From The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy, 3rd edition, by Loretto Szucs and Sandra Luebking, I learned that
When a person dies without making a will, his or her property becomes an intestate estate. It is divided according to settlement shares determined by law. In most states, if the deceased is a married man, the widow receives a prescribed interest in any real property her husband owned (known as her dower rights) and a prescribed share of his personal property, and the rest is divided equally among the children.There are several processes before that division of property can take place. Below are the first steps in the processing of John Froman's estate.
As stated in the court record, on March 4, 1872, Jacob Seylor, S. W. Mannheimer, and B. Miller each paid $100.00 to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, taking on the responsibility of administrators. Jacob Seylor became the named administrator of "all and singular goods, chattels and credits" of John Froman. His obligation was to "make, or cause to be made, a true and perfect inventory of all and singular the goods chattels and credits of the said deceased, which have come or shall come into the hands and possession or knowledge of him the said Jacob Seylor" or anyone else, and to do it within one year.
In Pennsylvania law, according to a document in this file, the wife of a husband who died intestate could retain "goods and chattels . . . to the value of three hundred dollars . . . for the use of herself and her family."
It is hard to tell from the papers in the file whether the items that Widow Catherine kept (at right and transcribed below) are all the items that John Froman owned or whether the list contains only those items that Catherine retained. (Click on the images to enlarge.) This inventory was dated September 21, 1872.
1 Cookstove / $10.00
2 Coffeepots / illegible
1 bucket / illegible
2 Coffeemill[s] / $ .50
1 Pot / $ .75
1 Teakettle / illegible
1 [illegible] iron / illegible
1 Crant [or crout?] illegible
2 Bread Pans / illegible
1 Table / $2.50
Brought forward / $16.86
1 Bureau / $6.10
2 [illegible] / $2.75
1 Small Rocking chair /$ .25
1 Cubboard / $7.?0
6 Seats [maybe?] / $ .60
1 [illegible] / $ .25
[illegible] / $1.75
2 Bedstead / illegible
1 [illegible] / $1.??
Total / $49.98
John Froman also owned property. The balance of Catherine's $300.00 was to be taken from that. The record states,
For Balance of the Three Hundred Dols See Inventory & appraisement of twelve and half acres of land in Beaver Township Crawford County Pa Bounded North by part of Same lot on the East by public Road South by land of A. Inish and west by part of [illegible] lot being 20 rods North & South & 100 rods East & west & part of said J. Froman Estate which we value as two Hundred Fifty Dols 250$ & set apart to the said widow[.]
Notes, Thoughts, and Questions
- John Froman was about 30 when he died in about December, 1871. Catherine was between 26 and 28.
- At the time of his death, their children ranged in age from 8 to 14 months with another born in January, 1872.
- Why was there a 3-month delay between the time of John's death in December, 1871, and the beginning of court proceedings in March, 1872? Is that a common or uncommon amount of time?
- Why did the inventory not take place until September, 1872, 6 months after the case was opened?
- Looking at the list of items Catherine kept, they were either a very frugal family or a very poor family.
- What did Catherine do after her husband's death? How did she manage with 6 little children and a newborn baby? Did she live with family? Her father was Jacob Saylor, possibly the Jacob Seyler mentioned as the administrator in this court file.
- The property she retained in Crawford County was 20 x 200 rods. That translates to 330' x 1650' or about 12 acres. It was a long, narrow strip, part of a larger parcel of land. John also owned property in West Salem Township, Mercer County. (In 1870, John and Catherine lived in Pymatuning Township, Mercer County.) Why was she given the land in Crawford County? And why a long, narrow piece?
This file, O.S. 3410-D, was obtained from Register of Wills & Clerk of Orphans’ Court, Mercer County, 112 Mercer County Courthouse, Mercer, PA 16137.
Other posts relating to John Froman and his intestate court file:
Of Orphans and Widows
Petition for Guardianship for Theressa Froman
The Intestate Estate Record of John Froman - Part 2: Petition, Exhibits 'A' and 'B', Petitions, Decree
The Intestate Estate Record of John Froman - Part 3: Sale of Real Estate, Accounts, Inventory of Children