Tag Archives: Will

Where’s The Will? A Probate Records Search


I have decided that Adam Stahler is probably NOT an ancestor of mine (explanation elsewhere), so I am no longer trying to find his will.  I have left this post here because a) it has links to wills of some of my actual ancestors and b) the path I took searching for answers might be of interest to other researchers.


This week’s challenge for the 52 Ancestors project, “Where There’s a Will“, sounds familiar–drawing us into the fascinating world of probate records. However, at the moment I have to turn that around to “Where’s The Will?” because I am stymied in finding the will of Adam Stahler.

I have enjoyed getting acquainted with ancestors and their families through their probate records in the past. My great-great-grandmother’s first husband died young without a will, but the inventory of goods plainly told me that he was a merchant.   In researching my husband’s ancestors, I found wills for three successive generations in the Manbeck family. From those, and their attached inventories, I learned names of children, what a great-great-great-great grandmother had in her kitchen, what you need to grow flax, and how long it took for German immigrants to switch to the English langauge.

Abraham Brink Will

Abraham Brink the elder Will.

You can read about those ancestors and what I learned from probate records here:

But those were easy.  All those wills and associated papers from probate records were found on line. Hard to read the hand writing sometimes–but at any rate there they were.  And the recorder had kindly written an English transcription of the wills in German, so I didn’t even need a translator.

Asahel Platt Inventory

One of several pages of inventory of belongings of Asahel Platt.

And then there was Adam Stahler.  Ancestry.com coughs up an index entry from the probate records of Northampton County, Pennsylvania (his residence), for Stahler, Adam with John Stahler as administrator, filed in 1804. The index even presents a file number #2284.

Usually, when Ancestry does not give me anything but the index information, I can find the actual document at Family Search.org. Not this time.  I will spare you the gory details, but after two days of eye strain, I still did not have Adam Stahler’s will.

Next step, ask on Facebook at “Genealogy? Just Ask”.

Next step, check Family Search. Someone on the FB group had directed me on how to search more effectively on Family Search.  I  also read a very comprehensive guide to Family Search searching written by Cathy Meder-Dempsey.  Maybe I’m just a bad student, but that didn’t get me what I was looking for either.

Two possibilities, the will never was photographed by Family Search AND/OR it has not been digitized OR the second possibility–it no longer exists. That is just too sad to contemplate, so I am delaying accepting defeat.

Next step, contact the Probate office in Northampton County, Pennsylvania.

So today I sent off an e-mail.  Fingers crossed. And of course I will keep you posted.

Meanwhile,  you can keep yourself amused by looking at the variety of wills I DID find.

Joseph Kaser 1842 Will

My sister and brother and I enjoyed our family reunion/ancestor search trip 2 years ago so much that we are getting together for another ancestor trail trip this summer. In the fall of 2014, thanks to a cousin’s generosity, we had a family gathering at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Sudbury was the home base for many of our maternal grandmother’s ancestors. Follow the link above, or search for “Howe” to find out about the branch of our family that helped build New England towns and fought in the Revolution.


At Minuteman National Park with our family descendants of Minutemen.

This summer, the three siblings are going to revisit ancestor’s territory in Ohio and Pennsylvania, giving us a chance to take a look at our father’s line as well as our mother’s.

In preparation for that trip, I’m taking another look at our Kaser ancestors (Our father) and hope that I’ll have time to look at the Anderson (Our maternal Grandfather) line also.  Both lines tend to disappear in Pennsylvania in the 18th century, before they moved on to Ohio.

Joseph Kaser 1776-1842

I’m starting by adding a piece of information to what I previously wrote about Joseph Kaser (B. 1776), our third great-grandfather.  Although I did not know a lot about him two years ago when I wrote his story, you may want to look at that linked post for reference. It puts in perspective the life of German immigrants and the hardships they faced that forced them every further west, until they settled with ‘their own kind in Ohio.’

Thanks to the new transcripts of probate records added to Ancestry.com in the last year, I can scratch Joseph Kaser’s will off my to-do list. Although this will is in English, I’m guessing there may have also been a version in German, since Joseph probably did not speak English.

Unfortunately, the will does not contain the detail that we’ve found in others. But here’s what Joseph had to say in October, 1842.

