Monday, January 10, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - the Probate File of John Whitney (1621-1692) of Watertown, Massachusetts

Genea-blogger John Newmark (who writes the excellent TransylvanianDutch blog) started a 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 John Whitney (1621-1692) of Watertown, Massachusetts.  He married Ruth Reynolds (1623-1706?) in 1642 and they had children John Whitney (1643-1727); Ruth Whitney (1645-1718); Nathaniel Whitney (1647-1733); Samuel Whitney (1648-1731); Mary Whitney (1650-1693?); Joseph Whitney (1653-1702); Sarah Whitney (1654-1720); Elizabeth Whitney (1656-1712); Hannah Whitney (1658-????); Benjamin Whitney (1660-1736).

The estate papers for John Whitney are in the Middlesex County [Massachusetts] Probate Records, Probate Packet 24,681 (on FHL Microfilm 0,432,081, image copy of original papers).  He left a will, which is very difficult to read in its original form, and which was ruled by the court as imperfect, presumably because of the conflicting bequests, alterations and conditions imposed on the heirs.  The imperfect will reads, in part, as follows (paragraphs separated for readability):

"I John Whitney Senior of Watertown in the County of Middlesex being perfect and sound disposing memory and understanding blessed be god ... to be my last will and testament, I commit my soul unto the hands of the ... god who gave it and my body to the earth.

"1.  I give and bequeath to my wife my dwelling house and barns so long as she remains my widow.  If she marry I give to my  .... 3 ... my ... and ... all my  land and all my  ... and 2 cows and my horse on yoke oxen all my  ... stuff beding and all ... in my house and barns and what mony ... left unsold away:  and she shall have pan.. at ... to her 5 daughters

"2.  I give to my son John Whitney or his son John if he not be living my dwelling house and my 23 acres

"3.  I give to my son Nathanell Whitney half my farme and half my medo in the west half my medo by John  ...  : he shall have lands ... of medow

"4.  I grant to my son Samuel half my farm and medo and half my medo at ye ... and grant him

"5.  I grant to my son Joseph Whitney my land at Stony Brook 14 acres more or less: with all the medo yt is in yt

"6.  I give to my son Bengamin all yt land that I bought of Thomas."

He named his wife and sons John and Benjamin to be his executors.  The last paragraph of the will says
"My will is if any of my sons or son in laws or daughters be quarelsom by going to law or troublesom to the brethren I say they shall lose the share of what I have bequeathed them.  I desire they should live in love to God and one toward anothr." 

John Whitney subscribed to this will in 1690, but it was not signed or sealed by anyone else.

Administration on the estate of John Whitney was granted to his widow Ruth and his sons John and Benjamin on 23 December 1692.  Bond of 500 pounds was obligated by Ruth Whitney relict widow, sons John and Benjamin Whitney, Munning Sawin and Joseph Whitney. 

An inventory, dated 26 October 1692 and accepted 23 November 1692, was taken by Elnathan Beers and Thomas Hammond.  The real property included 18 lots or parcels of land, amounting to about 210 acres, including one lot of 17 acres "purchased of father Arnold."  The real estate was appraised at 197 pounds 15 shillings.

The heirs drew up an agreement which reads:

"Articles of Agreement mutually Concluded & Agreed upon this 12th day of March Anno Dom 1692/3 By Ruth Whitney widow & Relict of John Whitney late of Watertowne Deceased And John Whitney Nathanll Whitney, Samuel Whitney, Joseph Whitney, & Benjamin Whitney Sons of said John Whitney Decd Also Enosh Lawrence, Daniel Herrington & Daniel Warren his sons in law & Mary & Hannah his Daughters unmarried Concerning & referring to ye settlement of the Estate of said John Whitney Deceased are as followeth:

"Imps:  That whereas ye abovesaid John Whitney Deced did leave at his death an imperfect will wherein he hath signified how he would that his estate should be disposed after his death, The persons abovenamed have mutually agreed & concluded that with ye alterations hereafter mentioned the aforesaid will shall be ye rule of the Division of said Estate.

