Monday, October 4, 2010

Amanuensis Monday - Probate Papers of Jonathan Keyes (1722-1781)

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."

The subject today is the probate file of Jonathan Keyes (1722-1781) of Westford, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, one of my 5th great-grandfathers.

Jonathan Keyes died testate, and his extensive probate papers are in Middlesex County Probate Records, Packet #13,192 (accessed on FHL Microfilm 0,416,784). He wrote his last will and testament on 21 July 1777.  I posted the transcript of the will and related papers last week in Amanuensis Monday - Will of Jonathan Keyes (1722-1781).

Here is the transcription or summary of the rest of the probate file:
On 19 September 1781, the Judge of the Probate Court ordered that the will be set aside and declared it null and void, and that the estate be settled in every respect according to law as an intestate estate, as if the will had not been written.

Timothy Prescott was appointed Administrator of the estate of Jonathan Keyes, late of Westford, yeoman on 19 September 1781. Timothy Prescott, yeoman of Westford as principal, Nathaniel Boyneton, gentleman of Westford, Joseph Keyes, clothier of Westford, posted bond of 50,000 pounds.

Nathaniel Boynton, Thomas Read and Timothy Spaulding, gentlemen of Westford, were appointed and empowered to take an inventory on 19 September 1781 of the estate of Jonathan Keyes, late of Westford.

In a separate document, these three were also named to be the Commissioners to divide the estate according to the heirs agreement and the Court's order.

An extensive inventory of the estate of Jonathan Keyes, late of Westford, was taken by Nathaniel Boynton, Thomas Read and Timothy Spaulding on 1 October 1781. The personal estate was apprized to be 147 pounds, 13 shillings, 3 pence. The real estate was appraised on 5 October 1781 by the three appraisers. The real estate inventory totalled 797 pounds, and included:

* 85 acres of mowing, pasturing, orcharding, tillage and wood land lying in the northerly part of Westford at Long Sortfor (so-called), with a dwelling house and barn (306 pounds)
* 2 acres of pine land lying on Barns. Plains (12 pounds)
* 2-1/2 acres of wood land at Burgn Swamp (2 pounds)
* 2-1/2 acres of wood land on Flushing Hill (2 pounds, 10 shillings)
* 20 acres of wood land lying by Flushing Pond (20 pounds)
* 12 acres of tillage land on north side of Nabemist Pond (15 pounds)
* 10 acres of wood land called Butterfield lot lying near Dunstable Line (6 pounds, 10 shillings)
* Farm lying on Francis Hill by Chelmsford line, with dwelling house (63 pounds), barn (10 pounds), cider mill (4 pounds) and corn house (6 pounds)
* 12 acres of orchard, pasturing, tillage and wood land on south side of the town road to Chelmsford (59 pounds, 10 shillings)
* 10 acres of mowing, orchard and tillage land on north side of the town road to Chelmsford (75 pounds)
* 2 acres of mowing land by the east end of the dwelling house (14 pounds)
* 4 acres of pasture land (called Hill pasture) on the south side of the road and west of Chelmsford line (20 pounds)
* 3-1/2 acres of pasture land (called Gideon pasture) north of Hill pasture (14 pounds)
* 5 acres of mowing land adjoining Gideon pasture (30 pounds)
* 2-1/2 acres of pasture and orchard adjoining Richardson's land (15 pounds)
* 2 acres of pasture on west side of road leading to Chandlers Mill (9 pounds)
* 2 acres of mowing land (called the Gate Pine) adjoining Richardson's land (12 pounds)
* 1-1/2 acres of mowing, tillage and orchard land (called Robbin pine) (10 pounds, 10 shillings)
* 3 acres of pasture land (called Chandler's pasture) (21 pounds)
* 1 acre of orchard land (called Wheat pine) lying near the back side of the dwelling house (7 pounds, 10 shillings)
* 4 acres of pasture land near the barn and the lane to Chandler's Mill (16 pounds, 10 shillings)
* 6 acres of tillage land lying west of the farm near Nehemiah Fletcher's land (36 pounds)
* Pew in the meeting house (10 pounds)

The commissioners then set off some of the land parcels to Betty Keyes, with a value of 265 pounds, 13 shillings, 4 pence. This land included one half of the Francis Hill farm, barn, cider mill and corn house, one third of the meeting house pew, and several other land parcels.

