I must admit that I really enjoy finding the wills of ancestors, maybe even more than census reports or birth, marriage, and death records. Wills just seem to have a way of providing information about a family and its lifestyle that other documents, while very valuable as sources, just cannot provide. Wills might typically have only been written by landowners or those with something to leave that they wanted to direct to particular family members. As I have not yet directly linked my ancestry to royalty or nobility but rather to farm servants, I haven't had high expectations that I would easily find family wills.
Recently, I found the will for one of my fifth great grandfathers, Alexander Glennie, who died in 1837 in Daviot, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, through the ScotlandsPeople website. Daviot is a small hamlet located about 22 miles north-west of Aberdeen and it was here that Alexander worked as a blacksmith. On the 12th of January, 1837, Alexander asked the Rev. Thomas Burnett, Minister of Daviot, to write his final will on a single sheet of white paper (his will is very clear about this fact). Alexander was about 81 years of age when he passed away and in early 1837 likely knew that his health was beginning to fail as he states: "I Alexander Glennie residing in the Kirktown of Daviot in order to prevent all disputes among my family after my decease about my money or effects, being weak in body although sound in mind, make my latter Will and Testament as follows."
So what could a blacksmith who lived most of his adult life in a small Scottish hamlet be leaving to his family? Well, quite a bit as it turns out. After appointing his son, John (my 4th great grandfather) as his sole executor, he left 200 pounds sterling to his daughter "Jean Glennie in Boghead of Fyvie" and a further 200 pounds to his daughter "Margaret Glennie in Pinkins parish of Fyvie." The important feature from this part of the will for me - I didn't know about his second daughter Margaret so a new family member has been found.
After each daughter received their share of the estate - the value of just over $27,000 dollars (Cdn) in modern terms, what was left for his son, John? Well, the inventory of Alexander's estate indicates that he had four bank deposits at different banking institutions in Aberdeen worth a combined total of 1,163 pounds plus some interest. Alexander also had over 41 pounds in cash in his house when he died - today's equivalent of about $5,600 Cdn dollars! When the complete estate was inventoried, Alexander left over 1,239 pounds sterling, or almost $170,000 Cdn dollars to his three children with his son, John, receiving the bulk of the estate - his share being worth almost $115,000 in today's dollars.
Not bad for an early 19th century blacksmith from the "Kirktown of Daviot."