Monday, October 8, 2012

Amanuensis Monday - the Will of Joseph Foster (1650-1721) of Billerica, 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 Joseph Foster (1650-1721) of Billerica, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.  Joseph Foster married (1) Alice Gorton (1652-1712) in 1673, and they had five children:   Elizabeth Foster (1673-????); Joseph Foster (1678-1678); Thomas Foster (1681-????); Sarah Foster (1683-1683); John Foster (1685-1685.  He married (2) Margaret Brown (????-1717), and married (3) Rebecca Parker (1661-1754).

Joseph Foster died testate on 4 December 1721 in Billerica, having signed his will on 26 July 1721. It reads (transcribed from Middlesex County Probate Records, Packet 8,227, accessed on FHL US/CAN Microfilm 0,397,063):

"1st  In the name and feer of God Amen: the sixth of May one thousand seven hundred and twenty on I Joseph foster of Billerica in the County of Middlesex in his Majestys Provence of the Massachusetts bay in New England being weak in body but of perfect mind and memory, blessed be God for it.  Therefor being of a dissposing  mind, I do ordain this instrument to be my last will and testament the which let no man altar or change and I do hereby make void all former wills by me made and in the first place I do humbly give my soul into the hands of God Father son and holy spirit three glorious persons but one Infinite and eternal escence hoping for salvation in and throu the merits of Jesus Christ aloan: and do firmly believe that allthou this body of mine shall moulderin the dust yet at the great day when all shall appeer before God that then I shall with these eyes see God and dwell in his prasence to all eternity.

"2nd  I give my body to the arth to a dasent buriall at the discration of my executors and overseers in hops of a glorious Rasuraction: and as to that estat which God hath blest me with what is left after my debts and funarall charges are defraied I do give and dispose of the same in the form and manner following and first:  I give unto my loving and beloved wife Rabackah Foster forty pounds currant money to be paid to her in a year after my deseace and I do further give her the liberty to take whatever she brought with her to my hous boath within doors and without acording to my pramice that I made with her and I do further give her a mourning sute throu'out and I do further give her the liberty of any room in my house for a year after my deseace or longer tim if shee does desier it that so shee may have the liberty of spending that pravision that shee has helpt labor for, boath of meat and drink and 10 pounds mor if shee lives with me fiveyears and I do further give her my brindled heifer.

"secondly  I do give unto my son Thomas Foster my homestead my hous and barn and my shop and tools in the shop and the ground that the shop stands upon: and I give to him my lot on the east side of the country road which I call my homestead.  This I give unto him and his hairs forever, but not to dispose of in his life time and he may give it to his children at his death.

"thirdly  I give to my daughter Elizabeth Willson the homestead that I had of Doctor John Kittrige whar Thomas Foster now lives and I do further give unto her my Nuttings meadow with all the land that I have upon Beare hill all on the wast side of the country road this I give unto her and to her hairs forever.

"fourthly  I give unto my grandson Joseph Willson twenty pounds which he shall have as followeth, that is my young hors at ten pounds, and my gun that he trains with at forty shillings and my lot at the great swampe at eight pounds which doo make it twenty pounds also I give him an ax and a syth and sickle and a cow the best that is left and I give him my new bridle and my old sadle if he sees good to accept of it this I give to him and his hairs forever.

"Fifthly  I give unto my granddaughter Johannah Willson twenty pounds to be paid to her by my executors in a cow and a bed and the rast in money.  I also give her a platter and a grat bason and a little bason and two spoons and my bias skillet and the chest that she lays her clothes in and a lining wheel and six wooden plates and a chaire. These I give to her and her hairs forever.  This money that is to be paid to Johannah above what her bed and cow comes to shall be paid out of ye movables or else they may be sold for money to make it:  and all the rest of my movables both within doors and without both cattle and all other things both wood and iron without doors and bras and pewter within doors and all other movables except that I have given to Joseph Willson and Johannah Willson they shall be equally divided between my son Thomas Foster and my daughter Eilzabeth Willson and in cas they cannot agree in thar divission I do appoint my trusty friends Bengemen Thompson and John Blanchord to make thar divission for them and if they cannot agree I appoint Mr. Joseph Stevens to joyn with them and to make a final ishew.

"And as for my ought lands which I rasarve they shall be to pay my debts and my wive's dowry and my funarall charges. My wive's dowry will be about eight and forty pounds in all besides her liberty in the hous as I have given her in my will and if she shall live with me five years from our first marriage than shee shall have ten pounds mor. And thar is forty pounds dew to Mr. Jonathan Waldo at Boston: and about three pounds ten shillings dew to Captain Thomas Pattie This is all that I owe that I ramanber now to pay thes debts and dowry.

"I leave three divissions of land the one lys on the wast side of Concord River between Cpt John Hills and said river about three score and sixteen acers which I esteem to be worth about fifty five or sixty pounds.  the other lot lys in othe Swamp near seventeen acres which I esteem about fifty five pounds.  the other lot lys on the north side of rubish meadow befor William Colbys door about sixteen acers which I value at thirty five pounds: these lots of land to be soaldto pay lagoisies.  And I do order and give full power unto my Executors to make sale of said parcel of land according to their best judgement and discration and to make payment to the full unto all thos that I am obliged unto that are her sat down in my will and when every one is paid and charges defraid my will is that my grandchildren all axcept Joseph and Johannah Willson shall have an equal shear of what is left.

"And if my grandson Joseph Willson does not lick what I have given him as to the colt and the lot of the grat swamp than he shall have twenty pounds in money in lew of it and five pounds in money for what work he has dun for me this last yer and if what is left to pay debts and legasies fall short than I order my son and daughter equally to make up and what is over the children equally to shar in it: my will is that what I give to my Daughter Willson shall be wholly at her disspos during her life and shee shall have the liberty of dissposing of it for the comfort of her life.

"And I do constitute and appoint and fully impower my trusty friends John Blanchord and Bengemin Thompson to be my lawful executors of this my last will and testament and that they may execute it honestly to the full in every part of it and I do ratifie and confirm this and no other to be my last will and testament in witness wharof I have herunto seat my hand and seale the 26 of July, 1721.
.................................................................... Joseph foster

"Signed sealled published pronounced and declared by the said Joseph foster to be his last will and testament in the prasance of the subscribers.

"In the seventh yer of the Reign of our sovereign Lord George by the grace of God of England Scotland France and Ierland King.

"Joseph Stevens
Benjamin Frost"

The inventory of the estate of Joseph Foster totaled 777 pounds.  

Here we have a fairly atypical colonial New England family - the first wife had "only" five children, and only two survived childhood.  He names his current wife, his two surviving children, two of his grandchildren by his daughter, Elizabeth (Foster) Wilson, and leaves an inheritance to all of his grandchildren.  

My ancestry is through his daughter, Elizabeth (Foster) Wilson, who married John Wilson (1673-1717).  She was a widow when Joseph Foster wrote his will.

I note that the spell check went pretty wild in the will transcript!

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Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

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