Tuesday, January 22, 2013


While I've been working on my family genealogy for about ten years now
there are still many thngs I don't know yet, and I'm not afraid to admit it.
I'm also not afraid to ask my fellow genealogists for their help and opinions
when I run into something that puzzles me. That's what I did with the
question of what the purpose of filing an Affidavit of Death might be.

I posed the following question over on Facebook:
"A question for my genealogy friends: why would someone have to file a
statement for a proof of death of a relative in a probate court? There are
no other documents in the file, no will or probate documents."

I got some interesting responses back from some very knowledgeable
people, all of which made perfect sense and could be the reason that
Abigail Hastings filed that Affidavit of Death. I'm sharing them with you  
with the consent of the writers:

"Lucie Marie Consentino
Perhaps to sell property if no will existed..when there is no will everything
goes through probate.

Marian-Pierre Louis
Sounds to me like no death certificate was presented when it was requested
and therefore a special request had been made.

I would imagine that all probate documents must start with proof of death
before the process can continue. Similar to how today, proof of death must
be established (in most cases) from a funeral home (or other authority)
before a newspaper will print an obituary. It's to prevent obits from being
printed for living people. Yes, people get up to that kind of stuff!

Laurie Pratt Sisk
The last part of your question makes it intriguing. If someone is missing and
presumed dead they have to be legally declared dead but I wonder why the
need for the statement when it appears no further legal action took place.

Colleen McHugh
Not sure if this will play into it or not, but at least in Arizona, if an adult is filing
for legal guardianship of an incapacitated adult (say an adult with severe 

cognitive disabilities that render him/her unable to make independent decisions on
medical care, finances etc), they petition for the guardianship in Probate Court.
Therefore, not all transactions in Probate Court relate to a death. ????

Bill West
Ok, I think I may have an answer. The statement was by an Abigail Hastings about
the death of my 4x great grandfather Amos Hastings. Now do far I've only paid
attention to his daughter Huldah, my 3x great grandmother and her brother
John who was applying for Amos' Rev.War. Pension benefits after Amos died.
It turns out Abigail was John's wife, Abigail(Straw) Hastings. I think maybe that
may be why she filed the statement on Amos' death.

Kevin Shue
Excellent question, Bill! In Pennsylvania there are, "Death Affidavits." They are
part of the probate court records. Every probate or any other legal record,
records part of a legal process.

Most of the time, death affidavits were recorded for individuals with wills, but
also sometimes for intestate proceedings.

The affidavits were not used in every instance, so I don't think it was a legal 

requirement just based on the fact there was a probate action.

It may also be because of a certain valuation of the estate legal requirement.
For example, required for all estates valued over a certain amount which would
then would be taxed or non-taxed, hence the need to document and attest to the

Laurie Pratt Sisk
 Bill, yours is a perfectly reasonable explanation. If I understand this correctly,
Abigail was the sister-in-law of Amos and thus could come forward to make the
statement having no financial interest in the claim.

Pat Richley-Erickson
Submitting proof of death concerning an heir is part of an administrator or 
executor's responsibility when calculating how the remains of an estate should 
be distributed.

Bill West
Thanks for all the input, folks. Laurie, Abigail was Amos' daughter in law. Pat, the
affidavit was made in 1851, 22 years after Amos' death and 5 years after the death of
his wife Elizabeth, (aka Rebecca).

For those genealogists who might be sceptical about whether Facebook is of
any use to their research, I can tell you it's been a great help to me not only as a
place to ask questions and seek help, but also as a way to establish friendships
with genealogists from the world over.

As I said in the above conversation, I think I found part of the answer to what purpose
that Affidavit was meant to serve and I'll discuss that next.

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