Monday, August 20, 2012

Thomas Gilshannon's Will . . . A Widow's Plight

Thos. Gilshanon born in County Meath Ireland

Summer is coming to an end for me.  School starts tomorrow, and, as usual, I didn't accomplish everything on my "to do" list, but it has been a wonderful summer with a successful research trip, an unexpected discovery of a cache of old photos and videos, a pleasant road trip with my husband, a few cleaning/organizing projects completed, and I still had time to knit!  It has been a most relaxing summer. 

 So what is left of interest in Thomas Gilshannon's will other than a bunch of bills.  Well, I found a few items of interest.  Let's look first at his obituary.  His obituary tells me that he had tuberculosis . . . for seventeen years!  I didn't know you could survive it for that length of time in 1888.

Clinton Daily Herald  Jan 25,  1888

Thomas' will was written five years before his death and only a year after his daughter, Nancy, also succumbed to the dreaded consumption.  He could see the end, and wanted to get his affairs in order. His choice of executor was not a deathbed decision.  Like Thomas, his wife Bridget did not read or write and would need someone to look after her interests after he was gone. There were still children at home to consider. Did G. A. Griswold do that?  You decide.

While G.A. Griswold paid everyone else, Bridget had to petition the court

In the District court of the State of Iowa in and for Clinton county.

In the matter of the estate 
of Thomas Gilshannon

Petition of the Widow for
allowance for 1 years support

Bridget Gilshannon, widow of said deceased state that now (no?) allowance has been made to her as such widow for her support for twelve months from the time of the death of said deceased.  That she is 66 years of age.  That the amount of personal property ^ of said deceased^ set apart to her as exempt from execution is $_______.  That the appraised value of personal estate of said deceased other than exempt property is $______.  She asks that she may be allowed the sum of $300 for her support as such widow during said period of 12 months.

                                                                          Bridgett Gillshannon

                                                                          By Geo B. Young, her atty

The judge ordered it.

The executor complied . . . with payments

The lawyer's bill was $25
Note:  Thank goodness his name was printed in the upper left corner of the bill because I certainly couldn't read it.

I investigated, briefly, the identity of the executor of his will, and from what I can tell he was a farmer who had a nearby farm and I assume a trusted friend of the Gilshannons, but why wasn't a family member chosen?  So far,  I have not found a family relationship with G.A. Griswold.  What was the incentive for someone outside a family to agree to be an executor? Money? Friendship? Obligation?   There was a bill for $25.00 "commissions", and I assume this was what he was paid for carrying out the duties of the executor.

So. . . when all the bills and fees were paid and everything was settled, what monies were left for the widow and children? 

The Final Disbursements

Bridget received $204.39

. . . and each of the children receive $58.39

As you can see a probate record contains more than just a wil,l and these "extras" give you the story behind the will and can often lead your research in new directions.  One bill in this probate record referenced a lawsuit between Thomas and a man named Struve complete with the date.  That will go on my list for next year's research trip.  The bills may paint a picture of the life of the deceased, along with the time period they lived in.  

Don't just settle for a will, dig deeper and search for the entire probate record.  Surprises await. . .  

Postscript:  My research trip to Clinton would not have been as successful without the help of my Clinton angel, Mary.  She gave me addresses, hours of operation, local maps with ancestor addresses highlighted, location of various records, went to museums and historical centers to check out their holdings, and so much more.   If I try to list it all, I will forget something.  She was the reason I was able to accomplish so much. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More Probate Information Beyond the Will

As a family historian, you always search for relationships and names to further your research.  While the will of Thomas Gilshannon names his wife and children, the probate gives additional information about where they lived at the time of their father's death and also the names of the spouses.  Since there is no federal census for 1890, a probate record for 1888 is about as close as you will get.  The location can help distinguish between individuals with a similar name and link them to a particular family.  Here is that record for Thomas Gilshannon.
The information contained in this probate record about his children, in birth order . . . his heirs at law on 17th of April 1888

Ellen Allen . . . aged 39 . . . resided in Clinton, Iowa
Thomas Gilshanan . . . aged 35 . . . resided in Whitney, Nebraska
Elizabeth Gilshanan . . . aged 33 . . . resided in Elk River, Iowa
Catherine Guerin . . . aged 32 . . . resided in Whitney, Nebraska
Bernard Gilshanan . . . aged 30 . . . resided in Aberdeen, Dakota
                                                               (It was still a territory at this time)
Mary M. Gilshanan . . . aged 22 . . . resided in Elk River, Iowa
Henry Gilshanan . . . aged 21 . . . resided in Elk River, Iowa

Note: His daughter Nancy died in June of 1882.  Nancy and Ellen were the children of Thomas and his first wife Ellen Guilfoil

Additionally it names the following spouses as heirs at law of deceased or interested in his estate:

James Allen . . . husband of Ellen Allen
Mrs. Thomas Gilshanan . . . wife of Thomas Gilshanan  (not much help)
Thomas Guerin . . . husband of Catherine Guerin
Mrs. Augusta Gilshanan . . . wife of Bernard Gilshanan

I have to assume that Elizabeth, Mary, and Henry were not married as of this date.  This gives quite a bit of additional information beyond the names in the will to research!!

