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Wills and Other Documents

  
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Introduction: Early Wills and Documents in General

The human species is often referred to as "Man, the tool maker." But perhaps, as the species became civilized, it should have been distinguished from other species as "Man, the record maker." Once that humans started to devise systems of writing, it seems they never stopped finding things about which to write. Perhaps the earliest known records are from Mesopotamia, about 6000 years old, that are actually the accounting records for sacks of wheat, numbers of cattle, and other necessary goods. In England, with the coming of William and the Normans, the accounting was of lands, persons, and ownership of property. Domesday Book was basically an inventory of William's newly acquired realm.

From the beginning, it seems, everything was owned by somebody. To keep straight who owned what, it became very important to maintain reasonably accurate records of declarations of ownership, of meetings, convocations, transactions, surveys of land, conveyance of lands and other property, sale of goods and livestock, and so forth. This attitude for "putting it in writing" was brought to the New World with the earliest colonists. Documents of all kinds, inventories, records of town meetings, church meetings, and legal actions, became part of the fabric of life. Many of these kinds of records, as well as wills (instructions for the distribution of personal property) and probate records, have survived the ages and are the fodder of present-day genealogists.





Some Early Benedict Family Wills may be seen here,

or click here to go to a few Benedict Documents



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Copyright © 2004-2007 R.A. Benedict (unless otherwise credited)
This Update: May 2005