Showing posts with label wills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wills. Show all posts

Monday, December 14, 2009

Finding Answers Brick by Brick

Does your tree have "issues?" You know, those bits of information that seem correct, but you just can't shake that funny feeling that something is wrong? I have a few of those, too.

Below is the 1850 census (family 454 in Pope County, Arkansas, page 66 on It shows my great-great-great grandfather, John Laurens Williamson, his second wife, his four kids with his first wife, and a fifth child with his second wife. At least that's the assumption that everyone makes. I have documentation on everyone except Horatio. This is the only record I've found of his existence.

Now I've done a lot of work on the Williamsons of Pope County. I know almost all of them. Did Horatio die young? Did he skip town before the 1860 census? What bugged me about this record was that no relationship information is given for these people. Are we sure these eldest four children are full siblings?

I finally decided to try to locate a will for John Laurens Williamson and see if any of these children are named as heirs or in some other capacity. I ordered microfilm from the Family History Library and had it delivered to my local Family History Center. I searched the microfilm, but found no will for my subject. I found references to the will, small notations and notes about guardians, but no will.

The index was useless, so I just started going though the filmed books page by handwritten page. I found nothing after the date of John's death.

Since I had the film anyway, I just started searching through it from the beginning, including the time before John L. Williamson's death. There were so many Williamsons in that county...maybe I'd find something else of interest.

Then suddenly, the name Williamson popped out at me from page 92 of book E of microfilm 1034018:

It said in part "On this day comes John L Williamson and files his petition in which he states that he is the father of John S, Horatio B, Sally J, and James L Williamson..."

Apparently another Williamson died in Davidson County, Tennessee. These four children were heirs and John was requesting guardianship of their interests. I found the information I was looking for, but it wasn't in John L. Williamson's will.

So now I know these four are John's children. I have two records showing Horatio's existence and now I can add him and his siblings to the tree. I still don't know what happened to Horatio, but he has a timeline now.

Sometimes the answers aren't were you expect to find them. It's worth it to go page by page. This may have been tiny brick in a huge wall of questions, but it is a brick and I have more answers than I did yesterday.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Don't Forget the Spinster Aunt

I'm looking for the will of my great-great-great grandfather, John Laurens Williamson. I've rented several films from the Family History Library in my search. So far, I haven't found it, but there are plenty of records I still need to inspect.

What I did find was a will for Bettie Williamson (1856-1908). She was the fourth child of John Williamson and Susan Quesenberry. Bettie never married, which may lead some to think her will wouldn't be historically valuable to my needs. Not so.

Here's a little lesson: don't forget the spinster aunt. With no husband or children to whom she can bequeath her estate, the names she does mention may give hint to the overall family dynamic.

Below are some of the tidbits I pulled from the will of my spinster aunt:

1. The married name of Bettie's only surviving sister is (Kate) Wharton.

2. Bettie has an interest in the "Carden estate in Yell County near Dardanelle." Hmmm....Carden is the married name of Bettie's deceased sister Julia. Could there be a connection? Now I have a location and new county to search regarding this Carden estate. I also need to look for a will for Julia Williamson Carden in Yell County to try and figure out why Bettie is connected to this estate.

3. Three different family members borrowed money from Bettie and she's acknowledged their names debts in this document. One is her brother (my great-great grandfather) and the other two are Whartons (possibly nephews). More names to investigate on my part.

4. The names of both of Bettie's brothers are given.

5. Bettie leaves much to her niece Thula. I happen to know Thula lost her mother 10 days after birth, and Bettie played a big role in the girl's life. The language and amount left to Thula (age 14 at Bettie's death) indicates the strength of the bond between aunt and niece.

6. Bettie left her estate to the women in her life: her sister and motherless niece. Bettie's brothers are mentioned affectionately--indicating a positive relationship--but they only inherit if Thula and any future offspring should pass on.

7. At the time of Bettie's death, Thula was living in Duncan, Stephens County, Oklahoma. Correspondence between the county clerks of Stephens, OK and Pope, AR confirms that. I already knew this, but had I not, Bettie's will would have opened new doors for family research in a whole other state. My next step will be to do some research on the Oklahoma end and see what I can learn about Thula's inheritance.

I hope I'll find the will of my third great grandfather, but if I don't, the wills of peripheral relatives may assist in adding pieces to the family puzzle. Never forget the spinster aunt. She may surprise you.

[Note: This document can be found in the Family History Library film number 1034017: ARKANSAS: Pope County. Index to Wills. Pope County (Arkansas) Courthouse, Volume B, pages 377-380. I have digital images and a transcription of this document, which I will share upon request. Email me at the address provided in the right column of this blog.]

Monday, October 5, 2009

Another Rung on the ProGen Ladder

Today was monthly chat day for my Pro Gen 3 peer group. On the first Monday of each month, we get together in a closed chat room and talk about the assignment we worked on for the month.

September's assignment was on the transcribing (fancy genealogy talk for copying something word-for-word) and abstracting (fancy genealogy talk for copying only certain important parts) of wills. I don't have a lot of experience in these areas. I do transcribe documents when necessary, especially for this blog. Abstracting, though, I just don't do unless asked to for an assignment. I prefer the whole document, and am too afraid I'll leave out something important.

My assignment turned out ok. I transcribed the will of my great-great-great grandfather, Alexander Lenertz.** The handwriting on this document is easy easy easy to read, so transcribing was a breeze. Peer feedback on my abstract for the most part was pretty good, but it's clear this task wasn't my most shining moment in genealogy to date.

