Monday, October 1, 2012

Amanuensis Monday - Will of George Lawrence (1637-1709) of Watertown, Mass.

Genea-blogger John Newmark (who writes the excellent TransylvanianDutch blog) started his own Monday blog theme several years 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 George Lawrence (1637-1709) of Watertown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.   George Lawrence married (1) Elizabeth Crispe (1637-1681) in 1657 in Wateertown, and they had 12 children:  Elizabeth Lawrence (1659-????); Judith Lawrence (1660-1713); Hannah Lawrence (1662-1726); John Lawrence (1664-1674); Benjamin Lawrence (1666-1733), Daniel Lawrence (1666-1743); George Lawrence (1668-1736); Sarah Lawrence (1671-????); Mary Lawrence (1671-????); Mercy Lawrence (1674-????); Martha Lawrence (1680-1708); Grace Lawrence (1680-1758).  George Lawrence married (2) Elizabeth (--?--) Holland in 1691, and they had three children:  Rachel Lawrence (1694-????); Patience Lawrence (1694-1707); Joseph Lawrence (1697-????).

George Lawrence died testate, and his probate records are in Middlesex County Probate Records, Packet #13,685 (original papers, accessed on FHL US/CAN Microfilm 0,416,789). However, his widow Elizabeth Lawrence petitioned the Court to appoint sons Daniel Lawrence and George Lawrence as administrators.  Daniel Lawrence, George Lawrence, Benjamin Lawrence and John Dix presented the will and posted 300 pounds bond on 28 March 1709.  Daniel Lawrence and George Lawrence were appointed administrators of the estate of George Lawrence, late of Watertown.

The will reads:

"In Ye Name of God, Amen.  The __ Day of ___ Anno 1707.  I George Lawrence of Watertown in ye County of Middlesex & Province of ye Massachusetts in New England, Husbandman, being Aged & infirm of body but of perfect Mind & Memory, Thanks be given unto God, Therefore calling unto Mind ye Mortality of my Body & knowing its appointed unto all Men once to dye, Do Make & Ordain this, my Last Will & Testam-t, that is to say, principally & first of all, I Give & Recommend My Soul into ye Hands of God that gave it & my Body I recommend to ye Earth, to be buried in decent Christian burial at ye discretion of My Executors hereafter mentioned, Nothing doubting but at ye Gen-l Resurrection I will receive ye same again by ye Mighty Power of God. And as Touching such Worldly Estate Wherewith it hath pleased God to bless me in this life (My Funerall Charges being defrayed & just Debts discharged) I Give Demise & Dispose of in Manner & Form following.

"Imprimis to Elizabeth my dearly beloved Wife do I give & Bequeath & Grant to have to hold & quickly to possess My Present Dwelling House, My New Barn, & lands thereto Adjoyning in Estimation 30 acres be they more or less, & Ten Acres of Woodland whether more or less being one third part of That Parcell or Track I & my son George Lawrence purchased of Mr. Joseph Treadway now of Charlestown, & Capt. Jisah Jones of Watertown, bounded westward on Joseph Willington, Northeast on Benjamin Whitney's, Southeast on Joseph Smith, & Southward on Samuel Stone, both of ye aforesaid Scituate, Lying & being in Watertown in County afores-d, w-th all ye priviledges to them Appertaining.  As also all & singular ye Goods & Chattels in my s-d Mansion-House w-th Cattle, Swine, Corn or Whatever Moveable Effects by Me s-d George Lawrence Left in, or upon s-d Premises att my Decease to Have to Hold to Occupy & Possess without any Molestation whatever, but provided my Wife Elizabeth Marry then ... third part of my Moveable Effects ... be Absolutely & Solely Hers & ye Rest to be Equally divided between my two youngest children,... Joseph & Rachel, both ... are to be benefitted & Educated by this my Estate here specified, and W-r My s-d Children Joseph & Rachel come of age.  To my s-d son Joseph I Do Give & Grant freely & quickly to Possess, Occupy & Improve ... Under my s-d Wife Eliz. his mother During her widowhood ye whole & every part above mentioned, And upon my s-d Wife's Decease, or Marriage, as afores-d, then s-d House, New Barn & Lands afores-d w-th all priviledges y-rto belonging be my s-d son Josephs, his Heirs & Assigns, His & Theirs ..perly, Absolutely & forever void of any manner of Conditions w-tever.  And to my s-d daughter Rachel do I Give & bequeath  (besides ye above specified) five pounds in Money or as money att fifteen penny weight.

