Monday, April 11, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - Probate Records of Samuel Whitney (1719-1782) of Westminster, MA

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 intestate probate packet of Samuel Whitney (1719-1782), who died in Westminster, Worcester County, Massachusetts.  He married Abigail Fletcher (1720-????), daughter of John and Mary (Goble) Fletcher, in 1741, and they had 13 children:  Abigail Whitney (1742-????); Mary Whitney (1744-????); Samuel whitney (1746-1812); Abner Whitney (1748-1811); Achsah Whitney (1750-1772); Silas Whitney (1752-1798); Martha Whitney (1755-1755); Elisha Whitney (1757-1810); Alpheus Whitney (1759-1821); Phinehas Whitney (1761-1832); Hananiah Whitney (1762-1835); Martha Whitney (1764-1832); Susannah Whitney (1767-????).

Samuel Whitney died intestate; his probate records are in Worcester County [Massachusetts] Probate Records, Probate Packet 65,123 (viewed at Worcester County Courthouse).  His widow, Abigail, was appointed administratrix of his estate on 21 February 1783, with bond in the amount of 800 pounds.

An inventory was taken by Abner Holden, Nathan Howard and Thomas Stearns, all of Westminster, on 20 May 1783;  the inventory of the personal estate amounted to 83 pounds, 14 shillings and 11 pence; there was no real estate listed.

It is apparent that he gave or sold his land holdings to his children before his death, since the estate had such a small value.  Abigail's account was allowed 20 May 1783, with a balance of over 35 pounds. This was ordered distributed, after certain debts were paid, to the children.  On 15 June 1785, the heirs submitted a receipt (Worcester County [MA] Probate Records, 20.421, on FHL Microfilm 0,856,285).:

"We the subscribers do hereby acknowledge that we have each of us severally and for our selves received of our honoured mother, Abigail Whitney, Adx on the estate of our honoured father - Samuel Whitney late of said Westminster deceased the sum of two pounds three shillings in full of our part of the household furniture belonging to the estate of said deceased and we do severally acquit and discharge the said administratrix for our selves and heirs of all demands or rights or Chalange we or our heirs have or may have to the same & that this shall be a full and final acquittance for our selves and heirs to the above said household furniture forever by these presents.  In witness whereof we have hereunto severally set our hands the day and year aforesaid  Alpheus Whitney, Elisha Whitney, Benjamin Sever, Hananiah Whitney, Mary Scott, Silas Whitney, Job Whitcomb, Hannah Whitney."

Eight persons are listed in the receipt above - Alpheus, Elisha, Hananiah and Silas Whitney are the surviving sons of Samuel Whitney.  Benjamin Sever is the husband of the youngest surviving daughter, Martha Whitney.  Mary Scott was a surviving daughter, who married (1) Elijah Gibbs and (2) Edward Scott.  The names in the list are not in age order.  Sons Samuel, Abner and Phinehas Whitney are not named, and were living at this time, so they may have received their portions from the administratrix separately.  The widow's third portion is not accounted for either - that would be something less than 12 pounds. A split of the balance into eleven shares would be a bit more than 2 pounds each, which is what the receipt says each received.

I don't know how Job Whitcomb is related - did he marry a daughter of Samuel Whitney?  My records show that two of the five known daughters of Samuel Whitney died young - Martha and Achsah.  I don't have marriage or death records for Abigail or Susannah, but they are not named in the receipt above.  I don't have a marriage record for Abigail Whitney born in 1742.  There is an Abigail Whitney who married a Job Whitcomb on 5 March 1769, as his second wife, in Littleton, Massachusetts.   This receipt - one small piece of paper - provides evidence that the Abigail Whitney married to Job Whitney was the daughter of Samuel and Abigail (Fletcher) Whitney. 

I also don't know who Hannah Whitney is - she is the last named person in the receipt.  Is she an unrecorded child?  None of the sons died before 1810, so Hannah is probably not a widow of one of the sons.  But she received a portion of the estate, so she must be either a daughter, the widow of a son, a daughter of a deceased son, or a daughter of an unmarried daughter.  Abigail (Fletcher)Whitney was age 47 when she had the last known daughter, Susannah.  Did she have another daughter, Hannah?  She had had 13 children over a period of 25 years (1742 to 1767), but a Hannah was not mentioned.  Some researchers say that Hannah is the Hananiah born in 1762, but the receipt above shows both Hananiah and Hannah. Was Hannah the Susannah born in 1767? 'Tis a mystery!

 There is another resource for the children of Samuel and Abigail (Fletcher) Whitney - from the book Historic homes and institutions and genealogical and personal memoirs of Worcester County, Massachusetts, with a history of Worcester society of antiquity, Volume 4,  by Ellery Bicknell Crane, 1907, page 129. It reads:

"(V) Lieutenant Samuel Whitney, son of William Whitney (4), was born in Weston, Massachusetts, May 23, 1719. He married, October 20, 1741, Abigail Fletcher. He was a leading man in the settlement of the town of Westminster, Massachusetts, and was frequently elected to office. He went there from his native town of Weston probably soon after his marriage, about 1742. The old Whitney homestead there was owned lately by the Hartwell family, only the cellar hole remaining to mark the site of the old house, on Lot 51 near the north common. He was prominent, capable and much esteemed, one of the executive committee of the proprietors and a selectman three years after incorporation. He was a lieutenant in the revolution. He was a man of wealth as well as influence in Winchendon, and gave each of his sons a farm. He died January 1, 1782. The children of Samuel and Abigail Whitney: 1. Abigail, born August 27, 1742. probably died young. 2. Mary, born May 29, 1744, married Elijah Gibson and Edward Scott, of Westminster. 3. Samuel, born February 11, 1746, married Thankful Wilder. 4. Abner, see forward. 5. Achsah, born September 30, 1750, died May 14, 1772. 6Silas, born October 20, 1752, married Sarah Withington. 7. Martha, born November 26, 175S. died young. 8. Elisha, born July 2, 1757, married Eunice Seaver. 9. Alpheus, born February 25, 1759. married Esther Hartwell. 10. Phinehas, born January 16, 1761, married Elizabeth Rand. 11. Hananiah, born December 18, 1762, married Azubah Keyes. 12. Martha, born September 18, 1764, married (first) Benjamin Seaver and (second) Isaac Seaver. 13. Susanna, born February 9, 1767, died young."

As you can see, Hannah Whitney is not mentioned.  What is the source for this biography of Samuel Whitney?  It was probably the Heywood book, The History of Westminster, which relied on the town records.  That book did not have information about Abigail Whitney marrying Job Whitcomb because it did not happen in Westminster or a nearby town.

Do you see why I love land and probate records?  Do you see why every piece of paper in a probate packet may be significant?  Do you see why the researcher must analyze every bit of evidence found in the records?

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