Monday, August 22, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - the Will of Josiah Wood (1629-1691) of Charlestown, Mass.

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 will of Josiah Wood (1629-1691) of Charlestown in Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Josiah was the son of Edward Wood and Ruth Lee.  He married Lydia Bacon (1637-1712) in 1657 in Charlestown, and they had six children:  Josiah Wood (1658-1741); Lydia Wood (1659-1659); Lydia Wood (1662-1681); Samuel Wood (1671-1711); Joseph Wood (1674-1725); Ruth Wood (1676-1676).  Only the three sons survived Josiah Wood.

Josiah Wood died testate, and his probate papers are in Middlesex County [Massachusetts] Probate Records, Packet #25,488 (accessed on FHL Microfilm 0,432,088). His will was dated 19 May 1691 and was proved in Middlesex County on 29 December 1691. The will reads:

"In the Name of God Amen, I Josiah Wood of Charlestowne being weak & infirm in body, but, of good understanding and memorie, It being my Duty to sett my house in order, Do first of all, Declaring this to be my last will & Testament, Committ my Soul to God and leave it in ye armes and Everlasting mercies of my Redeemer and my body to a Decent buriall at ye Discretion of my Executors and Christian friends. And as for my outward Estate that my God hath graciously lent me I do Dispose of it in manner following:

"Imprimis In Case my Son Josiah Wood never dissect (?) my two Sones Sam-ll and Joseph Seeing to that Cow Common that was Bought of Thomas Allen I do then order and appoint my Executors hereafter named to well and truly pay to him Ten pounds in good Current pay, and In Consideration of what I have done for him already, together wth ye Sad Circumstances of my Condition wth my wife at thy day, Do give unto him my son Josiah Twenty Shillings to be paid by my said Executors aforementioned.

"Item my Just Debts and Duty being handyly (?) paid I do give and bequeath unto my Two Sonnes Samuel Wood & Joseph Wood, all my Estate of housing and Lands, Stock, Goods, Chattels, moveables & what ever I Shall die Seized of, to them to be equally Divided between them to them and their heires for Ever, they equally and jointly maintain their mother Comfortably so long as She shall live, the sume to be equally divided between them within one year after my wife's decease. And my Will is if It please God to take away either of my said sones Samuel or Joseph by Death without Lawfull Issue that ye Survivor Shall have and Enjoy the Deceaseds part to him ye Survivor and his heires for Ever.

"Item my will is that my said Sons shall nowher alienate or Embezill any of my houseing or Lands bequeathed to them in this my Will, one from ye other, but shall if they see Cause to alienate ye Same or any parts thereof, the one shall hand the other upon a good and valueable price.

"Item I do Confirm and ordain my Two sones Sam-ll & Joseph sole Executors of this my Will, and my loving friends Capt John Call, Sam-ll Phipps & Ensign Sam-ll Kettle & Josiah Wood my son overseers of ye same. In wittness whereof I have hereunto Sett my hand & Seal this 19th of May 1691 ... Regina Gulielm & Maria Anglia ...

Signed Sealed & Declared by Josiah Wood to be
his last will & Testament in prsence of us .............................. Josiah Wood Senr
John Sweetser
Susanna Blaney
Sam-ll Phipps"

A postscript to the will said that some time before Josiah Wood died, he gave his wife a free choice to live with the two sons Samuel Wood and Joseph Wood or to live in half the house with half of the household stuff and be provided with six pounds annually by Samuel and Joseph Wood. The undated postscript was signed by Josiah Wood, Samuel Wood and Joseph Wood.

There are two interesting parts in this will - the "Imprimus" paragraph that son Josiah shall "...never dissect my two sons, Sam-ll and Joseph seeing to that Cow Common..." and the fourth paragraph that includes "...shall nowher alienate or Embezill any of my houseing or Lands bequeathed to them in this my Will, one from ye other, but shall if they see Cause to alienate ye Same or any parts thereof, the one shall hand the other upon a good and valueable price."

I sense that there was conflict between the three sons and their father was trying to avoid more conflict. 

