Where There’s a Will…

Tracking down the Will of Morris Kelly Sheppard of Ohio on the FamilySearch website

My 3rd-great-grandfather, Samuel Fryman, allegedly born in Virginia in 1807, married as his first wife, Mary Shepherd (aka Shepard, Sheppard, Sheppards etc.) in Belmont County, Ohio in 1832. When research on this line commenced nothing was known of her birth family, siblings or early life, outside of the fact that her father was living at the time of her marriage and that the couple were both residents of Smith Township. Census households headed by Shepherd males in the vicinity suggested possibilities for further research but nothing concrete had been established.

1848-ohio-map-greenleaf-shepherd-locales-starredShepherd families can be found in the starred counties of Belmont, Morgan and Richland counties, Ohio between 1820-1847.

At a later date, I serendipitously pulled a book off the shelf at the local library and found this will abstract linking a Samuel Fryman to a Sheppard man in Richland County, Ohio, several counties and fifteen years removed from the Belmont County marriage. Here is the information from the will abstract, as entered into my genealogy software program:

SHEPPARD, MORRIS KELLY, Bloomfield Twp.     21 Jun 1847     23 Aug 1847
To Samuel Fryman, $250.00.
To Arnold Sheppard, $250.00.
To brothers and sisters Prudence, Rebecca, David, Priscilla, and John, residue of estate equally.
Witnesses: William Baskins, Francis P. Griffith. [1]

Could this be my Samuel Fryman?

I wondered if I could learn anything further by looking at the original will. My attempt to do just that failed when at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City in 2005. At that time I was simply unable to locate the appropriate volume. Now that image copies of these records are available online at FamilySearch.org, I thought that I would try again.

At the main page, I clicked on the Search button, then scrolled down to the bottom of the page and clicked the United States link, which took me to the Historical Records Collections page. From the Place list on the left, I selected Ohio. Under Collections, I selected Probate & Court, which left me with a manageable list of seven collections.

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Richland County was not listed out separately, so I clicked in to the larger collection of court records called Ohio, Probate Records, 1789-1996. I then located Richland in the list of counties. Since I knew I was dealing with a will, and had a date of 23 Aug 1847 for when the will was probated, I selected Wills 1816-1864 vol 1/2-2.

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There are 677 images on this microfilm, so I should be able to find what I need. Volume 1/2 on FHL film 388,794 covers the years 1816-1822.

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Volume 1 on the same film covers 1849-1855.

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What about 1823-1848? Clearly, this gap in the records is what I ran into in 2005, when I quit looking. But surely, I reasoned, the author of the book on will abstracts was working off of something. This time, I advanced the images to read the information at the front of volume 1, to see if there was any explanation for this gap. That is when I found this note penned on the inside cover of the volume:

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Index for the years 1849 to 1855
to which is added

To which is added an Index to the Wills in

the Administration Records

from 1813 to 1849

Embracing all the wills in the old
Records
Made for the benefit of all whom it may
concern by John Meredith, P. J., 1859

Thank you, Judge Meredith. I scrolled forward to find the S section of the index. Eureka! There I found the index entry for the 1847 will of Morris Kelly Sheppard.

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Clicking back in to all the Richland County, Ohio probate and court records, I located the link for Administration Records, volumes 7-8.

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The index entry to the will of Morris Kelly Sheppard said it was located on p. 28, but information regarding the settlement of the estate actually starts on p. 27, filmed on frame 12 of FHL microfilm 960,100.

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Richland Co., Ohio administration of estate of Morris Kelly Sheppard, 1847. [2]

From my experience, it is rather unusual that a will would be filed in with the Administration Records when there are separate volumes for wills. That fact most likely signals that we are dealing with a special type of probate, called an Administration C.T.A. (C.T.A. being an abbreviation for a Latin term “cum testamento annexo“. Black’s Law Dictionary explains the phrase this way:

L. Lat. With the will annexed. A term applied to administration granted where a testator makes an incomplete will, without naming any executors, or where he names incapable persons, or where the executors named refuse to act. [3]

The will of Morris Kelly Sheppard was entered into the bound volume of the Administration Records and clearly shows that no executor was named. What I have not yet verified is whether all wills in Richland Co., Ohio were for some reason included in with the Administration Records between 1823 and 1848.

Sources and credits:

1848 Ohio map by Jeremiah Greenleaf, courtesy David Rumsey Historical Map Collection online at http://www.davidrumsey.com/ via a Creative Commons license.

All screenshots in this post are from the FamilySearch.org website created and maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), accessed 06 Feb 2014.

[1]  Anne Lockwood Dallas Budd, Richland County, Ohio, Abstracts of Wills, 1813-1873 (Mansfield, Ohio: Ohio Genealogical Society, 1974), p. 71.

[2]  Richland County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas, Mansfield, Administration Records vol. 7, 1844-1848 p. 27, entry for Morris Kelly Sheppard, 21 Aug 1847; digital images, “Ohio, Probate Records, 1789-1996.” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 06 Feb 2014), imaged from FHL microfilm 960,100.

[3]  Henry Campbell Black, Black’s Law Dictionary, abridged 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota : West Publishing Co., 1983), p. 200.