Thursday, July 1, 2010

Parke County Trip, Part 2-The Good News

So I spent my first post on my trip last week (to Parke County, IN) basically talking about the frustrations I found there, and there were a few. This time I can talk about the great stuff I found, primarily in the back room of the Clerk's Office. Besides getting two assignments for the NGS Home Study Course finished while I was working in the Courthouse, I was also able to check out a couple of things for my own personal research. What I found were three complete probate packets. Some areas no longer keep these but Parke County has them going back to about 1833. Two of the ones that I found were for my direct ancestors, William Williamson and Emsley McMasters.

Emsley's packet was pretty standard: it had a page where the two administrators/appraisers signed on, an inventory of his items and their value to make sure that his estate was worth less than $500 (it ended up just under the cut at $488), and because of this, it also had a petition from his wife asking the court to release the estate, including both real and personal property to her. It includes the land description at the bottom which is great because now I can try to match it up to the land description in an entry for Emsley in the 1867 deed book and then try to find it on a map. So that's a little project I can hold on to for next time.

William's packet though, was a little different. For starters, I didn't have an exact date of death for William though I knew that he died probably between 1856 and 1860 so I started with the probate order books first. I found success there when I saw that his estate appointed administrators on May 1, 1858. In the same book, just before William's entry though, were several entries next to the name John Williamson. I had no idea who this person was, he's not one of the other Williamson's living in the county in the 1850 census, so I started looking at the pages with John's estate happenings. As it turned out, a William Williamson was appointed administrator of John Williamson's estate in March 1858 but died the next month, the same as the man I think is my William Williamson. So I pull both John and William's probate packets. John's is first and inside are tons of receipts and IOU's that John incurred prior to his death. Apparently he had tons of debts around town and couldn't pay them all. One of the receipts was this one

This receipt was for Susan Williamson, who was my William's wife which means this was the proof I needed to show that my William and the William that was administrator for John Williamson's estate were the same. It also establishes a relationship between John and William which gets a little more complex once I looked inside William's probate packet. In that one, the petition for the estate was not done by William's widow, Susan, as it was in Emsley's case, but instead it was done by a Conrad Williamson as representative, or "next friend", of Susan. This was a name I recognized from the 1850 census because he and his family lived in the same county and he himself was only a couple years older than William. In this petition he begins by saying he is in fact, "brother of William Williamson". So with these two packets I've now got a relationship between three men, two of whom are confirmed brothers with the third suspected to be either another brother or perhaps a cousin.

For now, I'm thinking John is a brother or cousin, someone of the same generation as William or Conrad, rather than their father because he seems to have been moving around more than someone who was probably in their 70s would have done. He has still not been found anywhere in the 1850 census and he didn't appear as having any land in the deed indexes and books either. His packet didn't have a petition for estate by a widow and he wasn't listed as having any heirs or children either. Keeping in mind his IOUs and receipts that the later administrator (who I'm also tracking to see if there is a relationship there) had to pay that doesn't generally fit the behavior of an elderly man either. But there is still a lot to be done with these two packets.

From two probates, look how much info I've gotten! It was great! I've since found out a little about Conrad too which is nice. He may have lived long enough to have a death certificate in the county which would be wonderful if it turns out that the informant (whether it's a widow or one of his kids) knew the names of his parents, specifically his father. So that's what I'm looking for now. And of course, I'm still on the lookout for John to see if I can get a more concrete hold on how he fit into the family.

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