After the preamble, he specifies that his wife Elizabeth Kaser should get one stove and a cow, two beds and bedding and such other household and kitchen furniture as she may select, not exceeding eighty-dollars in value.

Comment:  Don’t worry, 80 dollars would be worth approximately $2350 in today’s money.

The rest of his property, he says, should be sold and the money realized “put on interest  for the use and support of my wife Elizabeth Kaser during her natural life and after the death of my wife Elizabeth then the money is to be divided equally amongst any children in such a manner that each of my sons receive twenty-five dollars more than any daughters.

Comment: “put on interest” was the term used in the 19th century for money invested or put in the bank to earn interest.  Why do his six sons each get $25 more than each of his two daughters? Perhaps he had paid $25 dowry for the daughters, or perhaps it is because the expectation is that their husbands will take care of them.

Finally, he appoints John Basto (Spelling?) and his son William Kaser as executors.

Comment: When the will was written, William, the youngest of the family, would be twenty-four years old, but he must have been considered responsible, as there is evidence that Elizabeth went to live with him after Joseph died.

The will, written out by a clerk at the court, notes “signed in German, Joseph Kaser.”

Grave of Joseph Kaser

Grave marker of Joseph Kaser 1776-1842. Photo by Glen Hammel at Find a Grave.

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Paul Kaser, who is the son of
  • Clifford Kaser, who is the son of
  • Joseph Kaser II, who is the son of
  • George Kaser, who is the son of
  • Joseph Kaser

Notes on Research

  • Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998, Record for Joseph Kaser, Will Records, 1825-1906; Index to Wills, 1825-1965; Probate Place: Holmes, Ohio
  • The “Kaser Genealogy” (aka Green Book) referred to is The Kaser History: A History of Dates and Other Interesting Facts (1994) edited by Deborah D. Morgan and others. Out of print. I obtained information from a cousin who owns a copy of the book.
  • Zions Lutheran Reformed Church, Zionsville, PA index of records at Ancestry.com)Unfortunately the website for the church has been updated and they no longer have the history page, but I have given you a link to the “wayback machine” where you can find the old page.
  • Birth and Death records from census and Find a Grave through Ancestry.com
  • Cemetery records from the New Zion UCC church (formerly German Reform) in New Bedford, Ohio.

52 Ancestors – #46 Rudolph Manbeck. Where There’s a Will – Part II

Have you ever wanted to time travel and get to see how a particular ancestor lived? What he or she did for a living, or to help support the family? What kind of furniture did he/she have? What was most important to him/her?

Rudolph Manbeck 1740 or 1743 – 1794

Flax plant

Flax – vintage illustration, Linum usitatissimum L., Common flax or Linseed.

Well lucky me, I’ve just returned from a bit of time travel to the end of the 18th century where I visited my husband, Ken Badertscher’s 4th great-grandfather and  grandmother, Rudolph and Christina (Ziegler) Manbeck. My time travel vehicle is the will filed in the Tulpehocken Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania court by Rudolph Manbeck in January 1794 and probated in February 1794.

Unfortunately, my time travel machine would not take me all the way back to Germany where Rudolph and Christina were born, but I have more than enough information about their lives in Pennsylvania to keep Ken and his family busy for years.Rudolph arrived in America in 1765 with his father and his two sisters (and probably his mother). He settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania and attended the Altahala Evangelical Lutheran Church at Rehrersburg, Pennsylvania, a church founded in 1757 to serve German immigrants. In the 1950s Manbecks were still active members of the church.

What did I learn from the will and inventory of belongings?  I learned much about Rudolph and Christina’s life, but also got a lesson in vocabulary.

Rudolph was religious. His will starts with language that is familiar to readers of wills of the 17th through 19th centuries, in thanking God that he is still of sound mind although “at Present Sickly and Weakly in Body.” He admits to mortality “it is appointed for all Men once to die”. The first order of business is to “commend my Soul into the Hands of God who gave it, Hoping through the Merits of our Savior Jesus Christ to receive Remission of all my Sins and an Happy Admission into the Regions of Bliss and Immortality.”

Rudolph was a traditionalist.  I know that because he followed the assumed pattern of German primogeniture.  His land and accumulated buildings went to his oldest son, John, who was also tasked, along with Christina, Rudolph’s wife, of administering the will.  That does not mean that Rudolph six or seven (I’ll explain the “or” in a bit) other children were left with nothing.  In fact, John had to pay 300 pounds for the farm, doling it out to his siblings according to a formula spelled out by Rudolph. Which brings us to another trait.

