Estate File Documents
Introduction and Summary
When I began my Jünger\Yinger family history research project I was truly a novice. However, little by little, I have become educated and made aware of the various resources available to the amateur genealogist. One very valuable group of original source documents toward helping piece family history together are estate documents for ancestors.
Estate documents for York County, Pennsylvania are preserved in the York County Archives. The documents regarding estate administration for decedents who died in York County between 1749 and the mid 1800’s are kept in legal files at the Archives. Indexes are available to help the researcher determine what documents may be available for ancestors who lived and died in York County from its spin off in 1749 from Lancaster County until the mid 1800’s.
I obtained a copy of a published index titled Index to the Probate Inventories of York County Pennsylvania 1749 – 1850 by David A. and Brenda L. Paup, published by Willow Bend Books in 2005. From this publication the following introductory comments are excerpted:
“The probate inventories of York County may well be the most overlooked wealth of information, about the lifestyle and material culture of our forbearers. They display a priceless account of the possessions that early York Countians depended upon to survive and flourish, from approximately 1749 to 1850. Only a few inventories after this time frame have been included in this volume.
Reading an inventory is like rummaging through your grandmother’s attic. You are filled with wonder and curiosity as you visualize these objects that no longer play an important part in our ‘modern lives,’ but once were depended upon for their survival.”
The index publication excerpted above includes many of the estate files for early Yinger ancestors. However, the indexes kept at the York County Archives are somewhat more extensive. Together, these index resources provide a comprehensive insight into what is available to family history researchers.
Estate file documents include a variety of types including wills, inventories, administration accountings, vendue listings (for public auctions of property of the decedent), Orphans Court filings (concerning guardian appointments for minor children of the deceased and other general estate matters), and other relevant materials.
In some cases the amount of documentation for a decedent is extensive. In other cases the amount of documentation preserved is fairly sparse. Nevertheless, in the case of the various estate files for Yinger family ancestors and closely related families like the Broband family the available estate files are filled with many important documents.
The estate files for our ancestors provide priceless insights into family member connections. The documentation is so helpful and illuminating that it has actually been easier to identify the various members of the early generations of our Jünger\Yinger ancestors than some of the later generations for whom estate file documentation does not exist.
One compelling revelation which came from a review of the various family estate file documents was how simply they lived. Their possessions were few compared to our cluttered modern day accumulations. The inventory lists seem to include every item in their personal possession at the time of their deaths.
Individual articles of clothing are enumerated for instance. Rarely do the lists exceed a couple pages. Often the lists of property are much shorter. I was humbly reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s observation that “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify,” while reading the inventory listings.
Another stunning revelation is that the documents in the files are not copies of the originals but are the actual genuine parchments and papers themselves! They are in remarkably good condition considering that they date to the late 1700’s through the mid 1800’s. Extreme care and caution should be exercised when handling these precious documents that date, in some cases, to within a decade or so of America’s most revered document, the Declaration of Independence.
To illustrate the original parchment character of the documents, following is a photographic example I took on one of my visits to the York County Archives:
This particular document is the “Fourth Accompt of Anthony Yinger, Administrator” for his older brother, George Yinger’s 1790 estate. Perhaps no other document better illustrates the wealth of family relationship materials illuminated by our Yinger ancestor estate file documentation. In this document, it is established beyond any doubt that George Yinger and his brother Anthony were sons of Paul Jünger\Yinger the Palatine Germanic immigrant who came to America in 1748 on the ship “Two Brothers.”
The complete wording of this important document dating from the 1790’s is included in a later section of this web site. In fact, each document which exists in the estate files for Yinger family ancestors at the York County Archives is included in transcript form in the following sections. The files which have been reviewed and transcribed are listed in chronological order below based on the date of death of the particular Yinger ancestor.
Copyright © 2009-2011 Samuel E. Yinger. All rights reserved.