"Item  To my Sons & Daughters hereafter Named, having already done for, & given to Each particular ... by Me delivered I do only Add & Bequeath Small Legacies, as a token of my love & affection to every of them. ... first of all, To my Son George Lawrence Do I Give 5 shillings.  Item to my son Benjamin 5 shillings.  Item to my son Daniel 10 shillings.  Item to my daughter Mercy Baker Living at Yarmouth do I give ye Sum of 5 pounds.  Item to my daughter Grace Eades Living at Charlestown ... ...  Item to my daughter Elizabeth Whitney living att Stow I give 5 pounds.  Item to my daughter Hannah Satle living att Watertown I give 3 pounds.  Item to my daughter Judith Stearns living at Cambridge Farms I give 3 pounds.  To Mary Flegg my daughter I give 10 shillings.  Item to Sarah Rider my daughter I give 10 shill.  Item to Martha Dix my Daught-r I Give 10 Shill-s. & y-n to my granddaughter Mary Earle do I give & bequeath ye Sum of 1 pound & 10 shill-s.  Every of s-d legacies to be paid in Money at fifteen penny weight or in goods & other moveable Effects at sd money pecco & in paym-t of ye severall legacies afores-d, I will y-t ye Method be attended, viz. y-t ye s-d herein bequeathed to my daughter Mercy be ye last paym-t to be due to her my s-d Daught-r att y-e term of 3 Years aft-r my Decease, & att ye End of ye 3d year after my Decease be paid to my Sons, to George, to Benjamin, & Daniel & to my Daughters Mary & Sarah & Martha & to my Granddaughter Mary Earll each one y-r respective sums Above specify-d.  And furth-r y-t y-e other Sums of ... 3 pounds to be due to each & all of my other Daughters, viz, Grace, Elizabeth, Hannah, Judith & Rachel, as before mentioned att ye term of Every succeeding year, according to y-r Age of each one, beginning att ye Eldest.

"I do likewise Constitute, Make & Ordain my beloved Wife Elizabeth a Sole Executrix of this my Last Will & Testament herewith Nominating & appointing my good & trusty Neighbour Mr. Sam-l Stearns an assistant in & unto ye Executing & performing ye whole & every part hereof, as expressed & p-rfected.  And I do hereby utterly disallow, revoke & disannull all & every other former Testaments, Wills, Legacies, Bequests, Executors or Executrix by Me in any wise before named will-d & bequeathed.  Ratifying & Confirming this & no other to be my Last Will & Testam-t, In Witness Whereof have hereunto affixed my Hand & Seal y-s Day & Year above written.

Signed, Sealed, Published, Pronounced & Declared ................................ his
by ye sd George Lawrence, as his Last Will & Testam-t, ....... George  + Lawrence
in ye Pr-sence of us, .................................................................................. mark
John Hastings,
Thomas Straight
Nathanel Stearns"

An inventory of the estate of George Lawrence, late of Watertown deceased, was taken on 5 April 1709 by Joseph Wellington, John Hastings, Thomas Straight, and Samuel Stearns.   The real and personal estate totalled 171 pounds, 7 shillings and 6 pence.  The real estate listed were one mansion house, barn and twenty acres of upland and 7 acres of meadow adjoining to it (125 pounds), and 10 acres of Divident Land (10 pounds).  The inventory was exhibited by George Lawrence and accepted by the Court on 16 May 1709.

The debts, charges and legacies of the estate were listed on 27 January 1709/10 and amounted to 113 pounds, 6 shillings, 4 pence.  The legacies totalled 30 pounds, the funeral charges and nursing charge in sickness was 14 pounds, 15 shillings.  It was presented to the Court on 30 January 1709/10.  Receipts for each legacy and for many of the debts were made and recorded in the probate packet.

George Lawrence filed a number of accounts during the period from 1710 to 1714.  They are difficult to read and understand.

George Lawrence's will names 13 of his 15 children - it mentions a daughter Mercy who I do not have a record of, and the only ones not mentioned are John Lawrence and Patience Lawrence, who likely died in childhood.  The married names of eight of his daughters are mentioned, which is a great help to genealogists trying to sort out relationships.  The granddaughter mentioned, Mary Earle, is the daughter of Mary (Lawrence) (Earle) Flagg by her first husband.  

My ancestry is through two daughters - Judith Lawrence who married George Stearns, and Hannah Lawrence who married Obadiah Sawtell.

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Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

Grandma Grandpa K said...

My wife is descended through Joseph Lawrence (1792-1785). Many people have submitted family histories that assume that George was the son of fellow Watertown resident John Lawrence. This cannot be true for the following reasons:
1. George is not listed in John's will.
2. George was completely illiterate and John was not.
In fact John became a founding selectman when
Groton, MA was settled. It is inconceivable that
a literate John would produce an uneducated
3. A few of George's children were charged and
convicted of pre-marital sex, perhaps a sign
of George's poverty and illiteracy. John's
family was not involved in scandal.
My theory is that George was born in England to
an impoverished and uneducated family. He may
have become a merchant seaman bound to the
American colonies in the early 1650s. When in
Boston he jumped ship, disappeared in the city,
moved to Watertown where he married Elizabeth Crispe in 1657. There is no record of him becoming a freeman, another indication that he
may have come secretly.