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!