Last Thursday-Sunday, the girls and I went up to Indiana to visit Ben and one family we've known through the internet for many years and to do some genealogy research. It all was quite fun.

I was very successful in my genealogy quest and found a probate packet that had its earliest receipt contained therein from 1835. A probate packet contains all the papers that were collected during the administration of someone's estate when he dies. So people will submit bills owed by that person that need to be paid. There can be bills for expenses related to the illness just before death or burial expenses themselves. There can be outstanding bills from the store which will say "shoes for James", etc.. Then there's an inventory of all the property owned by the person (even if the wife is still alive!). The property is sold and a listing of the sale price and who bought what appears. Then the expenses are totaled and the assets are totaled and the remainder divided among the heirs which are all usually named. This can be an incredible goldmine of genealogical information besides the common everyday stuff one learns about the ancestor. (I debated about putting "ancestor" in quotation marks because I mentally went in the Bertie Wooster way of referring to his Aunt Agatha.) One reason the naming of the heirs is particularly valuable is because names of wives will be given with their married names. Often it can be difficult to track female lines because of the name change upon marriage.

Probate records may be the ONLY proof of the parentage of a woman. Then if the son or daughter of the deceased has died, grandchildren will be named. Back then this happened a LOT.