Thursday, April 5, 2012

What Estate Records Reveal About Our Ancestors

Estate Inventory for Abel Carter,  p. 1
North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1964 
Once I located the estate records of my husband's ancestors, I began transcribing them and soon discovered that I needed to create a dictionary for many of the items recorded in these pages. 

Below is a transcription of the items listed. Those printed in bold face must be defined. NOTE:  I have omitted the names of buyers and valuations. I have also maintained the original spellings.

Estate of Abel Carter Deceased June 13, 1807 the Count of Sail
1 case with bottles, 11 pewter spoons, 1 case and 1 vial, 1 hackle and mouse trap, 2 slays and guears, 1 adds and howel, 1 plain and drawing knife, 1 peck, 1 pail and kealer, 1 tub and pail, 1 gun, 1 earthen pot, 1 wedge, 3 hoes, 3 razors and shaving box, 1 hat, wooling wheel without rim, 1 pail of trumpery, 2 pot trammels, 1 spider, 2 mugs, 1 cup, 1 earthen bole, Lot of crockery wair, spice mortar, 1 barrel, 1 hammer, 1 ax, 1 hatchet, 1 dish and 3 plates, 1 cagg, 1 bason, 1 case and other things, 1 jug, 1 chest and all that is in it, 3 powder horns, 2 pair kneedles, knives and forks, 1 cagg, 1 case and trumpery, 1 pot, 3 bottles, fish hooks, cagg of trumpery, grind stone, 1 Bible, 1 cagg and trumpery, 1 hand saw, 1 bed.

Altogether, the items sold for
24 pounds, 17 dollars and 2 shillings. 
The amounts owed to eleven creditors, however, 
totaled 31 pounds, 18 dollars.

Definitions of these items appears to be more difficult to come by than expected. 

If you remember, a spider had been defined as a skillet with legs that would be set over the coals of a fire. Below is a good photo of a hearth and implements. The spider skillet is setting in the foreground:
Mountain Geologists
The next item I had any success with was a drawing knife. The Nabb Research Center defines it as: 
Drawing knife (Draw knife, Drawknife) - an edged tool with a blade and a handle on each end, which was used by pulling the tool towards the user; such as a chair bodger, a cooper, a carpenter, a wheelwright, a rake maker, a basket maker, or a gate hurtle maker, e.g., "a drawknife and chisel were mentioned in Stephen's inventory, which suggests that he worked a lot with wood."
After this successful search, I decided to check on some of the other items in the inventory in their Illustrated Dictionary of Colonial Times. This dictionary, however, seems to be completed only to the letter "F", and the only other definition and photo I could find were for: 
Adze - An implement of varying sizes with varying blades, used to hollow out wood. Usually belonging to a skilled craftsman and not a carpenter, e.g., "'To an ould adze' was written in the cabinet maker's inventory."  
According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, trumpery is defined as: "trivial or useless articles." The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as: "showy but useless finery: bric-a-brac." So much for that. I wonder, how much of what I own could fall under the category of trumpery?

What kind of needles come in pairs. . . other than perhaps knitting needles?

I was able to find a definition and photo of a pot trammel from, of all places, Old Deerfield, Massachusetts. . .the home of some of my KING and NEWTON ancestors. 
The word "trammel" means adjustable. This fireplace gadget allowed the cook to raise and lower a pot, hanging from the hook, to five different positions, which was much easier than constantly adjusting the intensity of the fire. It is made in two parts of wrought iron by a blacksmith and is an improvement over the simple "S" hook.
 The other items are still a mystery. Perhaps if I were to contact Tryon Palace, I might be able to find someone there who could explain what those items were. Or, if any of you might have an idea, please feel free to share your expertise.
So, until then . . .

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