Sunset at Gowanus Bay

Sunset at Gowanus Bay
Sunset at Gowanus Bay, Henry Gritten, 1851

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Brewer Wills in Orange County, North Carolina

Family Search has a browse-able database titled "North Carolina, Probate Records, 1735-1970." The database contains digital images of the filmed probate records from the various North Carolina county court houses. They have not been indexed by Family Search and therefore is no convenient search engine is available. The records are arranged by county and within each county page there are various probate books to search through. Some of the probate books have indexes, others do not. Here is a direct link for the Orange County page.

The Orange County Will Books do have indexes, however, they are somewhat tedious to use. They are arranged alphabetically by the testators first letter of last name, and then for the most part by date, or the order in which they appear in the will books. The Will Book volume and page number, along with the names of others mentioned in the will are recorded in the index along with the name of the testator. Once a particular will is found in the index you then have to go to the specific book and find your way through the images (which do not correspond to the page numbers). This too can be tedious. I have located the various wills belonging to persons named BREWER and have provided direct links to the first page of the wills as found online at Family Search.

Testator, Date of Will, Will Book:Pages (Images at Family search)

Katy Brewer, 10 July 1800, D:30 (image 16)

Sackfield Brewer, 2 June 1810, D:384-386 (images 206-207)

Patsey (Martha) Brewer, 22 May 1822, E:27-28 (images 15-16)

Elizabeth Brewer, 5 September 1827, E:220 (image 112)

William Brewer, 2 April 1826, E:303-305 (images 153-154)

Thomas Brewer, 5 May 1838, F:224-226 (images 135-136)

Biddy Brewer, 3 November 1857, G:191 (image 108)

William Brewer, 24 April 1875, H:128-129 (image 86)

Marvin T. Broyhill provided the barest of abstracts for these wills in his Brewer Families of Colonial Virginia, 1626-1776, Supporting Documentation Part II (1996), at pages 73 to 75, however, he failed to provide a source or location for the original documents.

The above wills are found in the Will Books whose various volumes are identified by letters of the alphabet. If I'm not mistaken, I believe these are the wills found at the court houses in each county. I also have the impression that they were copied into the will books by a clerk, probably at some later date. There is another set of volumes, found on the same page at Family Search, that are identified by numbers. These volumes, which I believe are all found at the state capitol of Raleigh, appear to contain the original wills. For example, here is the will of Katy Brewer, dated 10 July 1800, as found in Will Book Vol. 1, and online as image 75. Here again is the link to the version found in the Orange Co., Will Book, Vol. D. Compare the two. You will note that the handwriting in volume D (filmed at Hillsborough) does not vary from will to will, while the handwriting in the wills from volume 1 (filmed at Raleigh) varies from will to will. There are also no page numbers in the Raleigh versions, but instead it appears that each will is in a separate file. I would conclude that the original wills are found in the books housed at Raleigh, while those that are found in Orange County, at Hillsborough, are copies. Since we are all aware that errors can creep in whenever a document is copied, I'm sure the more thorough genealogists out there will make the effort to locate the original copies.

As an aside, note that the will that follows that of Katy Brewer, in the Raleigh Vol. 1, is that of a Lewis Brower, dated "twentieth day of fourth month in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and one" (image 77). I do not know who he is, and I do not believe that Broyhill included him, or this will, in his work mentioned above (although he did make mention of the Browers found in Randolph County, NC). Judging from his use of the phrase "fourth month" (rather than April), I would suggest that Lewis Brower may have been a Quaker.

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