As I sat at my desk on a warm Sunday morning, jazz playing quietly in the background, I had a rare opportunity to do some research.1 I found myself in Belmont County, Ohio probate records, researching the Barnett and Hamilton families.
More accurately, I was revisiting old research, cleaning up citations and refreshing my memory about these families. In particular, I was reviewing the estate file of Jacob Barnett, who died in Belmont County in 1849. He’s my 4th great-grandfather. I’ve had copies of this estate file for years, but in reviewing the now-online file at FamilySearch, I discovered that I did not have the complete file. I was only sent the documents filed in the estate — no receipts or other miscellaneous papers. Seeing the complete file revealed two important things: 1) receipts and documents from the estate of son Jacob, who died in 1842 were mixed in with the estate of his father, who died in 1849. Those receipts shed new light on on Jacob Jr.’s life; and 2) Jacob Sr. actually died between 14-18 Jun 1849– several months before the administrator’s bond was issued in Oct 1849.2
But back to my thoughts on this warm Sunday morning:
Looking at Jacob’s estate inventory, it appears he was probably a blacksmith. He owned little else besides blacksmith tools, some furniture and household goods… and books. Often, estate files only list “One lot of books,” or simply list the number of books and their value. In the case of Jacob Barnett, Sr., though, the titles were actually listed. These books offer a glimpse into the life and thoughts of a man who died in 1849– especially as I reflect about it on a Sunday morning 168 years later. The books Jacob owned were:
- The Life of John Wesley
- The New Testament
- Wesley Sermons, Vol. 2
- History of the M.E. Church, Vols. 1, 3, 4
- Woods Dictionary
- Fourfold State
- Bates Examination of Quakerism
- Watson’s Conversations
- The Life of Christ
- Milton’s Works, Vols. 1, 2
- Cummings Geography
- Family Bible3
In addition to the books, he also owned a rocking chair, spectacles, a pipe, and tobacco. Can you see the picture? Sunday morning. Jacob sits on his porch, puffing contemplatively on his pipe, taking in the passage he’d just read, perhaps comparing it to last week’s sermon or maybe the service he was getting ready to attend? It’s a terrific image, especially in contrast to the rugged hills of rough-and-tumble southeastern Ohio. It’s not really what you’d expect to find, this religious, well-read, blacksmith– my religious, well-read blacksmith.
I’m glad I got to review the file. I’m glad I saw the receipts I’d previously not seen. And I’m glad I got to know Jacob Barnett just a little bit better.
- Personal knowledge of author. For jazz mix, see Spotify (http://www.spotify.com), “Radio” > Thelonius Monk. For the fact that time for research is rare, notice this is my first post in months. [↩]
- “Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996,” database and images, FamilySearch.org (http://www. familysearch.org : accessed 31 Jul 2016), estate of Jacob Barnett, Sr, file no. 2481 (1849); digital copy of FHL microfilm 2,115,840, [Belmont County Ohio] “Probate court records, no. 2476-2572, ca. 1849-1950”. The doctor bill lists the last visit on 14 Jun 1849, and the coffin-maker’s bill is dated 18 Jun 1849. [↩]
- which was purchased by my 3rd great grandfather, James Hamilton. I’d love to see that book! [↩]