Wednesday, July 2, 2014

An Early Estate Inventory Record

One of our probate records which gives insights into the daily lives of early Licking County residents is the Estate Inventory Record of the years 1815-1824.  When a property owner died without a will, his belongings were listed in an inventory by persons who were assigned as appraisers by a court.  The 1856 edition of Bouvier's Law Dictionary describes this sort of inventory as:

"A list, schedule, or enumeration in writing, containing, article by article, the goods and chattels, rights and credits, and, in some cases, the lands and tenements, of a person or persons.  In its most common acceptation, an inventory is a conservatory act, which is made to ascertain the situation of an intestate's estate, the estate of an insolvent, and the like, for the purpose of securing it to those entitled to it."

Because of the "article by article" nature of these inventories, you can get some fascinating information about the possessions of a person from the past.  For example, the Estate Inventory Record tells us that William Hains, who died in Newark ca. 1815, owned books which included a biography of George Washington, a bible and volumes entitled Constitutions and American Nepos.  The Library of Congress online catalog tells us that the subtitle of American Nepos is "a collection of the lives of the most remarkable and the most eminent men".  In addition to books, Mr. Hains had a copper tea kettle, a delftware dish, and a child's chair.  His clothes, tools and remaining food stores are also described in the inventory.

Some items in the Estate Inventory of William Hains of Newark, Ohio,
who died ca. 1815.  Dollar valuations are indicated on the right.
The 1802 Ohio Constitution assigned probate responsibilities to the county courts of common pleas, until the 1851 Constitution re-established separate probate courts.  The Records & Archives Department holds some of the probate materials from both the Licking County Court of Common Pleas and the Probate Court.  Other probate materials are kept by the Probate Court in the Courthouse, and still other items of this nature are in the basement of the Domestic Relations Court building, at 75 East Main Street.  For more information, contact the Records & Archives Department at tel. 740-670-5121.