Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 3, Number 7 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 May 4, 2011
In this article we discuss the Inventories and Settlements associated with Wills. These two small items can provide you clues to further your search.
Also, if you plan to attend The National Genealogical Society meeting next week in Charleston, South Carolina, please come by and see us. I will be there with the Mountain Press books and maps for the area. I just received word today that there are 1,600 registered, so hopefully some of you are planning to come.
If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
James L. Douthat
Inventories and Settlements
When we deal with Probate Records, most of us want the WILL which is the directive of the deceased as to the distribution of his estate. Sometimes this does not exist, and therefore, the county has to step in and decide how the estate will be divided. Either with or without the Will, there is usually an Inventory which lists the entire contents of the estate. This listing was especially prominent during the nineteenth century. This listing of the goods of the deceased will be found in the county records in some form, especially if the county had to appoint an executor for the estate. If the wife is listed as the executrix, there is usually another appointed by the county to help with the listing.
The real value of the Inventory is not the names associated with it, even when there are those to whom they are indebted. These names may or may not have any significance. The most important thing that one gleans from the listing is the relative wealth of the individual or lack thereof. In reading the listing, you get a sense of how the population lived at this time in history. It will amaze us today as to how little it takes to survive at different times in history. I studied a relative in Virginia who died about mid-nineteenth century and the inventory took almost an entire county record book to contain just their listing. It would not surprise us to learn that he owned iron works, stills, and many other operations necessary for the times. Needless to say, he was a wealthy man and his children lived well also. If you have an item that was supposed to have belonged to the individual, and you find it on the inventory, then you can be more proud of the item in hand.
The Settlement is the final distribution of the estate. This item is frequently found in the court records as they are the ones that have to sign off on the distribution. The settlement includes the listing of the sale of the many items found in the estate, with the names of the buyer and the price paid for that item. Frequently, you will find the names of the children, in-laws, and even the wife having to buy back some of her items. Remember that at the early part of the nineteenth century, the wife was considered “chattel” and if there is no Will to give her a portion of the estate, she stands in line with the children for a child’s portion of that estate. It is not uncommon for her to have to purchase her bed and other household items to use for her own care and keeping. She may or may not have a place to live, at which time she has to depend on her children to care for her in her later years.
The real value of the Settlement is not the listing of the items sold or what they brought, but the persons that purchased them. You will have to examine each person mentioned since you may find relatives, neighbors and friends. The children might bid on something they would like to keep, but the common rule was if the wife put a bid down then no one would bid against her. The other names might be her family, they might be “in-laws” and this is important as you might not know for sure some of their relationships. Keeping the Settlement list with you as you research for additional records of the family, you may discover in that list some fact that is a real find.
You may think of the Inventory and Settlement as two items of little value, but when we understand the system of the courts and the day and times, they can be of great help. Happy Hunting!
Special News Report
James Douthat, editor of this column, was honored on Tuesday, May 3rd in Knoxville by the East Tennessee Historical Society. He was given an Award of Distinction for his continuing work in the field of genealogy and history.
Virginia Will Books
Wythe County, VA Will Books 1-2, 1790-1822
85 Pages, 8.5 x 11, Soft Cover, VA-0005, 12.50
Will books of any county usually contain more than just wills and this is certainly true of the Wythe Co. Will Books. There are inventories, wills, settlement and other records that pertain to the last will and testimony of any person. These are abstracted and the names of everyone listed is given in the text with the necessary dates. Click here for examples and Surnames.
Botetourt County, VA Will Books A: 1770 to 1801
72 Pages, 8.5 x 11, Soft Cover, VA-0243, 16.00
This volume contains wills, inventories, appraisals, and estate settlements for Botetourt County, Virginia from 1770-1801. Each will entry contains name of deceased, page number, date, spouse's name, executor/executrix, names of witnesses, and date recorded. Once the page number of a will is known, Botetourt County Vital Records can provide photocopies of the complete will for a small fee. Click for here for examples and Surnames.
Tennessee Will Books
Sequatchie County, VA Wills and Inventories 1858-1895
316 Pages, 8.5 x 11, Soft Cover, TN-1295, 40.00
Sequatchie Valley is a valley that cuts the Cumberland Plateau into Walden’s Ridge and the Plateau in southeastern Tennessee. This eighty plus mile valley is the separation line between middle and east Tennessee in this section of the state. This volume of wills and inventories covers the early wills and records for the county and is in full text. Click here for examples and Surnames.
Washington County, VA Inventories of Estates Volume 00 1779-1821
517 Pages, 8.5 x 11, Soft Cover, TN-1159, 75.00
Washington County, the oldest county in what is now Tennessee, was established first as a District in North Carolina prior to 1796 when Tennessee became a state. These inventories of estates are basically a listing of the contents of the estates of the deceased. The inventories were required to settle those estates and only a portion of these goods were given to the widow and frequently she had to purchase much of her own household goods in order to live. Click here for examples and Surnames.
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