Rudolph was the decision-maker

–perhaps even a bit of a control freak.  Besides the specific formula by which John is to pay back his siblings for the farm, 1/3 of the will contains details about what his wife is to inherit and how John is to keep his mother after Rudolph dies. A long paragraph specifies a grocery list of food stuff that she must get yearly from major items like Eight Bushels of good Wheat  to “half a Bushel good Salt, 1/4 li (superscript – latin abbreviation for pound) pepper, 1/4 li Alspices, 1/3 li Ginger” and more.

As though he does not trust John to have good sense to proper care for his mother, he instructs on the care of the cow she is to have.  She is to “Keep a Cow, Summer and Winter’s in provender like his own Cow’s and when said Cow dies or is old and unfit, then to find or give her a young one again from his Cows.”

I could also herar his preachy voice saying “John, you need to give your mother grain, but you also need to take it to the Mill and have it ground and then take the meal back to her.” The wording in the will is, “Eight Bushels of good Wheat, four Bushels of good Rye and to the same from time to time as she Need go into the Mill and fetch these Meal and Bran Home into her dwelling.”

John gets more instructions about Christina’s dwelling place, again with lots of detail. He is to share the farm house and give her the use of “Kitchen, Garrett, Cellar, Spring House, Bake-Oven with Free Egress and Regress and in Case they cannot live peaceable together, then he is to make new Room on the Spring House in good order with a pipe stove and fireplace in it….” One hopes that they lived peaceable.

Rudolph Manbeck

Rudolph Manbeck signature on will 1794

You can see from Rupert’s signature, that he was in bad shape physically. Although he was only in his early fifties, he probably had suffered a stroke. What a terrible blow that would be to the tough old soldier (he was in the militia and served in the Revolutionary War) and a man who was used to giving orders.

Rudolph was a farmer

His major crop was flax, which is a change from the many dairy farmers I have been writing about.  he owned only six horned cows and 7 swine according to the inventory. Oh, yes, and a hive of bees that he gave to one of his daughters.

Out of 63 lines of inventory, many listing two or even three items, 11 lines contained one or more items having to do with flax, plus there were other items that might have been used in growing it (like rakes and scythes) or in making cloth (like spinning wheels, baskets, etc.). The picture below shows two items that are listed–a spinning wheel and reel.

Spinning Wheel and Reel

“Charlene Parker, spinner, at Knott’s Berry Farm” by DTParker1000 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charlene_Parker,_spinner,_at_Knott%27s_Berry_Farm.JPG#/media

I am still learning more about raising flax and what you do with it after you raise it, but here are the terms that I was unfamiliar with in the inventory of his property.

Flax Brakes: Tool to crush the stems and release the fibers.

Hackles: Combs that straighten the fibers.

Hatchels: Another term for Hackle

Towlinen: Coarse cloth made from shorter fibers of flax.

Riddles:  Sieves for sifting seed–there were specific Flax Riddles, I am told.

Culling Box: Another device for separating seed. Not necessarily specific to Flax.

Flaxen Yarn:  The long-fiber thread that would be made into linen

Tow Yarn: The short fiber thread that would be made into the inferiorTow.

This paragraph from Mother Earth on line, explains many of the terms and the process.

Processing the bundles of stems to extract the fibers for spinning is a complex task that requires simple but special tools, a lot of hard physical work, and a sense of timing and judgment that comes only from long experience. The first step, called retting, involves soaking or wetting the stems for a period of days or weeks to promote bacterial action, which separates the different layers of stem tissues and loosens the fibers. After retting, the stems are dried again, then crushed between the wooden blades of a tool called a break or brake, which breaks the woody core into short bits that fall away from the mass of fibers. Finally, the bundles are combed through metal-tined combs called hackles. The result: a smooth bundle of long, straight fibers called line flax and a pile of fluffy, tangled, shorter fibers called tow. The line flax is used to make crisp, glossy fabrics, and the tow is used for everyday goods.

And this web site has a series of pictures showing the whole operatoin.

