Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Family History Mission: Lots of Inventories

No. 68

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them or click back through all the posts.

One major component of the probate files we are digitizing at the Maryland State Archives is the estate inventories. From the earliest Colonial times, estates were taxed on a some or all of the value of the items owned by the deceased person. These inventories are extremely detailed lists of everything the person owned at the time of their death. There are also subsequent lists in the form of an accounting showing the items sold and the price paid by the purchaser.

In the earlier times, before the Civil War, these inventories include lists of the slaves owned by the person. For me, these lists of enslaved persons are extremely sad. I was particularly touched by the following entry.

This one list represents all that was evil about slavery. If you look closely at the last entry, you will see that "Blind Henry Sen." was valued at $.01. Here we have a representative of the whole problem and one of the continuing problems in our society today. Even though we have formally abolished slavery, we still have people in our society either because of race, age, or disability that are given no value.

Right now, I am just finishing listening to a three-volume history of the Civil War and at the same time, I am watching history pass before me through the probate documents.

On a lighter side, I did find these two petrified flies that are over a hundred years old.

I have mentioned that we do not wear "traditional" missionary clothing to work. Here is a photo of my wife Ann's hands after spending a day or so processing the documents for digitization. She has been working on pulling out the original document from the clamshell storage containers. We do not usually get quite this dirty, but we do wash our hands several times a day.

We are still running across interesting documents. Here is a Certification for a Justice of the Peace signed by the future president, James Buchanan, while he was the Secretary of State for the United States.

I do plan on writing more about the content of the Inventories. I think many genealogists fail to see the value of these lists in reconstructing the lives of their ancestors.

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