One of the challenges to understanding the documents left by our ancestors is understanding the law at that particular time and place.
I was privileged to hear Judy G Russell The Legal Genealogist, speak at an all-day seminar in February of this year. To most of us, law seems like a pretty dry and dull subject but Judy makes it lively as she reminds us how pertinent and valuable it is to our genealogy.
In some places and times, women were not permitted to inherit land.
In some places and times, a widow’s children were given to her husband’s family to raise.
Why wasn’t the eldest son mentioned in the will? Perhaps the law of primogeniture guaranteed the he automatically inherited the land; and the will merely distributed other property. Don’t assume that he was dead.
Why wasn’t the wife mentioned in the will? If the law of dower was in place, it may mean only that he intended to leave her only what the law of dower allowed. Again, don’t assume that she was deceased or divorced.
Did you know? I certainly didn’t. Here are a few resources:
FamilyTreeWebinars – Ms. Russell has done several of these
And check state archives for information on statutes and legislation.
Sometimes we don’t know what it is that we don’t know.