Monday, May 31, 2010

Amanuensis Monday - the Probate of Benjamin Seaver's (1757-1816) Estate

Genea-blogger John Newmark (who writes the excellent TransylvanianDutch blog) started his own Monday blog theme many months ago called Amanuensis Monday. What does "amanuensis" mean? John offers this definition:

"A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another."

My subject today is the probate records of Benjamin Seaver (1757-1816) of Westminster, worcester County, Massachusetts. He married Martha Whitney (1764-1832), daughter of Samuel and Abigail (Fletcher) Whitney. The paragraphs below are narratives, not transcriptions, based on extractions from the Probate Packet for Benjamin Seaver.

The estate of Benjamin Seaver is in Worcester County Probate Records, Probate Packet 52,865. His widow, Martha, was appointed administratrix on 16 July 1816 (Worcester County (MA) Probate Records, 202.253, LDS Microfilm 0,860,638). Bond for $1,000 was granted to William Penniman and Merari Spaulding, sureties on the same date (Worcester County (MA) Probate Records, 172:259, LDS Microfilm 0,860,624). A warrant of appraisal was also provided on that date (Worcester County Probate Records, 622.524).

On 1 October 1816, the inventory was appraised to be Real estate $4,626, and personal property of $1,082.78 (Worcester County (MA) Probate Records, 47:197, entry for Benjamin Seaver, FHL Microfilm 0,856,326). The inventory of the real estate included:

* the Home farm of 194 acres 38 rods ................ $ 2,321
* the Stearns farm of 86 acres and 75 rods .......... $ 1,515
* the Willington pasture of 63 acres 22 rods ......... $ 660
* the Hubbardston lot of 26 acres and 56 rods ...... $ 100
* the Pew in meeting house .................................... $ 30

A petition for partition of the estate was received on 9 April 1817. A warrant was issued to William Penniman, Merari Spaulding and Horatio G. Buttrick, who filed their report, which was allowed on May 22, 1817 (Worcester County (MA) Probate Records 48:493, entry for Benjamin Seaver, FHL Microfilm 0,856,327). The real estate was apprised at $4,560, and partitioned 1/3 to the widow ($1,520), and 1/10 shares to each child ($304) of the remaining 2/3, divided as follows:

* Widow Martha Sever received 72 acres of the Stearns lot, 26 acres of the Willington pasture, plus portions of the home lot for her use for a year, and the meeting house pew.


* Eldest son Job Sever received the remaining 13 acres of the Stearns farm, the Hubbardston lot, and he paying to his sisters Achsah Mosman $15 and Susannah Seaver $40.

* Son Benjamin Sever and daughter Abigail Fairbanks received 51 acres and 132 rods of the home farm, and equally paying the minor children $28 each.


* Daughter Achsah Mosman received 38 acres of the home farm plus $15 from Job Sever.

* Daughter Susannah Sever received 34 acres and 134 rods of the Willington pasture plus $40 from Job Sever.


* Minor children Martha, Silas, Isaac, Rozilla and Mary Jane Sever received 104 acres of the home farm with all the buildings thereon, and to receive from brother Benjamin Seaver and Jabez Fairbank $14 each.

The partition was agreed to and signed by Martha Seaver, Job Seaver, Benjamin Seaver, Achsah Mosman, Jabez Fairbank, Susanna Sever and Heman Ray (as guardian of Martha, Silas, Isaac, Rozilla and Mary Jane Sever) (Worcester County (MA) Probate Records, 48:493, FHL Microfilm 0,856,327).


Martha Seaver filed her account on 2 December 1817 with a balance of $43.26, which was allowed and awarded to her on 6 January 1818 (Worcester County (MA) Probate Records, 49:265, FHL Microfilm 0,856,327).

Heman Ray of Westminster was appointed guardian of children Martha, Silas, Isaac, Rozilla, and Mary Jane Sever. Heman Ray sold at auction the land in Westminster which was the minor children's portion to be used to secure the children for their benefit. Ethan Sever of Gardner was the highest bidder, but he refused to take the deed and give security. Heman Ray bargained with Benjamin Seaver, brother of the children, who agreed to buy the land for $1,480 on 14 January 1818 (Worcester County (MA) Deeds 246:50, recorded 5 July 1825, FHL Microfilm 0,845,760). A similar bargain was struck for $32 for the one and a half acre parcel purchased by Benjamin Seaver from Josiah Kendall, with Samuel Whitney being the highest bidder and refusing to take the deed and give security, dated 14 January 1818 (Worcester County (MA) Deeds 246:48, recorded 5 July 1825, FHL Microfilm 0,845,760).

There are several interesting items in this probate packet. First, you can see that the widow was allotted her one third of the real estate but had a portion of the "home lot" for her own use for only one year. Since the minor children received a significant portion of the home lot, my assumption is that Martha continued to reside there with her son Benjamin Seaver and his family and all of the minor children.

Second, the distribution included a series of money transactions in order to make the distribution to each child equal.

Third, Heman Ray, as guardian of the minor children, sold at auction their portion of the home lot to Ethan Sever, who refused to take the deed or give security. I'm confused by this. I think it may be a transaction with a person not part of the probate process (but a brother to the deceased Benjamin Seaver, and an uncle of the children) so as to establish a value of the property on the open market. Heman Ray then bargained with son Benjamin Seaver to purchase the minor children's portion of the home lot. The same thing happened with the small lot purchased from Josiah Kendall (which was not in the real estate inventory list) - the Samuel Whitney was probably a nephew of widow Martha (Whitney) Seaver.

When analyzing a probate packet such as this, with several land parcels being divided up, it is helpful to have the land records available. The genealogist cannot completely understand the probate records without also having the land records available in summary form. I have many land records for Benjamin Seaver and his children, but there are still some "missing" records - such as what happened to the portions of the Benjamin Seaver home lot that was distributed to Abigail (Seaver) Fairbank and Achsah (Seaver) Mosman? They may have retained their interest in the home lot, and perhaps lived there.

Read Amanuensis Monday - the Will of Martha Seaver (1764-1832) to see what happened to the widow's portion of the estate.

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