Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009 | midnight
To a genealogist, probate is a beautiful thing.
Merriam-Webster defines probate as follows: a) the action or process of proving before a competent judicial authority that a document offered for official recognition and registration as the last will and testament of a deceased person is genuine, or b) the judicial determination of the validity of a will.
A person's will may name only some heirs; the probate process reveals all surviving heirs and may state their then ages and places of residence.
Leonard H. Young provides example. Young died in 1873 possessed of six parcels of land containing more than 1,000 acres in Chambers County, Ala. The 1870 census found Leonard H. Young, 74 years, in Fredonia, Chambers County, with Judy H. Young, 55 years, and an unknown 16-year-old female, Lizzie Scroggins. The 1870 census reports that Young owned $6,000 real estate and $3,460 personal estate. Without further information we cannot safely identify Young in 1860.
George A. Hilt, Executor, filed petition in Chambers County for probate June 30, 1873, revealing that Leonard H. Young died June 11, 1873, leaving a will naming Hilt Executor. The deceased left widow Judith "Hardoman" Young and next of kin as follows: George A. Hilt and wife Rebecca Hilt, William H. Goss and wife Francis D. Goss, William Varner and wife Haseltine I./J. Varner, each over 21 years and citizens of Chambers County. Also Emily C. Henderson wife of J. Henderson, Leftwich Young, Mary E. "Rennols" wife of William "Rennols," Cynthia Freeman and John W. Freeman, and James Young, all over 21 years and citizens of Troup County, Ga. The heirs lived near each other; Troup County, Ga., and Chambers County, Ala., share a border along the Chattahoochee River.
In October 1876, more than three years after Young died, Hilt petitioned to sell Young's lands and equitably divide the assets among Young's heirs, named as follows (not including Judith, who, as widow, inherited one-third of Young's estate for her lifetime):
- Emily C. Henderson, 56 years, of Georgia
- Mary E. Reynolds, 52 years, of Georgia
- Rebecca C. Hilt, 49 years, of Chambers Co., Ala.
- Sitha A. Freeman, 47 years, of Georgia
- Hassie H. [sic] Varner, 40 years, of Chambers Co., Ala.
- Frances Goss, 44 years, of Chambers Co., Ala.
- A. L. Young, 54 years, of Georgia
- James G. Young, 42 years, of Georgia
The documents name Young's widow, eight children, their residences in 1873 and 1876, and spouses of female children. They allow us to roughly estimate dates of birth and name their spouses as follows:
- Emily C. Young b. ca. 1820, m. J. Henderson, lived Troup Co., Ga. 1873
- A. Leftwich Young b. ca. 1822, lived Troup Co., Ga. 1873
- Mary E. Young b. ca. 1824, m. William Reynolds, lived Troup Co., Ga. 1873
- Rebecca C. Young b. ca. 1827, m. George A. Hilt, lived Chambers Co., Ala. 1873
- Cynthia/Sytha A. Young b. ca. 1829, m. John W. Freeman, lived Troup Co., Ga. 1873
- Haseltine "Hassie" I./J. Young b. ca. 1830, m. William Varner, lived Chambers Co., Ala. 1873
- Frances D. Young b. ca. 1832, m. William H. Goss, lived Chambers Co., Ala. 1873
- James G. Young b. ca. 1834, lived Troup Co., Ga. 1873
Probate data allows us to locate L. H. Young, 65 years, in 1860, in Antioch, Troup County, Ga. He owned $5,000 real estate and $10,000 personal estate. He was enumerated with a female, G. [sic] H. Young, 47 years, and Jas. G. Young, 25 years. The census taker entered Young's household between households of Jno. and Emily Henderson (45 years) and George A. and R. C. Hilt (female, 26 years). Census ages for Emily Henderson and R. C. Hilt differ from those in the probate, but the probate file that names his heirs and their spouses enables us to identify Young by his initials in 1860 and seek further family records.
Stefani Evans is a Board-certified genealogist and a volunteer at the Regional Family History Center. She can be reached c/o the Home News 2275 Corporate Circle, Suite 300, Henderson, NV 89074, or firstname.lastname@example.org.