f you have ancestors who lived in Essex County, Massachusetts, you need to check out the free online books at archive.org:
- The Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts, Volume I (1635-1664)
- The Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts, Volume II (1665-1674)
- The Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts, Volume III (1675-1681)
These books contain copies of wills followed by abstracts of all documents regarding the settlement of the estate. If you find an ancestor’s will, you will no doubt learn a great deal about that person and his family. In some cases, there are will contests, which are especially illuminating. Words are spelled exactly as they were in the original document.
In Volume II, I found the will of the Estate of Joseph Redding of Ipswich. (4) Joseph was my 10th great grandfather. He is married to AGNES ANNIS, my 10th great grandmother. Joseph gave his whole estate to Agnes. After Agnes’ demise, he instructed that the estate go to the children of his daughter Hunt. By Hunt I believe he is referring to his daughter ELIZABETH REDDING, my 9th great grandmother, who married Samuel Hunt. Joseph’s wife Agnes was appointed Executrix and, if she was deceased, his daughter Elizabeth was appointed Executrix. Inventory of the property is listed.
Of the legatees discussed in the will (children of Elizabeth Redding and Samuel Hunt), four lived to age: Samuel, William, Joseph and Elizabeth. The estate was divided by four.
There is a complaint in this probate file from Francis Palmer, husband of Elizabeth Hunt (my 8th great grand aunt), as to why he was left out of his share of the estate.
Through further research elsewhere, I read that perhaps Joseph Redding did not trust his son-in-law’s judgment because he had to bail him out frequently. (6)
This probate record was fascinating, and I learned quite a bit about the family. It is unusual in that normally at that time the males were given authority over probate matters.
Essex County, Massachusetts was settled in 1628. Here are some of the towns within this county: Amesbury, Andover, Beverly, Boxford, Bradford/Groveland, Danvers, Essex, Georgetown, Gloucester, Hamilton, Haverhill, Ipswich, Lawrence, Lynn, Lynnfield, Manchester, Marblehead, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, Nahant, Newbury, Newburyport, North Andover, Peabody, Rockport, Rowley, Salem, Salisbury, Saugus, Topsfield, Wenham and West Newbury. (7)
The Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts is just one more free resource that we are fortunate enough to have available to us in our search to locate and understand our ancestors.
Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electrronic Clip Art, 1200 Ornamental Letters, 2007.
Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, Old-Fashioned Silhouettes, 2001.
(1) The Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts, volume I, 1635-1664, Essex Institute, Salem, Massachusetts, 1916 (http://archive.org/details/probaterecordsof01mass: accessed January 5, 2013).
(2) The Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts, volume II, 1665-1674, Essex Institute, Salem, Massachusetts, 1917 (http://archive.org/details/probaterecordsof02mass: accessed January 5, 2013).
(3) The Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts, volume III, 1675-1681, Essex Institute, Salem, Massachusetts, 1920 (http://archive.org/details/probaterecordse00dowgoog: accessed January 5, 2013).
(4) Op cit., Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts, Vol. II, Estate of Joseph Redding of Ipswich, pp. 426-429.
(5) Ibid., p. 427.
(6) Miner Descent , Robert Hunt, post April 18, 2012 (http://minerdescent.com/2012/04/18/robert-hunt: accessed January 5, 2013).
(7) Essex County MA Gen Web, Essex County Massachusetts Genealogy Project, Last updated 16 November, 2011 (http://essexcountyma.net/towns.htm: accessed January 5, 2013).