Christina Spent a Lot of Time Spinning and Weaving

There were a total of 6 spinning wheels and a reel listed in the inventory. One was specified as a Woolwheel, so presumably the rest were used for flax. Christina must have woven the linen and the tow, also, because Rupert leaves her quantites of yarn–both the amount of flaxen yarn and the amount of tow yarn were increased from what was originally written. (The first amount scratched out or written over). Fifty pounds flaxen yarn and thirty pounds Tow yarn. Additionally, the inventor lists 54 pounds of flaxen yarn and 20 of Tow yarn. Although there is no loom mentioned in the will, she most certainly was going to weave that yarn.

If the family was not in the business of selling cloth, they surely must have used it in barter for other goods.

Rudolph was Frugal

When he made his will, Rudloph owed 37 pounds, 6 pence to others, but he had 110 pounds, 10 shillings and 10 pence in cash on hand, which is a healthy amount of money for the time.

In the roughly 32 years since he arrived in America, Rudolph had created a successful 70 acre farm, and with Christina raised 7 (or 8) children.

More Work to be Done

At the beginning of the will, Rudolph specifies a paltry ten pounds as the legacy in full of his “Son Leonard”, to be paid to him or his attorney two years after his decease, with interest.

I have no idea who Leonard is, when he was born, or why he does not get the equal share that “my six children–my four Sons, George, Nicholas, Jacob and Daniel and my two Daughters Christina and Catharine”–plus John, who gets the major portion, and is not counted in the list.

Was Leonard actually a son, or a step son? Or was he perhaps a god-son? Or was he the eldest who under the rule of primogenture had to get something no matter how estranged the father and son might be–so he gets a token. Or did he marry a rich woman, and Rudolph didn’t think he needed any more? And why did he have to wait two years? The most obvious reason would be that he was not yet “of age”.

I find records for John and for a Johannes Leonard.  The Johannes Leonard Manbeck had a son that he named John in September 1794–nearly nine months after Rudolph Manbeck died.The son John who inherited the farm, according to the history of the Grim family of Pennsylvania that includes some Manbecks, was born in 1766,  which is one year after Rudolph arrived in America.According to that same source, he married around 1790.

The other problem is that I cannot verify the information in the Grim family book. I have very little information on Christina.  Although the Grim Family book says that her maiden name is Ziegler, I have not been able to confirm that. I don’t know for sure if Christina and Rudolph married in Germany or in America.  There are hundreds of Christinas among the German immigrants, adding to the confusion.

So there is much work to be done. I probably will leave it to Ken’s sister to finish some day.

Meanwhile, I’ll follow this post next week with one on Rudolph’s father’s will. And I’ll talk a bit soon about Christina’s kitchen.

How Ken is Related

  • Kenneth R. Badertscher is the son of
  • Agnes Bair Badertscher, who is the daughter of
  • Adam Daniel Bair, who is the son of
  • Daniel Manbeck Bair, who is the son of
  • Elizabeth Manbeck Bair, who is the daughter  of
  • Jacob Manbeck, who is the son of
  • Rudolph Manbeck and Catharina Ziegler Manbeck

Notes on Research:

Estate Files, 1752-1915; Author: Berks County (Pennsylvania). Register of Wills; Probate Place: Berks, Pennsylvania Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993, Rudolph Manbeck, 1794. On line at Ancestry.com

Pennsylvania, Revolutionary War Battalions and Militia Index, 1775-1783, Vol. 2, pg 260 Rudolph Manbeck, Corporal. From Ancestry.com

Pennsylvania, Tax and Exoneration, 1768-1801, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission; Records of the Office of the Comptroller General, RG-4; Tax & Exoneration Lists, 1762-1794; Microfilm Roll: 316, Rudolph Manbeck, 1781. From Ancestry.com

A historical booklet of Altahala Evangelical Lutheran Church, Rehrersburg, Berks County, Pennsylvania : published for the 200th anniversary, Sunday, June 23, 1957, Rehresburg, PA: Brossman, Schuyler C.,Church Council, 1957.  From Ancestry.com

Genealogy! Just Ask!  I received help on unfamiliar terms in will from this Facebook Page. Principally from Marlys Pearson, but many others chimed in as well.

 Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen or Medicinal Plants, Franz Eugen, 1887, Germany. This is the source of the beautiful vintage plant illustration of the flax plant. In the public domain. Found on the web site: Plant Curator.