[APG Public List] Question about wills

Ray Beere Johnson II raybeere at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 28 09:40:54 MDT 2010

     On the subject of "one dollar" or similar bequests, I would add one word of caution every family historian needs to keep in mind. A will might designate an individual as profligate, spendthrift, a gambler, a drunkard, whatever - _but this only reflects the opinion of the person writing the will_.
     Yes, that opinion might often be based in fact. Yet it is also possible for someone to proffer a publicly acceptable reason in a public document in order to conceal some other, petty grudge. It is possible for one sibling to spread lies about another in order to gain a larger inheritance.
     Documentary evidence has its limitations, and although such a bequest is a useful clue, like any other bit of information, it should not be accepted as fact without additional evidence to support its claims. "Grandpa Joe called Uncle Al a drunk in his will" is a valid statement for a genealogist to make. "Uncle Al was a drunk" is not; at least not without further proof.
     Many people allow the fact wills are - mostly - all among family to warp their thinking. 'Surely a father would not lie, or believe lies, about his own son or daughter.' Yet it is _precisely_ in such close relations that we often see passions warping reality - and if it happens among us today, we have no reason to think it never happened in the past.
     So such a will does give an accurate picture of the _relationship_ - often bad in this type of situation - but that does not always accurately describe the named parties.
                                Ray Beere Johnson II


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