Another inventory of the remaining real estate was made on 19 February 1782. This totalled 521 pounds, 3 shillings, 4 pence. The Commissioners then set off the "Long Sought For" property and two small parcels (appraised at 315 pounds, 10 shillings) to the eldest son, Joseph Keys. Jonathan Keyes received the other half of the Francis Hill property and several other pieces (apprised at 295 pounds, 13 shillings, 4 pence). Joseph Keyes indicated that he had received the sum of 148 pounds during his father's lifetime, Zechariah Hildreth said he had received 30 pounds from his father-in-law, and Joanna Keyes said she had received 4 pounds. This was recorded by the Court on 13 March 1782.

Each portion of the remaining real estate was valued at 63 pounds, 18 shillings, 5-9/11 pence (1/11th of 521 pounds, 3 shillings, 4 pence). Since Joseph and Jonathan Keyes received amounts greater than their agreed shares, Joseph Keyes was ordered to pay 33 pounds, 18 shillings, 5-9/11 pence to Elizabeth Hildreth; 59 pounds, 18 shillings, 5-9/11 pence to Joanna Adams; 63 pounds, 18 shillings, 5-9/11 pence to his sisters Hannah, Lydia and Lucy Keyes; and 50 pounds, 7-3/11 pence to Miriam Keyes. Jonathan Keyes was ordered to pay 63 pounds, 18 shillings, 5-9/11 pence to his sisters Patty and Frances Grant Keyes; and 13 pounds, 17 shillings, 10-6/11 pence to his sister Miriam Keyes. This was approved by the Court on 14 March 1782.

The Administrator of the estate made an Account dated 14 April 1785, listing the account balance of 147 pounds, 13 shillings, 3 pence. The debts owed to Jonathan Keyes were 84 pounds, 4 shillings. The Administrators charges, fees and debts owed by Jonathan Keyes were listed. The balance remaining in the Administrators hands was 170 pounds, 15 shillings, 5 pence. The heirs (Joseph Keyes, Jonathan Keyes, Isaac Patten, and Timothy Adams) approved of the account on 16 May 1785, and recommended that the remainder be given to their honoured mother. This account was accepted by the Court on 18 May 1785.

Additional administrator's efforts resulted in a balance in his hands of 207 pounds on 20 September 1785, which was accepted by the Court.

In two separate Probate Packets (#13,193 and 13,194), Zaccheus Wright was allowed to be Guardian to the two children under age 14 (Patty and Frances Grant Keyes), and the four children over age 14 (Jonathan, Lydia, Lucy and Miriam Keyes) selected Zaccheus Wright to be their guardian.

There are so many details in the discarded will and the probate proceedings that it is difficult to summarize this probate file.  The will was very complicated and was judged to be unable to be fulfilled, so it was set aside with the approval of all of the heirs.  The heirs agreed to split up the property between the widow and the two living sons.  The rest of the children, from Jonathan Keyes two marriages, received money from the two sons who received the property.  The real value of all of these probate papers is that they name the living children, and the husbands of the married daughters.

The widow, "Betty" - Elizabeth (Hartwell) (Read) Keyes - married again on 15 October 1782 to Pelatiah Fletcher.  This Pelatiah Fletcher is probably the one who had married Dorothy Hildreth (who died 14 June 1782 in Westford) in 1757, and was the father of the Pelatiah Fletcher who married Patty Keyes in 1785, daughter of Jonathan and his second wife, Elizabeth (Hartwell) (Read) Keyes. 

Who was Zaccheus Wright, who became the guardian of the six minor children?   Was he a relative of Jonathan Keyes or Elizabeth Hartwell?  He may have been an uncle or close cousin of one of them, and lived in the area.  It is possible that the minor children did not live with him, but were only represented by him in the probate proceedings.  Their mother survived until 1826 and the children may have lived with her until they married and left home.

In these types of probate cases, if the widow remarries, the real property usually reverts to the children.  Betty received one half of the Francis Hill property.  Was there another probate record or land record that directed the transfer of the real property to the children?  There may be a probate record for Pelatiah Fletcher and/or Betty (Hartwell) (Read) (Keyes) Fletcher.

It is apparent that the older children of Jonathan Keyes loved and respected Betty - they agreed on the real property after Jonathan's death, and they gave her the remaining money in the administrator's account in 1785.

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