In chat, while everyone else talked about the different ways they abstracted wills, the symbols the used, etc., I just sat there. Since I don't have a big ol' client base that demands this service, and since I just make photocopies/scans of handwritten wills, I didn't have a lot to add to the conversation. I kind of felt like a doofus. Oh well, next month I'll have more to say.

Why am I telling you this? Because I know there is at least one blog reader out there that would love to advance his/her genealogy education (through ProGen, the NGS course, institutes, etc), but is worried that he or she doesn't know enough. My answer is this: you know plenty. And what you don't know, you'll learn through the process.

In ProGen, nobody fails. Everyone in the group moves together. Nobody gets left behind. This was my month to learn while others led the way. Another time, I'll do the leading. To the person(s) that are on the fence about your qualifications for ProGen--or any other genealogy education opportunity, your times to shine and learn will come as well. You just need to take the first step and sign up.

[**I have digital images of the will of Alexander Lenertz. Family members / descendants who want a copy, just email me and I'll get it to you.]

Friday, March 6, 2009

Share and Share Alike: The Will of Alexander Lenertz

Below is the will of Alexander Lenertz (d. 1879). It can be accessed or copied from the Blue Earth County Historical Society, file #588.

In the name of God, amen. Alexander Lenertz, of the city of Mankato, in the County of Blue Earth, + State of Minnesota, of the age 51 years, being of sound mind + memory + considering the uncertainty of this frail + transitory life, do therefore make, ordain, publish + declare, this to be my last will + testament: That is to say, first, after all my lawful debts are paid + discharged, the residue of my estate, real + personal, I give, bequeath, devise + dispose of as follows, to wit:

First, to my daughter Catharine I give + bequeath five dollars.

Second, to my beloved wife Margaret Lenertz, I give, bequeath + devise all the residue of my estate, both real + personal, to have to her use during the time of her natural life, + after her death the same to be divided between my children, John, Michael, Joseph, Alexander, William, Henry, Frank, Mary + Margaret equally, share + share alike; provided however, if my said wife shall marry after my decease, then + in that case, she shall have only such share of my said estate as is or shall at the time of my death be allowed to her by the laws of this State, + the balance shall then, at the time of her marriage, be divided between my said children, John, Michael, Joseph, Alexander, William, Henry, Frank, Mary + Margaret, share + share alike.

Likewise I make, constitute and appoint my wife Margaret Lenertz sole executrix of this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me made.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto subscribed my name + affixed my seal the 23d day of September in the year of our lord, one thousand eight hundred + seventy eight –

Alexander Lenertz (seal)

The above written instrument was subscribed by the said Alexander Lenertz in our presence + acknowledged by him to each of us: and he at the same time published + declared the above instrument so subscribed to be his last will + testament; and we at the testators request, + in his presence, have signed our names as witnesses hereto, and written opposite our names our respective places of residence.

Qui-inus [Quivinus? Or Quirinus?] Leonard, of the city of Mankato
County of Blue Earth, State of Minnesota
Henry Willesheim, of the city of Mankato
County of Blue Earth, State of

Filed Sept 9th 1879
J. E. Porter
Probate Judge

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Lenertz Cup Runneth Over

This past weekend I had TWO different people contact me about the Lenertz line. I still can't believe it. I've been emailing strangers for months, asking for Lenertz information while trying not to appear stalkerish. This effort had a zero percent success rate.

Then Saturday I wake up to an email from someone connected to Michael Lenertz. Woo hoo! That's John's brother. John is my great-great grandfather.

I still wasn't finished being giddy about the email when on Sunday another person contacted me. He says he has information on Alexander's eldest daughter, which--if it's who I think it is--is great because I have almost no information on her. She would be John's sister.

The Sunday email also provided a bit of a surprise: Alexander's wife Margaret may be two people. He married two women named Margaret. The first Margaret died and he took the second one pretty quickly. On census records, you can't even tell there was a wife change. The few documents I have tend to support this two-Margaret theory, but I didn't notice it until the possibility was pointed out by my new friend.

Now I have correspondence with two other people interested in the Lenertz name. This is so great. if this wasn't enough...I received Alexander Lenertz's will in the mail yesterday. It is very easy to read. I will transcribe it here shortly. The information contained within also supports the two Margarets theory. I am also thrilled to have this document because it lists John as being a child of Alexander. Since John doesn't have a death certificate, the only other records I have are census page copies of John being in the family. Next stop, an attempt to locate church records for the Alexander Lenertz family.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Adequate Will Hunting

Did you see what I did there? (Points to the title)

I ventured to the web site for the Blue Earth County Historical Society the other day. In their search box, I entered the name "Lenertz," like I do with every search box on every genealogy/records web site. Normally, I get a "no results found" during this practice.

However, at BECHS, I got results! This is a good thing because my Lenertz line was all over Blue Earth County once upon a time.

One of the search items was a will for Alexander Lenertz. Hmmm...could that be my great-great-great grandfather? The 1879 date on the will sounds promising because that's the year he died.

I emailed the society and got a quote for the cost of recieving a copy of document. $13.00 and a request are on their way to Blue Earth County Historical Society this very day.

My Lenertz line is so difficult. I've yet to find anyone searching the same line as vigorously as I am. I feel like to lone U.S. Lenertz historian. I don't want to put any hopes on this record, but I could really use a breakthrough here.

I'll let you know how it goes...