Monday, February 4, 2013

No Christian

Maybe Christian Gerner does not want to be found (though, to be honest, my search is just beginning).

His obituary death notice told nothing about his family.  It gave only his death date, age, and location of death.  But by having a death date, I hoped I would find a will.  So on January 22, I placed an order at FamilySearch for a microfilm from the Family History Library.  I ordered Butler County (Pennsylvania) Will Books Volumes O-P, 1898-1903, FHL Film #895107.  The film arrived on Friday or Saturday.   The Family History Center (FHC) is open on Monday mornings from 9 a.m. - noon.

Mondays are busy days at home, picking up after the weekend, doing laundry, organizing for the week, but I gave my morning to a search for Christian and went to the FHC to look at the microfilm.  After viewing the film once without finding Christian, I went through the entries for 1899-1901 a second time.  Still no Christian Gerner.

I can think of three reasons why there would not be a will:
  1. He disposed of his land and all his possessions before his death.
  2. He filed his will in some other county. 
  3. He died intestate (i.e., without a will).  Was his death sudden and unexpected?  (Though who, by the time he's 60, doesn't know that death is imminent?)  I think it was common in the 1800s for wills to be written after a person became ill:  maybe Christian really didn't have time to write a will.
Are there other reasons why he would not have a will or why his will would not be in the 1899 will book?  Might his executors have waited more than two years to file the will in court?



  1. I have heard the estimate that only about 10% of all people died with a will. Have you checked the other probate records? I believe most of the Pennsylvania county records are on FamilySearch.

    1. I didn't know the percentage of people dying with a will was so low. I was wondering if probate records should be my next search. It's great they're online - too bad they're not indexed yet, but I guess it's not much different than searching through a roll of microfilm. I appreciate your input, Michael. Thank you.


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