The old adage is “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” It obviously wasn’t in reference to monies from ancestors estates finding a way to me. I have found a number of family wills and they are always fascinating to read as they provide a glimpse into the lifestyle and values of those family members to which I am connected.
The most notable, and for that matter most recently dated family will that I found was that of a maternal great grandfather, John Foley whose estate was valued at the equivalent of more than $1 million dollars in today’s money. When I complained to an uncle of my surprise that he had left none of it to his great grandchildren (me!) , I was quickly reminded that his grandchildren (my uncle) didn’t see any of it either!
I have found wills for ancestors in the Gaull and Glennie families and just recently found the will of a Hadden ancestor, specifically James George Wood Hadden. James is the son of my 4th great grandfather, James Hadden and his second wife, Jessie Jamieson. This makes James who was a half brother of my 3rd great grandfather Alexander Bean Hadden, my third great granduncle.
James George Wood Hadden was born in Old Machar, Aberdeenshire, his christening record described the event in this way: “James Hadden, Labourer, Bridge of Don, and his spouse Janet Jamieson, had a son born on 25th August 1848, names James, baptized by the Rev. M Wood in the presence of … Stephen and John Simpson.” James never married and he continued to reside with this mother throughout his life. His lifelong occupation was that of coachman. Sadly, James died on January 29, 1890 at the age of 39 following a five week long battle against bronchitis and pneumonia. In those pre-antibiotics days of not so long ago, what are treatable illnesses today could ‘be the death of you.’
On March 3, 1890, “Jessie Jamieson or MacKnight or Hadden, Widow, residing at No. 46 Dee Street, Aberdeen” (Jessie had re-married following the death of James Hadden in 1871 to John McKnight) presented herself in the Aberdeen Sheriff Court to finalize her son’s estate. There James’ estate was inventoried and found to be valued at just a little more than 66 pounds. The majority of the proceeds of the estate coming from life insurance policies. The largest portion – 50 pounds – was from policy #25516 held by the Victoria Assurance Society, Finsbury Square Building in London, England. The balance of the estate proceeds came from smaller policies “on Deceased’s life” with The Coachman and Grooms Friendly and Benevolent Society and the society’s Cramond Branch plus a small sum of money James had in National Security Savings Bank in Aberdeen, account #75,644.
It was not a large estate that James left to his mother, Jessie, who was unable to sign her statement for the court as “she cannot write never having learnt to do so.” Nevertheless, I’m certain that James’ estate contributed to seeing to his mother’s maintenance and well-being for a good long period of time.