"2  Whereas by said will John Whitney & Benjamin Whitney were enjoined to pay each of them ten pounds in Countrey pay to their five sisters in the space of ten yeares next after their mothers decease they do mutually agree that the same shall be paid in manner abovesaid in ten years from the date of these articles.  And whereas the five daughters of said John Whitney deced were by the said will to enjoy ye profits of ye orchard for five yeares from their mothers decease it is agreed they shall relinquish their claime thereto: In consideration whereof the said John & Benjamin shall each of them pay ten pounds in currant money to ye said five daughters in ten yeares from ye date abovesaid.

"3  Whereas also Nathanol Samuel & Joseph were by said will to pay their five sisters, each of them three, fifty shillings in five yeares after their mothers decease, it is agreed that it be paid to them in five years from ye date as above.

"4  It is also mutually agreed that Nathanael & Samuel shall have all ye meadow that lyes in the farme which did belong to their father John Whitney deced.

"5  Whereas the lands Devided amongst the sons are by said will Entailed, it is agreed that the said Entaile shall be put off or abated, & that ye said lands according as Devided shall be to them, their heirs & assigns for ever.

"6  Whereas by said will Nathanael & Samuel were enjoined to but make & to carry home to their mother each of them a load of hay yearly during her natural life it is mutually agreed that it shall be abated.

"Finally it is agreed that wth the Alterations above mentioned that the Will aforesaid be firme & valid to all intents & purposes whatsoever.

"In Witness to all & singular ye articles abovesaid, the persons abovementioned have herewith put their hands & seales the day & yeare abovementioned."

"Benjamn Whitney         The marke of Ruth Whitney
Phillip Shattuck
John Whitney
Attorney to Enosh  Lawrence

the marke of                  the marke of            Nathanael Whitney
Hannah Whitney           Mary Whitney

Daniel Herington        Joseph Whitney
Sary his wife"

The Court accepted the agreement on 6 May 1695, with a document which stated that they have "received and do acknowledge the receipt of all dues and demands that we have or justly might have right to" and "do hereby quit claiming to any further right in sd Estate from sd John & Benja Whitney Adminisrs."  This was signed by seven heirs (John, Benjamin, Joseph, William Shattuck for Phillip Shattuck, Mary, Hannah and Daniel Herrington) and by three witnesses, Saml Prookin, William Shattuck and Pelatiah Whittemore.  It was signed, sealed and approved by the court on 6 May 1695.

A final inventory and distribution of the estate (amounting to 274 pounds, 12 shillings, 10 pence), was made by the administrators and approved by the court on 27 May 1695.

*  The relict Ruth Whitney received 143 pounds, 14 shillings, 10 pence, including the homestall containing one house, barn and three acres of land, plus other parcels totalling 36 acres, and some of the personal estate.
*  Son John Whitney received, besides what was in remission, land and personal items valued at 22 pounds and 10 shillings,
*  Son Nathaniel Whitney received land valued at 22 pounds and 5 shillings,
*  Son Samuel Whitney received land valued at 22 pounds and 5 shillings,
*  Son Joseph Whitney received land and personal items valued at 22 pounds and 15 shillings,
*  Son Benjamin Whitney received land and husbandry utensils valued at 22 pounds and 10 shillings;
*  Ruth Whitney alias Larrance received 9 pounds and 10 shillings;
*  Mary Whitney received land valued at 10 pounds and 10 shillings;
*  Daniel Herrington and his wife Sarah received 10 pounds and 10 shillings;
*  Daniel Warren and his wife Elizabeth received 10 pounds and 10 shillings;
*  Hanna Whitney received land valued at 10 pounds and 10 shillings.

It was fortunate that the will was "imperfect" - the resulting probate record defines each child and the names of the spouses of the married daughters.

My own ancestral line is through the son, Nathaniel Whitrney (1647-1733). 


Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Thanks for posting this Randy! One less document I need to look for.

lynnandart said...

I am supposed to have a Whitney family that goes back to Watertown but I can't quite come up with a connection to yours. My line is Alonzo Wells Newcomb Whitney, Silas,Silas, Silas, David, Benjamin, Thomas, Thomas, John (& Elinor Bray), Thomas. Any help here?

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