Thursday, October 31, 2013

You Never Know What Is Hidden In The Records!

You Never Know What Is Hidden In The Records!
Carol Kostakos Petranek

If I was researching the Myerly family of Carroll County, Maryland, I would be jumping for joy! Hidden in an obscure estate file was the Holy Grail of genealogy documentation:  a one-page letter naming the deceased’s children, their spouses, and the deceased’s grandchildren.

Addendum to Letter of Administration

David E. Myerly, the decedent, died without a will. Therefore, it was necessary for a “Letter of Administration” to be created to name an executor who would distribute Mr. Myerly’s property with legal authority.

I came across this treasure while working with our team of volunteers to prepare documents for digitization at the Maryland Archives. For the previous two weeks, we had been processing hundreds of Letters of Administration, but they were simply the standard forms as shown below.

 Letter of Administration for David E. Myerly

This stunning discovery of a detailed letter reinforced the first principle of the Genealogical Proof Standard:  conducting a reasonably exhaustive search. Or, in simpler terms:  searching for every document that could possibly exist for your ancestor and his family.

Did you know that in Maryland, there are sixteen separate records that could possibly be created for anyone who dies in that state? Sixteen! Wills are simply one of those record sets. In the case of David Myerly and numerous others who died without a will, some type of legal documentation had to be created to settle the estate.

Until now, I – along with too many of my fellow genealogists – have been guilty of short-changing my research in probate and estate records.  I always looked for a will and if none existed, I would not take the next step to seek additional probate records. Instead, I would think, “well, there’s another brick in this ancestor’s wall,” and promptly move on to obituaries or cemetery records or tombstone searches.

Never again will I short change any record collection!

We have now completed seven of the sixteen Carroll County probate record collections. We have found dozens of unexpected and genealogically related documents attached to standard forms. While processing Releases[1] created in 1909, we found a form signed by the brother of the deceased. This brother was living in a village in Poland! Anyone who has tried to locate an ancestral place of origin “across the pond” knows how complex and at times, almost impossible, it is to pinpoint an exact town or village. Yet this research key was perfectly documented in the Release papers.

What types of record collections can be created for a probate file? In Maryland, they are:
  1.    Unprobated Wills
  2.     Wills
  3.     Releases
  4.     Orders
  5.    Notices to Creditors
  6.    Letters of Administration
  7.   Inventories
  8.   Indentures
  9.  Guardian Bonds
  10. Guardian Accounts
  11. Estate Papers
  12. Equity Papers
  13. Distributions
  14. Administrative Bonds
  15. Administration Accounts
  16. Accounts of Sale, Real Estate 

Other states also create these, or similar, estate records. Any one of these collections can hold a key to your research. You never know what is hidden in these records until you search them, one by one.

Carol Kostakos Petranek is a Co-Director of the Washington DC Family History Center, a FamilySearch Volunteer Coordinator, and a Citizen Archivist  at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

[1] Definition of Release:  As each heir receives his or her portion of the estate, he or she signs a receipt or release to the executor/administrator. These receipts give the name of the heir, the amount and description of property received, the name of the executor/administrator, the names of guardians of minor children, and the name of the deceased. These releases are filed among the original estate papers. Source: Wiki:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ellen Paraway and the Warehime Family of Bachman Valley: My Discovery at the State Archives

Eileen Mummaugh has submitted this article, which underscores the importance of making digitized records available. As we continue with document preparation of the Wills and Estate records, and their subsequent imaging, many more people will have a similar experience to Eileen's. Many thanks to Eileen for sharing this exciting "find" with us!

Over the past four years, members of the Carroll County Genealogical Society of Carroll County, Maryland periodically volunteered to work on projects related to county records at the Maryland State Archives on Mondays when that facility is closed to regular visitors. Our most recent project involved the wills sent to the MSA for safekeeping many years ago.  This project has been subsumed in a joint effort between the Maryland State Archives and to digitize these records and make them available free of charge on the internet.  You might consider joining them as you never know what you will find in the Carroll County records deposited there.

During my visit in October 2012, to my surprise, I unfolded the will of my paternal 3rd great-grandfather, George Warehime (1790-1880), dated June 7, 1871, which bore his actual signature. In the will he names his eldest son, Samuel, as executor, and left Samuel, his heirs and assigns the 128-acre home farm where he resided. It was along the Old Bachman Valley Road adjoining the lands of David E. Riegle and P. H. L. Myers. He also left the straw, hay, manure, posts, rails, lime-stone, cord wood and all except the timber and a twenty-five acre wood lot adjoining the lands of John Yingling and Jacob Mathias on condition that Samuel pay the sum of $5,100 to his nine living siblings and the three sons of a deceased brother.

George also bequeathed “to Samuel his heirs and assigns Four shares of the Capitol Stock of the Western Maryland Rail Road Company‖” and stipulated that the sum of five hundred dollars remain in the hands of his executor “ in trust for the use of Ally Paraway, colored woman, whom I have raised, the interest thereof to be paid to her yearly during life and after her death the said Five hundred dollars to be equally divided among my children and their descendents (sic).” The will later states, “I give and bequeath to Ally Paraway, colored woman heretofore mentioned, the bed and bed clothing, chest and spinning wheel used by her.”

