Saturday, December 27, 2014


I posted a few days ago why I love probate files. Here's an example why:

While searching through the Essex County Massachusetts Probate files on I found a file for my 10x great grandfather William
Towne of Topsfield, Ma. William died intestate around 1672, and the estate
was left unsettled and in the hands of his widow, Joanna (Blessing) Towne.
When she died ten years later in 1682 their children presented the following
petition to the Essex County Court. I transcribed it as best I could, leaving
the original spelling and punctuation. There are some words I could not
decipher and they are replaced by (?) in the document. 

(( Source: Essex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1638-1881.Online database. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2014. (From records supplied by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives.)

To the Honored Court now seeting(?) in Ipswich
The Humbell Petision of us as here Named as under written(?) in way of the
Seatallment of a small estate left to us by our Honored father deceased about
ten yeres a goe who died and left no will of disposall of his estate but left the
estate in the hands of our Honored. thair was then an Inventory taken of what
estate was left and presented to the Next Court but the Honored Court did not
so cause at that time to doe anything in way of settlement of the estate only
entered the widow (unreadable) and so it remained till(?) her death unsattled
and the estate to this time not disposed of: Now your Humbel peticioners
Request is at this Honored Court  (?) (?) that the Estate may be sattled at as we
have unanimously Agreed which is as forthwith; viz: first that the lands both for
quality and quantity shall be equaly divided to his three sons:  Edmond Jacob and
Joseph : and the movabells (?) to the daughters Rebacka Mary and Sarah already
been given it shall (?)  in the (?); all so this that we at this time doe from the Estate
and what Claims shall after a Rise in aways of fulfillment of the estat to be equaly
born by all the six children both sons and daughters
Dat this 17 of January
Signed in the presence of us
John Howe
John Pritchet

Later I found this summary from the Court record in The Historical Collections of the Topsfield Historical Society, Volume 25

Petition for settlement of a small estate left the undersigned by their father, who died ten years ago leaving no will, but left his estate in the hands of their mother who was appointed administratrix and the estate remained unsettled until her death, and now they desire that the following division may be allowed: the land to be divided equally to his three sons, Edmond, Jacob and Joseph and the moveables equally to the three daughters, Rebecka, Mary, and Sarah; also the three brothers to pay all debts now due and what charges shall after arise in settlement of the estate to be equally borne by all six.

Dated Jan. 17, 1682.
Signed by Mary (her mark) Towne relict of Edmond,
Jacob Towne,
Joseph (his mark) Towne,
Francis (his mark) Nurs with the consent of Rebeka,
Mary (her mark) Estey formerly Mary Towne,
Sarah (her mark) Bridges.
Signed in the presence of us
John How, John Pritchet.

Allowed by the court at Ipswich Apr. 10,1683. Ipswich Deeds, vol. 4, page 515.

p-111 The Historical Collections of the Topsfield Historical Society, Volume 25 (Google eBook) printed by the Society, Topsfield Ma. 1920

Now besides the personal significance to my own family history, this document has some
historical significance as well because of two of the signers of the petition. One is my 9x great grandmother Mary(Towne) Estey, the other her sister Rebecca (Towne) Nurse.

Ten years after their petition to the Court to settle their parents' estate, Mary Estey and Rebecca
Nurse were hung as witches in Salem, Ma. 

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