The really interesting part of this probate record is what happened after the will was proved.  Here are my summaries from the probate packet:

The first inventory, was taken by John Call Senior and Joseph Phipps on 8 December 1691 and was filed on 29 December 1691. The real property totalled 260 pounds, and the personal estate totalled 118 pounds, 1 shilling. The real estate included:

* Ten acres of land in the first division of Charlestown Common (60 pounds)
* 6 Cow Commons (30 pounds)
* Land and marsh bought of Chalkly (30 pounds)
* House and barn and an acre of land they stand upon and orchard (130 pounds)
* 21 acres of wood lots upon the Rocks (10 pounds)

Another inventory of the estate of Josiah Wood late of CharlestownWhittemore, Joseph Phipps, John Rand, Nathaniel Frothingham and Samuel Frothingham, which listed the following real estate:

* The house and barn with one acre of land, orchard where the house stands, with fencing (93 pounds)
* One and one half acres of marsh and meadow land formerly called Chalklies, with fencing (34 pounds, 2 shillings, 9 pence)
* Four acres of pasture land bordering on the road to Cambridge, with fences (28 pounds, 8 shillings)
* Six acres of orchard and meadow land in the first division, with fences (58 pounds)
* 21 acres of pasture land in the second division, with fences (63 pounds, 9 shillings)
* Eight acres of wood lott on Mystic Side (5 pounds)

The household stuff totalled 10 pounds, 19 shillings and 6 pence. Joseph Wood presented this inventory to the Court at Cambridge on 24 April 1712.

Articles of Agreement were made on 12 March 1712/13 between Joseph Wood, yeoman of Charlestown, of the first part, and Hannah Wood, relict and widow of Samuel Wood, late of Charlestown deceased, together with Jason Russell and Edward Winship, both of Cambridge, Guardians of the three children of Samuel Wood deceased, namely Samuel, Hannah and Abiell Wood, minors on the second part. The agreement defines the distribution of the estate of Josiah Wood after the decease of his wife.

The homestead with an old small house and one acre of land and orchard was set off to Joseph Wood, with two and a quarter acres across the way set off to the minor children of Samuel Wood. The remaining land was to be divided into two equal parts, one part for Joseph Wood and the other part for the minor children of Samuel Wood. Further, Hannah Wood, Jason Russell and Edward Winship agreed that Joseph Wood, as the surviving Executor of the estate of Josiah Wood, had accumulated costs, charges and disbursements of the estate, including the funeral charges of the widow of Josiah Wood, and also sundry legacies paid and discharged, amounting to 62 pounds, 8 shillings and 11 pence. One half of this amount (31 pounds, 4 shillings, 6 pence) was owed by the minor children of Samuel Wood to Joseph Wood. Joseph Wood agreed to a discounted value of 35 pounds for the Samuel Wood share of the homestead, house and land, and agreed to pay the minor children of Samuel Wood a sum of 3 pounds, 14 shillings and 6 pence. Joseph Wood, Hannah Wood, Jason Russell and Edward Winship signed the agreement, with witnesses Joseph Whittemore, Thomas Whittemore and Benjamin Whittemore, and it was accepted by the Court on 23 March 1712/13.

The estate was not settled until after the widow of Josiah Wood died on 25 November 1712.  In the mean time, son Samuel Wood had died (on 14 November 1711) and the guardians of his minor children were involved in dividing the estate and settling the accounts.  The second inventory was taken after the death of Samuel Wood but before the death of the widow, Lydia Wood.


Linda Gartz said...

What I love about transcribing old letters and documents (like this one) is the sense of being taken back into the past -- like a time machine--to see what was important to people then. I could see what my grandmother's employer valued in her through the recommendation she wrote ("industrious...well-trained in childcare and illness,) etc. The money my grandmother sent back home allowed her relatives to buy pigs! This is an insightful and meaningful document

Unknown said...

Josiah Wood is my 8th great grand uncle. He was a brother to my 8th great grandfather, Thomas Wood (1633 - 1687). My 'Wood' family has come a long way! :-)