Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday’s Tip

Analyzing an Ancestor’s Will

Recently I found a will for direct line ancestor Caspar Kuhn (Coon) on Ancestry. I knew Caspar had left a will because it was referenced in Gwendolyn Pryor’s book about the Kuhn families, The Swiss Connection, and she had put a copy in her book; however, it was difficult to read and copy. A trip to South Carolina was out of the question so I have kept an “eye open” for the probate records and wills to be placed online. Ancestry has placed probate records online and not only have I found Caspar’s but other ancestor’s wills. I will add also, that this author does not get any compensation from Ancestry.

Caspar began by stating his name and where he was from, and reassuring those who will read his will that he is weak in his body but he is of sound mind and has perfect understanding and memory of what he was doing. He states this to be his last will and testament, that he desires it to be received by all, as his last will and testament. He gives his whole estate to his wife Maryan during her life. His son Adam is to care for it, “thereof”, during Maryan’s life. Maryan is his third wife, and the mother of his three sons Adam, Conrad, and Lewis.

After the death of Maryan, Adam, his son will receive two hundred acres of land with the house and the comadities that go with it forever. He states this is the house he is living in at that time. Comadities are probably products and goods from working the land or other sources. He then names the Negros and who will get them. Adam gets the Negro man Peter.

Caspar names his son Conrad in the will and he gives him a female (wench) Fanny, two males Prince and a young boy Will. A wench is a girl or young woman. Possibly Prince and Fanny were young adults with the young son Will. Caspar then names his son Lewis a male Negro named Joe and a boy named Ceasar. This is the Ceasar that supposedly went with the family to Woodville, Mississippi when they migrated in 1811.

His daughter Margaret is named in the will. I know from previous research that Margaret is his daughter by his first wife, Anna Magdalena Mejer who died not long after they arrived in the colonies. She left behind Caspar Kuhn, Jr. and Margaret. Anna, the infant daughter, died before they came to the colonies. Caspar gives Margaret the Negro female (wench) Sarah and a young girl Susy. He has a granddaughter Elizabeth Coon, and gives Elizabeth the Negro boy named Ned. Elizabeth is probably the daughter of Caspar Jr. Caspar Jr. was deceased however, was not mentioned in the will.

I find it interesting that Caspar didn’t name his Negros as slaves. I believe from researching this Kuhn family, the Negros were considered family.

As I have researched the Caspar Kuhn families it seems that Caspar was a man of great wealth, educated and religious. He was one of the founders of a Lutheran Church during his lifetime. He gives his two sons Conrad and Lewis two hundred acres of land. He has already mentioned giving Maryan and Adam two hundred acres of land. He is specific about the land and the location, the land lying on Bull Swamp.

“The best of my estate,” he states. What does that mean? Does that mean the that he saved the best for last? Or the remainder of his estate? Whatever the meaning, the estate will be equally divided among his children Adam, Conrad, Lewis, Margaret, and granddaughter Elizabeth Coon.

His three sons are then named as executors of his last will and testament. He names his sons in order of birth. I know from researching Caspar Kuhn that this is the order of birth of his sons. Caspar’s will had several nuggets of information named in it. He named a wife, three of his sons, his daughter and a granddaughter; he stated the place he lived; and he named Negros in the will which is vital information for others in researching African American ancestors. Even though Caspar didn’t mention his religious affiliation I know from previous research that he was of the Lutheran faith. Caspar’s will was short and to the point of who gets what after his death. Caspar wrote his will specifically naming each person and what each person was to receive after his death. There was no doubt as to who was to receive what after his death and who the administrators were of his estate.

Careful analysis of a will is important to family history researchers because these documents can provide information that help in putting together a family unit. This will helped in proving previous research that I had done on this family.

Over the last fifteen years as I have researched I have learned there are limitations to the information that may or may not be found in wills. Wills can be one of the most accurate sources of genealogical evidence if they have the right information in them. However, keep in mind there are limitations in some wills. Remember those limitations as you search for a will of your ancestor.

What is very frustrating is when family members’ names are omitted in a will. I have come across an ancestor’s will that didn’t name the wife or children. There may not be names of the wives or children in the will. Keep in mind the wife mentioned in the will may not be the mother of the children named. A child may not be mentioned in the will because he has received his share of the inheritance. If you have a marriage record of the couple, you may use that to verify if the wife named is the mother of the children.

Your ancestor might not have left a will. Caspar is the only Kuhn/Coon ancestor that I have found who left a will. The death date is usually not given in a will, but you can estimate a death date. The location or residence of your ancestor may not be named in the will. Your ancestor my not mention a deceased child as Caspar did in his will. His son Caspar Jr. was deceased but he didn’t mention him; however, he named Caspar Jr.’s daughter Elizabeth. I knew about son Caspar Kuhn, Jr. from previous research on this family. If my memory is correct Caspar Jr died when he was an adult between 14 April and by 1887. His estate was taxed in 1887. More research needed for Margaret and Caspar Jr.

Another limitation you may find is there may be a no punctuation in the will. Remember the time period and education of individuals during that era. In Caspar’s will he named his wife Maryan; however, I have seen it listed as Mary Ann in the records. Usually the maiden name of the wife isn’t stated in the will. Take careful notice to the witnesses of the will though, there could be a family member who is a witness to the will or an executor of the will. Fortunately, in Caspar’s will the relationships were stated, however, that isn’t always the case. Relationships may not be stated in a will or relationships may be misleading.

Lastly, one limitation to keep in mind is there are no every name indexes for the persons named in the will. Write down those names listed in the will, where you found them, and keep them for future research.  

Caspar Kuhn (Coon) left a will and I am thankful for him taking the time in his time of weakness to write his will. He probably never thought that a descendant of his would be using his will to prove his/her ancestry.

U.S., Revolutionary War Pensioners, 1801-1815, 1818-1872 
for Adam Coon T718: 1818 - 1872 18: Widow Pensions, 
1835-1850. Adam Kuhn, son of Caspar,  widow Mary is listed on this form. 
Image from Ancestry.com. U.S., Revolutionary War Pensioners,  database.

No comments:

Post a Comment