Two Brothers – Two Wills

In my ongoing quest to figure out the story of the Fenner family in Essex County, I was able to locate the will of my great great grandfather Adam Fenner and his brother John Fenner.

(Note: the person who found them was Sharon Moore, who is the grandaughter in law of Lila Fenner Brown, my late great aunt. Thanks for all your digging, Sharon. It’s really helped my research).

I needed the will of my great great grandfather so I could find out for sure who my great great grandmother was, and to try to figure out the complicated family relationships in the Fenner family (see previous post about GG Grandpa Fenner.)

I also asked Sharon if she could look for the will of John Fenner of Comber because I thought there might be a mention of Adam in his will (the Fenner children were all under 18 when Adam died, so I thought there might be a mention of Adam’s family in John’s will.)

There weren’t any clues about the relationship between the two men or even any confirmation that they were related (living down the road from each other in a county that had only two Fenners is a pretty good clue that they were. And the fact that John and his family is listed as living with Adam in Ruscomb a couple of years after arriving from Germany. Historical note: John, his wife and two children arrived in New York City on June 5, 1857 on the barque The Laura. They bought a piece of bushland in Comber, and were probably living with Adam until the house was built).

Back to the wills. What I discovered were two very different personalities. Adam’s will is formal, somewhat legalistic and rather restrained in tone. It is only two pages long and leaves the farm to his son Adam Jr. and a modest dowry to each of his two daughters. The son of Mary (but not Adam) William Henry is not mentioned in the will. The will does confirm that my great great grandmother was Marie Elizabeth Dietrich. That mystery is now cleared up.

John’s will, on the other hand, runs six pages long. It is written in a colloquial style, so is probably worded by the man himself rather than a lawyer. The detail in the will is really remarkable. He specifies who should get what, and what they should do with it when they get it. He specifies that each of his children should get an acre — he is specific that it is for a garden, and he specifies which plot everyone should get. He wills his cows to his children .. by name, specifying which son or daughter should get which cow or horse “I give to my son the following property – one bay horse called Charley”.

He then goes on to specify penalties against said son if he fails to live up to expectations – “I order that if the said son should neglect to pasture and feed and care for the same he will give my wife one third of the hay”.

As long as his wife remained his widow, that is. He left her all of his money unconditionally. But if she remarried she was supposed to lose the house.

What a contrast between the wording of the two wills. What does it say about the personalities of the two brothers, eh?


Posted on May 8, 2012, in Essex County Families and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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