Sunday, March 4, 2012

Amanuensis Monday - The Will of John Dewey

I love wills! Most people think I am crazy when I say that but anyone who does genealogy understands. Wills and probate records can tell you everything I began genealogy for. They can offer an insight into the character of it's author and the family relationships. I have broken more than 1 brick wall with wills and probate records. About a year ago, I ordered probate records for Lewis County, New York. I scoured that film for John Dewey my 4th great grandfather. I could not find him then, however, thanks to Family Search, his will is now on their website. It was 4 pages. I learned much about this man from his will. In retrospect, I guess I already knew this man was an ancestor to be very proud of. After all, he volunteered to serve in the Revolutionary War twice...and he supplied his own gun and ammunition. He documented his service in a diary that highlights some of the defining moments of the war. That diary can be read on my website here. I will transcribe portions of his will below. I hope to have it up in it's entirety on my website soon. You can view page 1 in his own handwriting(!!!!) on this page.
"In the name of God Amen. I John Dewey of the Town of Leyden, County of Lewis & State of New York, considering the uncertainty of this mortal life & being in a low state of health, yet helped by God, enjoying a sound mind & memory, do make & ordain this my last will & testament in the following form & manner - After committing my body to dust in the hopes of a future resurrection & my soul thru Jesus Christ to the mercy of God who gave it. Item 1st I give & bequeath unto my beloved wife Achsa Dewey one carriage, one horse, ten sheep & two swine; also one half of all my household furniture to be taken out in such articles as will be for her comfort and convenience to keep herewith & to be equal in value to one half to her use & disposal forever; Also I give & bequeath to my said wife for her use and benefit & support during her life one half of all my buildings & use of fifty acres of land lying on the north side of my farm to run parallel across the farm." The body of the 4 page will has told me John was a man of strong religious faith, who was very successful in life, leaving over 300 acres of land and many animals and buildings. He loved his wife and children very much and he probably knew he was dying when he wrote this will. Best of all his legacy gave me the best mother who ever lived.

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