Next post:   So. . .  what did everybody end up with when all was said and done?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Probate Records. . . More Than Just a Will

In a recent post I shared the will of Thomas Gilshannon, my 3x great grandfather who immigrated to Elk River, Iowa from Ireland in 1839.  The will was part of his probate record from 1888 but the fat probate file contained much more that just a will.  It details family relationships, and is a glimpse into life almost 125 years ago.  There were no restrictions on my handling of the probate records.  It is amazing that the paper was not brittle in the least, and I followed the lead of the clerk who, before she made a photocopy, bent the pages back to remove the crease. . .  gasp!  The clerks were pleasant and accommodating despite the fact that it meant a trip to the historic courthouse attic, reputed to be the resting place of more than an occasional bat, for the files.  I made sure to compliment them as they more than deserved my appreciation.

One common item I found interesting was that several of the bills and records were held together with this. . . .a straight pin!  The commonly used stapler did not come into common use for a couple more decades and the patent for the lowly paper clip was not until 1901.

The law of the time required the public posting of a notice as to who was appointed executor in three public place, including the front door of the courthouse.  Then come back to the court and swear that this had been accomplished.  Why was G.A. Griswold appointed executor, and what was his relationship to Thomas Gilshannon??  Was he a banker, an attorney, a friend or a relative?  Thomas, in feeble health, wrote his will five years before his death so the choice of executor was a decision that he gave considerable thought.

Published in the Weekly Mirror, Lyons, Iowa February 25th, March 3rd and 10th.
Notice of Proving Will
State of Iowa
Clinton County
  To all whom it may concern:
  You are hereby notified that an instrument in writing purporting to be the Last Will and Testament of Thomas Gilshannon, late of said county, deceased was on the 23rd day of January, 1888 (at January term of said court) produced and publicly read in open Court by the Clerk of said Court; that said Court Clerk then fixed the 17th day of April, A.D.1888 and during the next term of said Court to be begun and held at the Court House in the city of Clinton, in said county, on the 17th day of April, 1888 as the time for proving the same, at which time and place you can appear and contest the proving and allowing of said instrument as the Last Will and Testament of said deceased, if you desire so to do.
  In witness thereof, I, William Kreim, Clerk of said Court, have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of said Court at my office in the city of Clinton, in said county, this 17th day of February, A.D. 1888.
                                                     WILLIAM KREIM
                                                               Clerk of the District Court

A copy of the notice and the bill were submitted to the executor. The printer's fee was $6.00

There are many bills that are submitted to the executor and he needed to pay and then account for all of them.  Some are to fulfill the wishes of the deceased as set out in the will, some are required by law, and some are a practical result of a death in 1888.  Such is the following.

It appears that it cost $5.00 for a funeral team of horses and sleigh from John Doran who claimed to have the "Best Rigs in the City".

More in the next post. . .

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday Olympics . . . in Honor of Ancestor Athletes

Carroll Walker KSAC
My grandfather, Carroll Walker, who was captain of the football team in 1906 at Kansas State Agricultural College which later became just Kansas State.

The 1907 (I think) Kansas State Agricultural College Football Team.  "Cap" Walker in suit, middle row, third from right.  Sadly, no names for the others - can you help?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Amanuensis Monday . . . The Will of Thomas Gilshannon From the Courthouse Attic

Altarpiece donated by four families including Holdgrafer

Well, I have returned from what has become a yearly trip to Clinton, Iowa, the home of a multitude of my ancestors.  For a while I thought this might be the last trip, but I discovered there is still more to document.  It seems like the more you find, the more you realize there is more to research. Many of the church records such as births, baptisms, marriage, and deaths for my family are located in the Catholic Historical Center which is located in St. Boniface, a closed parish.  At one time Clinton had five thriving parishes, but, due to escalating costs and dwindling attendance, they have merged into one parish which is located in a new church building.  Luckily, this magnificent building has found a second purpose. What happened to all of the records? Fortunately a dedicated church member was able to transcribe the older records that were moved from the five parishes to the new church.  As far as I know, she is the only one who has seen the original records since the church does not allow any access to them.  Even if they do not allow access, I hope that they digitize the records and keep a copy in two places so they are not lost one day due to human error or natural disaster.

Like last year, the records do not allow personal searching.  As before, one of the dedicated men who staff the CHC, Bill Foley, would scroll through, I would tell him the surnames I was researching, and he would read off the information.  They still do not have a printer for the computer holding the records database so my notes are scribbled and sometimes barely readable.  Bill was incredibly patient and willingly re-read names and dates for me as I asked.  I tried to read over his shoulder as he scrolled through since I discovered multiple incorrect transcriptions. I could recognize my family even when the names were garbled.  The strangest one was Dionysious when it was intended to be Dennis. . . oh, well.  As a volunteer transcriber for the 1940 census, I am completely sympathetic to the transcriber's difficulty.   If you have Clinton ancestors who were members of one of these churches, I encourage you to contact them.  You will not find a more helpful and enthusiastic group of fellows.  The center is open from 9-noon on Tuesdays and Saturdays and they have a facebook page.