The final account of Samuel Warehime, executor of George Warehime, was settled in the Orphans‘ Court of Carroll County on March 28, 1892. It shows Ally Paraway received interest of $290 from October 31, 1881 until June 31, 1891, about the time she was taken to the Almshouse of Carroll County. The County Commissioners then received interest of $10 from June 31, 1891 to October 31, 1891, about the time Ally died.

This will confirms the story passed down in my family about a black servant who worked for the Warehime family. She lived in a room over the spring house. The 1870 census for the Westminster District, Bachman‘s Mill Post Office, shows Ellen/Ally Paraway, age 50, as a domestic, unable to read or write, living with George Warehime, age 80, a “retired farmer.” In the 1880 census, Ellen Paraway, is again listed as a black servant living in the household of George Warehime, now age 90. He died later that year.

George Warehime married Christiana Shafer (1798-1863) about 1816. They had 14 children and are buried at Jerusalem Lutheran Church Cemetery in Bachman Valley. Christiana Shafer was the sister of my maternal 3rd great-grandfather, John Jacob Shafer (1784-1854) and also the sister of John Frederick Shafer (1788-1849). Their parents were John Shafer (1755-1828) and Mary (Pouder) Shafer (1763-1831).

After further research, I discovered that Christiana‘s father, John Shafer, had given Ellen Paraway to her, probably at the time of her marriage, when Ellen was 4 years old. John mentions this gift in his will. Ellen was a faithful servant to the Shafer/Warehime families most of her life.

If you look closely, you will find that many families in Carroll County are intermarried such as the Warehimes and Shafers/Schaeffers.

Eileen Mummaugh is the Immediate Past President of the Carroll County Genealogical Society, Chairman of the Publications Committee and is currently serving as society Treasurer.  She has been researching her deep ancestry in the county for over twenty years.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Digitization Begins in Dorchester County

On Monday, October 7, volunteers arrived at the Courthouse in Dorchester County, Maryland, to begin document preparation for the digitization of will and estate records in the county. This is an extension of the larger project currently undertaken at the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis.

Joyce Phelps, MSA, teaches volunteers how to remove fasteners and prepare documents for digitization.
Left-right: Terry Neild, Joyce Phelps, Barbara Jean Woolston, Janet Bacorn.

Several of these volunteer have long-standing roots in Dorchester County and are pleased to be able to assist in getting the estate records preserved and digitized. Within the next week, FamilySearch camera operators will be onsite to image the documents.

It is exciting to see this work progress! It could not be done without our volunteers. A sincere thanks to all who are giving their time, effort and devotion to this important project. If you would like to join us, please send an email to:

Volunteer Publishes Book

Ellie Thompson, one of our FamilySearch-Maryland Archive volunteers, has published a book based on many years of research of Black communities in Anne Arundel County, In the 8th District: Our African-American Church Communities in Southern Anne Arundel County, Maryland. This volume can now be found at the DAR Library in Washington, D.C. A link to an article describing this exciting news is here:

More information about the book can be found here:

Congratulations, Ellie, on a truly outstanding accomplishment! Your co-volunteers are proud of you!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Welcome to our camera operators

We are delighted to welcome Ann and Bruce VanHorn, our FamilySearch camera operators. They are volunteers who will be with us for one year. Ann and Bruce are digitizing the documents that we prepare. We are grateful for their service, and it is terrific to be able to see the "whole process" at work:  from taking original records from their storage boxes, flattening them and removing fasteners, extracting vital information, creating the index, replacing the documents in archival folders, and digitization by the VanHorns. This project is meaningful and exciting, and all of our volunteers are delighted to be part of it. We invite you to join us!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Three Months and Going Strong!

Our first three months of document preparation have been most successful. There are 17 record series for Carroll County, and we have finished 6! Our recent series were "Releases," "Orders" and "Notices to Creditors."

Preparing these records, one by one, is most interesting because you never know what you will find. One early 1900's "Release" named the brother of the decedent as well as his residence in a small village in Poland. Anyone who has tried to find an ancestral village in the "home country" knows how challenging this can be. Someday, a researcher will jump for joy when he/she finds this document.

The importance of having these records digitized becomes more compelling with each record series that we complete. Not only will researchers have instant access, but records will be preserved. Here is an example of the damage that can be done by a bookworm. This is why we are working to preserve documents!

Please join us! Our need for volunteers continues. Send an email to The work is rewarding and the companionship of like-minded volunteers is stimulating. One of our volunteers has worked on several records relating to his Carroll County ancestors. There may be a surprise waiting for you!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

8,000 Documents Prepped in Two Months!

Our dedicated volunteers have completed document preparation on over 8,000 Wills, Estate Records, and Releases in just two months! Our deepest thanks and gratitude to all for their sincere interest in working on this project, and for their desire to see these important documents brought into the new light of online searchability.

In the coming weeks, we will be processing Orders and Notices to Creditors. Orders name the Executor or Administrator of an estate. These are easy documents to prep and we anticipate that the work will go very quickly.

Please consider joining us! Send an email to