Monday, August 11, 2014

Amanuensis Monday - Post 230: 1929 Petition for Determination of Heirship of Devier J. Smith Estate

Genea-blogger John Newmark (who writes the excellent TransylvanianDutch blog) started a Monday blog theme years ago called "Amanuensis Monday."  John offers this definition for "amanuensis:" 

"A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another."

The subject today is a 1929 petition to determine heirship of the estate of Devier J. Smith in Red Willow County, Nebraska:

The transcription of this document is (with typed information underlined, and handwritten information in italics):


2   In the Matter of the Estate of                   }
   Devier J. Smith                                  }   PETITION FOR DETERMINATION
4                                      Deceased         }               OF HEIRSHIP

5  Comes now your petitioner and respectfully represents to the Court:
6  That     Devier J. Smith        a resident and inhabitant of
7      McCook, Nebraska,      died intestate on or about      December 24,    19 00    
8 leaving as his sole and only heirs at law     his widow, Abbie A. Smith; a son     
9  David D. Smith and two daughters Matie Chenery and Della A. Carringer.      

10 That at the time of the death of said     Devier J. Smith      he was
11 seized in fee of the following described real estate in the County of     Red Willow     
12 and State of Nebraska, to-wit:
13     Lot Seven (7), in Block Thirty (30), Original Town of McCook,     
14      according to the recorded plat thereof and receiving title                 
15     thereto in the name of D.J. Smith                                                  

16 That your petitioner is*       owner of said lot.      

17 That more than two years have elapsed since the death of said     Devier J. Smith     
18 and that no application has been made in the State of Nebraska for the appointment of an administrator.
19      Wherefore, your petitioner prays for a determination of the time of death of said    
20     /     Devier J. Smith             and of his heirs, the degree of kinship and the right
21 of descent of the real property belonging to said deceased, in the State of Nebraska.
22                                                                     John E.  Kelley                       
23                                                                    Petitioner
25 County of      Red Willow       } ss.               John E. Kelley      being first duly
26 sworn, upon oath deposes and says that he is the petitioner above named; that he has read the
27 foregoing petition and knows its contents, and that the facts therein stated are true and correct as he
28 verily believes.
29                                                                              John E. Kelley         
30 Subscribed in my presence and sworn to before me this     25th     day of
31      November,      A.D.  19 29.   
32                                                                  A. C.  Zink                         
33                                                            Notary Public  County Judge     
A source citation for this document is:

Petition for Determination of Heirship by John E. Kelley, 25 November 1929, Estate of Devier J. Smith file folder No. 1992, Red Willow County, Nebraska, Probate Court, McCook, Nebraska (accessed 11 July 2014 by Chris Christenson).

The back story:  Several years ago, I saw a reference in a Probate Record index on the Southwest Nebraska Genealogical Society (SWNGS) website to a probate record for "D. J. Smith" with a date of 1929.  That page has been updated, and it now says "Devier J. Smith" with a date of 1929 - see  At the time, I did not know if this pertained to my second great-grandfather, Devier J. Smith (1839-1894) or not; it was 35 years after his death.  How could it be about him?

My friend and San Diego Genealogical Society colleague goes to southwestern Nebraska every year to help his family on the family farm.  Two years ago, he went to Red Willow County, Nebraska to search for Devier J. Smith's gravestone in one of the cemeteries in McCook; I had seen the entry in a listing on the SWNGS website that said "D.J. Smith, 1842-1894;"  he looked all over the cemetery, and could not find it.  This year, he emailed me in early July and said he had to go to McCook to find a court record there, and did I need anything else from McCook.

Needless to say, I wrote back to Chris that I wanted to know if the "D.J. Smith" probate record in 1929 was for my Devier J. Smith.  I told him the spouse's name, Abbie A. Smith, and the names of the surviving children, David d. smith, Matie (Smith) (Chenery) (Cramer) Morrill, and Della A. (Smith) Carringer, my great-grandmother.  He said he would check it out and email me with his findings, and if it was the right person, he would take some digital photographs of the records.

It was my Devier J. Smith, the family names all matched, and he took ten photographs of five different pages in the file.

I appreciate Chris's willingness to do this, and I was happy to find out that he had a successful visit to the McCook court house for his research also.   

Now, I am quite sure that this is the correct Devier J. Smith that this probate record applies to.  I also have several other papers from this file, including the final decision of the probate court, and I will show them over the next two weeks.  

The major problem with this record is the date of death of Devier J. Smith.  It states, positively, that he died "intestate on or about December 24, 1900..."  His actual date of death was 1 May 1894, according to the Smith Family Bible, his wife's personal papers, and the obituary printed in the McCook newspaper at the time.  Apparently, Mr. Kelley did not know the exact death date, so he wrote something down, swore to it, and it is legally so.  

copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

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