Bridges, Myrtle N. (comp). Final Words: 772 Original Wills by Richmond County, North Carolina, Testators, 1779–1915.

Marceline, MO: Wadsworth Publishing Co, 2005. 670p., hardcover. Index, illus. (Myrtle N. Bridges, 4093 NC 55W, Angier, NC 27501 / Web: <home.att.net/~hbridges/myrtle.htm>)

Not every book I review is a work of general methodology or national-level resources. My people, like yours, lived “locally,” wherever that location might be. I’m interested in works and collections of narrower interest, even if I haven’t (yet) found a personal connection there because I like to see how a variety of authors handle the challenge of making local records available and understandable to other researchers.

The author of this one, a Richmond County native, grew up with an addiction to genealogy, courtesy of her mother. When she discovered how few works had been published about the area, it was natural that she look for ways to remedy the lack. The original testator files for Richmond County until just before World War I are now in the custody of the Department of Archives in Raleigh, and this volume includes all 772 individual wills filed over a period of 136 years. A few appear in nuncupative form: An oral deathbed statement before witnesses when no formal will had previously been written. A few also are the wills of non-residents, mostly people living in nearby counties, though a few are from South Carolina, and even New York and Philadelphia — apparently visitors or travelers who took ill and died in Richmond. Each will is fully transcribed in the original language. A fraction of these include footnotes pointing to estate records and newspaper notices, and identifying persons named, especially when the administration of a will was not completed. The index lists all names appearing in the documents — more than 6,500 of them. Finally, Bridges includes almost twenty pages of “Other Reports,” an assortment of court records found in the folders of some of the wills, consisting mostly of administrators’ and witnesses’ testimony. There’s nothing innovative, or even exciting, about resources like this. They are simply organized collections of original materials made available to researchers everywhere. But the quality of such projects varies greatly, and this is one of the best prepared that I have seen. In this case, too, the fact that the documents have been transcribed and not merely abstracted allows one to learn the explanations testators sometimes made and to study the nuances of their own words. If you’re interested in 19th century research in Richmond County, this volume is the equivalent, for its subject, of making a journey to Raleigh.

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Published in: on 18 May 2011 at 3:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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