I really haven’t done much with wills. Well, I’ve written two (though the “sound mind” clause always makes me a little nervous!), but as part of my genealogy research, not so much. That’s due to a combination of reasons:
- I didn’t have a specific research question that a will would have helped answer
- I come from a long line of peasants–no money to speak of, so mostly no wills
- Not living near the places where I would need to look up a will
- Not having other family members particularly interested in genealogy and wanting to make a research trip with me
- Having a limited budget (i.e.: fairly non-existent) for either the trip or hiring someone local to the will to look it up
In fact, I’ve come in contact with only two wills in all this time, both on Mike’s side. One was for a maternal great-grandfather, Patrick Nolan. The paperwork from his probate packet was microfilmed, but unfortunately, the microfilm printer at the courthouse was broken, so all I could do was read and take notes. It was before digital cameras, so that wasn’t an option either. It was interesting reading, but no amazing revelations, either.
The other will is a photocopy of the actual will for his father’s adoptive mother, Anna Carmody Bauman. It provides the only documentation of the in-the-family adoption that took place. I never met my father-in-law. He died while Mike was in college. Mike and I knew each other, but hadn’t started dating, yet. After Jerry died, his 2nd wife packed up his paperwork & memorabilia and gave them to Mike, as the oldest child. The 1940 will was included in that.
Jerry was the youngest child of John Joseph Carmody and Mildred B. Fitzgerald. It was a 2nd marriage for both. John’s first wife had died, and their 8 children were mostly grown, when he and Mildred married. Mildred was 29 years younger than he, and had two young children. I haven’t determined if her first husband, Gordon Marshall, had died, or if they had divorced. Regardless, John and Mildred went on to have a “2nd family” of three boys: Michael, Joseph, and Jerry. Even though Mildred was only 37, she somehow developed a lung infection in the weeks after Jerry’s birth. She was hospitalized and never recovered.
That left John, age 66, with a 6-year old, a 3-year-old, and a newborn (plus two step-children)! I don’t think it was an era of a lot of hands-on parenting for men back then. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure he hadn’t changed diapers or done 2 A.M. feedings–and probably didn’t want to start. In fact, by the 1930 census, John is living without any children, managing the Port Huron Lighthouse travel camp. I’m not sure where the others were living.
Jerry’s baby book was mostly empty, but had an entry in the “Baby’s First Outing” section:
“Baby went out for the first time on the 12th day of September 1928, with Mrs. Hart when Millie was taken sick and stayed there until after the Funeral of Millie the 16th of Sept. and then Nano took[e] him Home for always.”
I don’t know who Mrs. Hart was–my guess is a neighbor–and I assume “Nano” was a nickname for Anna. We have no adoption paperwork, but at least the entry corroborates what Mike had heard from his dad. The 1930 census also lists him as “adopted son” for Frank & Anna. I’m not sure how adoption by a family member would have been handled then in Michigan. My guess is that it would still be considered closed, with records unavailable.
Anna’s husband, Frank, died in 1936 from colon cancer. Anna died 4 years later, in 1940, with Jerry’s birth father, John Joseph Carmody, having died in January that same year. Fortunately, Anna’s will survived, giving confirmation that Jerry was born a Carmody:
” . . . I give, devise and bequeath all my estate, real, personal, or mixed wherever situated to my beloved son (adopted) Gerald Bauman (formerly Gerald Carmody) . . .”
I’m extremely grateful she made the effort to leave a clear trail to the Carmody surname. I’m not sure we would be able to find it out, otherwise.