The Last Will and Testament of Adam Fenner Sr.
I just got back from a research trip to the ancestral homeland to dig into the archives in my quest to find out everything I can about the Fenners.
One of the things I’ve been looking for is my great great grandfather Adam Fenner’s will. I must thank two people — Wini Herlihy Collis, a friend of mine who searches land titles for a living (who told me the file number to look for in the registry office); and Sharon Moore, grand daughter in law of great aunt Lila Fenner Brown. Sharon went to the registry office and actually found the will and I was especially thrilled when she sent me an email to tell me she actually found it.
What I wanted to discover in the will was a) was my great great grandmother’s name indeed Mary Elizabeth Dietrich?; b) was there any mention of her in Great Great Grandpa’s will? (since she was in the London Asylum when he died) and c) were there any clues about the family relationships?, especially William Henry, the son who was Mary’s son but not Adam’s.
What I discovered is that my great great grandfather was not a wealthy man, but he made sure his family was taken care of. I also found further evidence that William Henry, who lived with them and was said to be a son of Mary Elizabeth but not Adam, was not Adam’s son. Why I figure this is the case is that the entire farm was left to Adam Jr., who was younger than William Henry.
One really interesting thing — the will indicates that Great Great Grandpa was trying to buy 50 acres next to his farm. The will stated that if he was successful in obtaining the land, it was to be given to a William Helliweg Dietrich. I haven’t been able to find that name in any of the census. I am wondering if William Helliweg may have been a brother of Adam’s wife Mary Elizabeth. Could this have been Grandpa’s way of leaving money to Mary even though she was in the asylum. Or perhaps William Helliweg Dietrich was really William Henry Fenner? This is quite curious … William Henry went by the name Fenner until the day he died. But since he was Mary’s son but not Adam’s, perhaps Adam did not acknowledge him as a Fenner even though William Henry lived in the Fenner home for his entire childhood.
It is entirely a matter for speculation as to how William Henry came to be part of the Fenner household. Regardless of how he came to be there, it seems that Great Great Grandpa was a decent man who tried to do right by the people in his life. Great Great Grandpa also made sure his two daughters Mary and Elizabeth each had a dowry to help them become established.
Little by little the pieces are coming together. It’s impossible to know exactly what was happening in that little log cabin in the bush, but every little piece reveals a bit more.
Note to people researching the name Adam Fenner – there were three Adam Fenners in Essex County — Adam Sr. who arrived from Germany in Rochester Township around 1850; his son Adam R, who was born on the family farm in Ruscomb in 1865 and married Agnes Irwin; and Adam who was the son of John Fenner of Comber and born there in 1861 and married Martha Hutchinson. Though I have never been able to prove what the relationship of the two Fenner families is, it is quite likely that John and Adam Sr. were brothers. The fact that John and his family and Adam Sr. were shown as living together in Ruscomb when the 1861 census was done, is one of the things which shows me that there was a family relationship (John bought a farm in Comber in 1858, likely he was living with GG Grandpa Adam because there was no house there yet. Adam had been living on his farm since 1850 so no doubt it was better set up than John’s place in those early years) Also, there were no other Fenners this side of Kitchener Waterloo, so why would two unrelated families with an obscure name both decide to pick the same uncleared part of the bush to establish their home? Hence, my belief that they were related.