When viewing estate records that include inventories appraisals and sale values, always compare them.

In certain times and places, law dictated that the property of the deceased had to be sold–even if there was a surviving and children. If the widow purchased property, compare the appraised value with the amount she paid. It could be pennies on the dollar or a token amount. The law may have dictated that there had to be an auction, but the neighbors may have shot dirty looks (or perhaps shot something else) at anyone who tried to outbid the widow.

Other items purchased by individuals outside the immediate family may have gone for prices closer to their appraised value. Appraisals are only estimates and were used by the administrators to estimate ability to pay bills and by the court to determine the amount of bond required by those settling the estate. But if one person consistently pays an amount significantly different from the appraised value, that’s a clue.

And, if you are inclined to get sentimental, it’s sort of nice to think of all the neighbors helping the widow out.



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