Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way . . .

The word “WILL,” as defined by Dictionary.com
As a verb:

  • to give or dispose of (property) by a will or testament, bequeath or devise.
  • to influence by exerting power
  • to wish, desire or like

and as a noun:

  • the act or process of using or asserting one’s choice; volition
  • a legal declaration of a person’s wishes as to the disposition of his or her property or estate after death, usually written and signed by the testator and attested by witnesses and
  • the document containing such a declaration.

For centuries our ancestors have written their wills to make sure their families are cared for upon their demise.  Some have had specific instructions as to exactly who and who may not benefit from their personal estate and sometimes listed a reason.  In the following examples, the word WILL is both parts of speech, the verb being used as retaliation in several instances!

My ancestor, Philip Kleiss, for example, stated in his will dated 7 October 1797:

ITEM: I give unto my daughter Philippina the wife of George Brungart one shilling sterling money in full for her share of in to and out of my Estate real and personal, and this I do on account of her disobedience towards me.  BUT nevertheless if my said daughter Philippina should become a widow and not able to support herself, THEN it is my Will that my said first mentioned seven Childlren shall be subject to pay unto her yearly the sum of Eighteen pounds specie money aforesaid that is to say, each of them one equal seventh part  thereof during her Widowhood, out of the money & Estate herein to them given, but if my said daughter Philippina should marry again then the said yearly payent shall cease and no longer paid.

Philippina had married a man of a different faith against her father’s wishes.  This was Philip Kleiss, the tavern keeper who had a nine page inventory, not including the 2 full pages of items left to the family!  Philippina got one shilling from the estate.

In a will dated 21 March 1787 written by Maria Barbara Auxer, my 6th great grandmother, her specific wishes were to exclude all of her children except for one.

. . . I, Maria Barbara Auxer, of the Borough of Lancaster in the County of Lancaster and State of Pennsylvania, Spinster, for and in consideration of the good services and attendance done to me in my lifetime, by my son, Christopher Auxer . . . do by these presents give over and bequeath unto him, my said son, Christopher Auxer all my personal estate, monies, bonds, goods, clothes and bedding whatsover to him, his heirs and assigns forever.  . . . and I do hereby by these presents disinherit my other children, Anna Maria, and Elizabeth and Michael Auxer, from all land singular all rights and herediments to my estate herein forever and my said son, Christopher Auxer, shall receive all monies, bonds, clothese and bedding after my decease, and no sooner, to his own purposes, use and behoof.

Her son, Michael and her daughter, Elizabeth were both my ancestors.  What??  Yup!  Elizabeth was the wife of the aforementioned Philip Kleiss.  Her daughter, Catharine married Michael’s son, Michael, Jr.

In Jacob H. Redsecker’s will, he leaves his entire estate to his aunt, Martha J. Ross and his sister, Sarah A. Greenawalt, with the exception of $200 to the cemetery his father is buried in, and the grandfather clock to his brother, Abraham.  Yet, according to the Lebanon Daily News, Friday, April 23, 1909, page 1, column 1:

. . . Out of respect of the wish of the deceased there was no public viewing of the body and during the service the coffin was closed.  . . . It was the wish of the deceased that there should be no eulogy and that there should be no women at the burial.  Both wishes were respected.

Jacob and I are distantly related.  He died a life-long bachelor at the age of 70 and left everything to women and yet he didn’t want them at the burial??

Every once in awhile, as I look for an obituary I run across an interesting article.  Such was the case recently when I found the following on one of my favorite sites, Genealogy Bank. It was in the Pawtucket Times, 10 February 1921.

John Werner, who died at his home on Lowell st.,  Aug. 20, 1820, left three sons and four daughters.  His will, exectuted July 19, 1920, just filed in this city, is remarkable on account of the specific provisions for distribution of his estate.

One daughter is named “to receive $1 to purchase a rope to hang herself with.” The grievance against her alleged is “that she caused the arrest of her father for the sake of a worthless husband and is not worth any more.”

Another daughter named is to receive $1.  She is alleged to have caused him “lots of trouble by associating with married and single men; also that on the death of her mother, she went on a joy ride with a man; also that she refused to contribute any money toward payment of funeral expenses of her mother.”

A son named is to to receive a specified sum, provided he remain a Protestant.

And the last instance of  a strange request was found in the Lancaster County Intelligencer, 14 November 1903:

The will of Joseph Doutot, who died at New Orleans Thursday was filed Friday.  He leaves his property to the undertaker who is to bury him, and provides for a handsome funeral with an adequate number of carriages, but stipulates that no one shall be allowed to see his face after death or be present at his funderal.  The carriages are to accompany the body to the grave, but must be empty.

Don’t you wonder what frame of mind some of these people were in when they wrote their

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT?

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