Monday, September 28, 2015

Amanuensis Monday: The Estate of William Denyer - 1848

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

Like many genealogists, I have delved into's recently released database of wills and probate records. One probate folder I have found is that of my third great grandfather, William Denyer (1794-1848). Below I look at one page. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

June 7, 1848

To the honorable Cornelius...judge of the fourteenth judicial district court of the State of Louisiana, holding sessions…and for the parish of St. Martin.

The person of Samuel Jennings Denyer, of the Parish of St. Martin, most respectfully showeth:

That his father William Denyer, late of the Parish of St. Martin, departed this life, leaving some property in community between himself and the following named sisters and brothers, to wit: Elizabeth Ann Denyer, wife of John Pratt, both absent from the State of Louisiana, and the three minors Abenyser Upham Denyer, Jane Goldfinch Denyer, William Sliver Denyer, to whom it becomes necessary that a tutor and under tutor be appointed, according to law.

Your parishioner begs leave to state that being one of the brothers of the aforesaid minors he ought to be appointed to their tutorship…..

Your parishioner further suggests the propriety of appointing a counsel to Elizabeth Ann Denyer, wife of John Pratt, one of the heirs of William Denyer deceased, and who is absent from and not represented in the State of Louisiana.


1) I use ellipses where I have difficulty deciphering the handwriting, and I stop prior to the bottom paragraph. The document continues on to the next page, and there are 47 separate pages in the folder. It's going to take some work to decipher it all. While I am somewhat interested in the details, this page is sufficient to confirm that it is my ancestor, as well as provide a more exact location for his death than I had previously.

2) In one family genealogy the bio for William Denyer states:

He was born in the county of Southampton, Hampshire, England, November 22, 1794; died in Louisiana, March 14, 1848. In early life he was a cabinet maker in Baltimore, Maryland. After marriage he was a farmer in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, later he burned lime from oyster shells, in Philadelphia, was in ice business, rafted lumber down the Schuylkill river, boated on the Schuylkill canal, run saw and grist mill in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, and engaged in whip-sawing at New Albany, Indiana. While there he was taken sick, and went to Louisiana for his health. In 1839 he settled with his family near Brazoria, Texas. In 1840 he moved to Gonzales County, Texas, and in 1841 to Louisiana, and traveled as an itinerant minister of the Methodist Episcopal church, until his death. 

[A Brief History of John and Christian Fretz and a Complete Genealogical Family Register With Biographies of their Descendants from the Earliest Available Records to the Present Time – by Rev A.J. Fretz of Milton N.J. copyright 1890. Mennonite Publishing Co. Elkhart, Indiana. pp. 326-333.]

This document confirms his death in Louisiana in 1848, and provides a parish.

3) I have maintained the unusual spelling of the name of my second great grandfather, Ebenezer Denyer. His middle name is elsewhere, Ophan, which seems less likely than Upham, but is a religious term that might not be unfamiliar to an itinerant minister.

4) According to the above cited family genealogy, Ebenezer Denyer was born in 1828, Jane Goldfinch Denyer in 1831, and William Sliver Denyer in 1834, so they were 20, 17, and 14 in 1848. Some of the documents in the probate folder are dated as late as 1856, when none of the children were minors any longer. [It appears by 1856, the youngest child, William Sliver, was the administrator of the estate.]

5) Due to its French and Spanish history, Louisiana is a Civil Law state, and not a Common Law state. The word 'Tutor' is used instead of 'Guardian.'

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