Clinton County Iowa historic courthouse
In addition to the center, one of my main goals was to go to the county clerk's office and look at probate records.  I was told by the historical society that in Clinton, you can still look through the original records, and I am such a sucker for original records! In preparation, I called the clerk's office the week before I left and gave her the list of names I was researching and approximate death date for each. I had been told that it will often take them several days to get the records from the attic. After all, genealogy is not their primary job!  They were extraordinarily nice and accommodating. The courthouse was my first stop when I arrived in Clinton on Monday morning. Caroline, my contact, told me that she had only been able to find one name on my list, but that I was welcome to look through the index to see what I could find.  Oh, and, by the way, she explained that they could photocopy for .50 per page or I was welcome to take a photo of anything I wanted at no charge.   Whoaaaaa . . . I was both stunned, thrilled, and my purse held my camera with a fully charged battery.  I spent the next two hours going through the index books and, in fact, I did find more records.  When I left, I gave my new list to Caroline, and hoped that she might be able to retrieve them before I left for home two days later.  By early that same afternoon, I received a phone call telling me my records were ready to look at.  I already had an appointment to meet my 90+ cousin, John Brown, for a sit and chat that afternoon so the records would have to wait for Wednesday morning.

I arrived at the clerk's office shortly after they opened with a fully charged camera battery and a spare in my purse. Caroline pointed to a stack of records on a shelf and suggested that I to go to a table in the entry area and look through them.  The thick one on top made me grin from ear to ear.  It was the probate record of my 3x great grandfather . . . Thomas Gilshannon, born in County Meath, Ireland in 1810 and who immigrated to Iowa in 1839.  Below that was the record for my great grandmother, Anna Mae Shelko, nee Allen.  She was the granddaughter of Thomas. There were two that I hoped would prove to be relatives of her husband Edward Thomas Moldt, but no one sounded familiar so I have to assume they were not related.  Another two belonged to uncles and the last was the probate for the second wife of Thomas Gilshannon.  I was over the moon.  This was my first time looking at probate records, and it was thrilling.

I started with the ones that were flat first, but when I got to Thomas, I have to admit that I was breathing deeply. . . and I wasn't disappointed. 

I unfolded the top paper and found his original will . . . tied with a red ribbon!
Will of Thomas Gilshannon - page 1
The Will of Thomas Gilshannon
of the Township of Elk River
Clinton County Iowa

  I Thomas Gilshannon being in feeble heath But of sound mind in this the Seventy four year of my age do make and establish this as my Last Will and Testament.  "Imprimer" I give to my wife Bridget Gilshannon One Third in value of all my Real Estate. To Witt "The South East Quarter of Section Number Fourteen in Township Number Eighty three North of range Number Six East of the 5th P.M. Also the South West One fourth of the South West One fourth of Section Number Eight in Township Number Eighty three North of Range Number Seven East of the 5th P.M"
  Said One Third to be all taken from the land in Section Fourteen Town (83)(?)R (6) so as include the Dwelling House and Farm Buildings theron.

Will of Thomas Gilshannon - page 2
The Property regarded as Exempt under the Code of Iowa and which the law specifies & Also after My debts are paid The One third of the Proceeds of my Personal Property as the Code aforesaid provides.

Second The remainder of said Real Estate above described "That is the two thirds in value thereof I give to My Children Ellen M Allen Thomas Gilshannon Elisabeth Gilshannon Catherine Guerrin Bernard Gilshannon Mary Gilshannon and Henry Gilshannon in equal shares to be divided by them as they may seem best & proper
( In the above devises The Land taken by the C.M & St P. Railway is not included so long as the same is used by said Rail Road Company)  I also give to the aforesaid Children The Two thirds of the proceeds of my Personal property after my debts are paid in equal shares between them as they seem best.

Will of Thomas Gilshannon - page 3
Third as there is a Mortgage of One Thousand dollars on a portion of the land herein devised ^ given to Mrs Louisa Bohnes by myself and my wife^  I direct my Executor herein after named as soon after my death as Practiable to sell so much of my personal estate as he may deem proper to pay said Mortgage aforesaid on or before the same becomes due.  And also sell such other Personal property as may be necessary to pay debts expenses & including a suitable Tomb Stone for myself and my daughter Nancy Gilshannon who died in June 1882

Fourth I appoint GA Griswold my Executor of the Township of Elk River Clinton County Iowa in order to Carry into effect the provisions of this will
                                                                  Sign by me on this second day of 
                                                                              April AD 1883
                                                                                           Thomas Gilshannon (his signature)
This will consisting of Two sheets of
paper was signed by the said Thomas Gilshannon
in our presenence April 2nd 1883
In testimony whereof we have set our hands in
his presence and in the presence of each other this 2nd day of April 1883
       Charles Beatty    GA Griswold of Elk River Iowa

Thomas Gilshannon's signature is quite shaky looking.  On the early land records, he and his wife, Ellen, had to make a mark for their signature so I assume that he could not read or write.  From the will, it appears that he did learn to write his name.  I am sure his admitted feeble health influenced his signature as well.