Probate Files: Little Things Add Up, Pt. 1

At long last, I had an opportunity to sit down with some of my own research. How did I spend most of my time? With a fellow named Garret Staats, who is collaterally related to my 5th great grandfather, of course! Garret’s probate file1 is a splendid example of what you can find when you look a little closer.

The probate file is a total of seven pages (if you don’t count the document jackets). It contains an administrator’s bond, an inventory, a list of notes held, and a settlement account. For a short document, it’s long on information.

Let’s start with the Administrator’s Bond2 . Here’s an abstract of that bond:

Know by all men these presents that we, Abraham Staats yeoman, and Gideon Emory esq., both of Appoquinimink Hundred are held and firmly bound unto the State of Delaware, in the sum of One Thousand Two Dollars…this seventh day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety eight…the condition of this Obligation is such, That if the above bounden Abraham Staats next of kin, and administrator of all singular the goods and chattels, rights and credits of Garret Staats of Appoquinimink Hundred in the County of New Castle..”

Signed, sealed and delivered                                                      Abraham Staats [seal]
in the presence of                                                                        Gideon Emory [seal]
Thos. Gregg
Jas. Booth

First of all, notice that Abraham Staats is named as “next of kin” in the bond. There are a couple of Abrahams running around. Which one is this? Fortunately, I have the original probate file, as well as the original files for several other related folks. I have something to work with. One key is the fact that the documents within these files are signed, and are signed in hands that are clearly different from the clerk’s own hand. Let’s look at a few signatures of Abraham Staats.

Here is his signature on this bond:

 

Signature of Abraham Staats as administrator of the estate of Garret Staats3

An Abraham  Staats also signed documents in the estate of John Gythen in 1791. Here is his signature, as it appears as a witness on the statement of renunciation of the widow’s right to administrate the estate. There is a variation in the beginning flourish of the “A” but otherwise appears to be the same:

1791 signature of Abraham Staats in the estate file of John Gythen.4

 

Lastly, here is another signature – this from the 1788 estate file of Abraham Staats, administered by widow Sarah Staats and Abraham Staats :

1788 signature of Abraham Staats, administrator of the estate of Abraham Staats. (New Castle, Delaware, Probate Files, Abraham Staats (1788), administrator’s bond, 24 Oct 1788.))

 

For the sake of comparison, here are two of the other Abraham Staats signatures – and they appear on one document. One is the signature of Abraham Staats, Sr. The other is Capt. Abraham Staats:

Signatures on the administrator’s bond in the estate of Ephraim Staats in 1784. The top signature is Abraham Staats, Sr, The second, Capt. Abraham Staats (who consistently made his mark with this characteristic “A”)5

 

How does this fit with what we know from other documents? Let’s compare this with an Orphan’s Court entry, a petition for partition by Elisha Staats asking for the partition of property of Abraham Staats, Sr.:

“Upon the petition of Elisha Staats…setting forth that Abraham Staats was in his lifetime and at the time of his death lawfully seized …of a tract of land…and being so seized died intestate…leaving to survive him a widow named Sarah who is since dead and five children namely Abraham Staats his eldest son, Garret Staats, Elizabeth Staats who married with John Gythen who is since dead [goes on to explain that Elizabeth remarried and names issue from both marriages]…Ephraim Staats, and Elisha Staats the petitioner”6

I’d say that fits pretty well. Comparing the Orphan’s Court information with Garret’s and the other estates above, the relationships are logical and the signature on this bond helps to tie them together. That’s not to say that I’ve “proven” these relationships, but it has established a working assertion to try and debunk. In order to be comfortable meeting the exhaustive search requirement of the Genealogical Proof Standard7 , I still have more digging to do, but here’s a review of the assertion our analysis of the bond has established:

  • Abraham signed the administration bond of his father’s estate in 1788
  • In 1791, the same Abraham witnessed and signed the renunciation submitted by his sister, Elizabeth Gythen, giving up her right as widow to be the administrator in the estate of her deceased husband John Gythen (he also signed the administrator’s bond in that estate). Elizabeth named her other brother, Garret, as administrator in that renunciation.
  • Finally, in 1798, Abraham is the administrator for his brother Garret’s estate.

It’s easy to assume that “next of kin” or “heirs” means a parent/child relationship, but that’s not necessarily so. In fact, looking at Delaware law tells us a little more about Garret, given Abraham’s “next of kin” relationship: “And in case there be no wife or child, then the personal estate of the said deceased to be distributed to and amongst the brothers and sisters…”8There is no evidence of a widow’s renunciation. In lieu of a widow or child, next in line would be brothers and sisters, making older brother Abraham the “next of kin” and proper administrator.9

So now we know a little bit more about Garret and his family.

  • We can estimate that the eldest brother Abraham was likely born sometime in the late 1750s to mid-1760s.10
  • Given that Garret was the second child, he was likely born somewhere in that range also.
  • Sister Elizabeth was married by 1791, so it’s reasonable to assume a birth date in the vicinity of 1770 or so.
  • Brother Ephraim is somewhere in between Garret and Elizabeth
  • No guardianships were filed for children of this family, so Elisha, the youngest brother was presumably of age at the time of settlement.11
  • Garret died single (or a widower) and without any living children, probably somewhere around 30 years old at the time, leaving only his brothers and sister as heirs.

In Part 2, we’ll look at Garret’s inventory to learn more.

  1. New Castle, Delaware, Probate Files, RG2545.001, Garret Staats, (1798); Delaware Public Archives. Files are arranged alphabetically, indexed by name and year(s) of probate proceedings. []
  2. ibid., administrator’s bond, 7 Mar 1798. []
  3. ibid. []
  4. New Castle, Delaware, Probate Files, John Gythen, (1793-1794), renunciation of administration of Elizabeth Gythen, 1 Nov 1791. []
  5. New Castle, Delaware, Probate Files, Ephraim Staats, (1784-1785), administrator’s bond, 2 Feb 1784. []
  6. New Castle, DE, Orphan’s Court Records H: 269, petition of Elisha Staats, 6 Mar 179x; FHL microfilm 0,006,547. Year is not stated in the entry, nor any of the entries included with the copy. Book H ends in 1799. Exact date to be determined the next time I get a chance to review the film. []
  7. For an explanation of the Genealogical Proof Standard, go to http://www.bcgcertification.org/resources/standard.html []
  8. Delaware, Laws of the State of Delaware from the Fourteenth Day of October, One Thousand Seven Hundred, to the Eighteenth Day of August, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Seven,” (New Castle: Samuel & John Adams, 1797), 287; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com/books?id=dMpJAQAAIAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false: accessed 20 Nov 2011). []
  9. ibid., 284-285. []
  10. As administrator of his father’s estate, he would have been at least 21 in 1788 so was born before 1767. See also: Ruth Bennett, Naudain Family of Delaware (Geneva, Nebraska: self-published, 1941), 26. Rachel Naudain, Abraham’s wife, was born in 1765. []
  11. Birth order is assumed from the order the names are listed in the Orphans Court petition of Elisha, starting with “Abraham, the eldest son” []
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2 Responses to Probate Files: Little Things Add Up, Pt. 1

  1. Nicely done, Chris… and what a great set of documents!

  2. Pingback: Probate Files: Little Things Add Up, Pt. 2 | Staats Place