinehart for the shroud, commissioner’s fees.  The final sum to be divided among the four heirs – Humphrey Jett, Lanson Curtsinger, Sandford Thurman and Hardin Gregory, which gives to each the sum of $23.17.  But why would these four men – other than son Humphrey – get a portion of the settlement?  Going to the will of Elijah Jett, he mentions that he has given his children various articles of property over the years, and everything left is to be given to his wife, Rhoda – lands, Negroes and personal property.  He has a deranged son, Stark Jett, he leaves in the care of Humphrey Jett or Hardin Gregory, giving the caretaker Negro Bob to care for Stark.  He mentions daughter, Elizabeth Jett, who has received no property or goods from him and lists what she is to have at marriage.  There are sons Elijah, Alexander and deceased son, Noah Jett, who left one daughter, Nancy J. Curtsinger.  Hardin Gregory is his son-in-law, having married Sarah Jett.  There are still two names of the ‘four heirs’ that seem to have no connection to this family.  But after checking marriage records we find that Lanson Curtsinger married Frances Jett in 1835, and Sandford Thurman married Mary Jett in 1834.  Daughter Elizabeth Jett married Josiah Edwards March 14, 1848, after her father’s death.

A sale bill is also an interesting piece in the puzzle of our ancestors.  Not only does it give the items sold, but it tells who bought each item.  Within you can look for family members, since many times that bought items at the sale.  In Ben F. Keeling’s sale on the 9th day of September, 1854, we find Rebecca Keeling (his wife) and Uriah Keeling (his son) buying many of the items for sale.  Rebecca bought two bureaus, $2.50; a trundle bed, $.75; one clock, $2.00; looking glass, $.70; cupboard, $2.00; cupboard ware, $.50; five tubs, $.25; a tea kettle, $25; one bay mare, Prince, $10.00; and other items.  Uriah Keeling bought a little table, $.75; six books, $1.30; scythe and cradle, $2.55; five sheep, $5.35; etc.  The total amount of the sale was $565.90.  Marion Keeling also made purchases, as well as Samuel R. White, one of my ancestors.  The Keeling’s and White’s intermarried throughout the years.  William Leonard, George Parrish, Benjamin Hardin and Henry H. Prather also made purchases.  These families were in the Willisburg area of Washington County.

As you can see, just a little detective work in the will books can give a wealth of information.  Let me know what gems you have found!