52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 6 ‘Favorite Name’

Puritan-Name
Silence and her granddaughter, Experience.

We probably all have them in our family trees. Those Puritan virtue names popular in the 17th century. Mercy, Thankful, Liberty, Faith, Prudence, and in my case …. Silence, and her granddaughter, Experience.

Silence Potter was born in Exeter, Washington county, Rhode Island on 22 January 1753 1. Her parents were Joseph Potter and Catherine Spencer. You might expect that her siblings would also have interesting names, yet that’s not the case at all. Her four sisters were named Hannah, Mary, Martha and Sarah.

Silence was a name somewhat popular in Puritan England, and one that crossed the Atlantic to be seen in America 2. It was thought to have its origins in the admonition of Saint Paul, “Let the woman learn in silence, with all subjection.” (1 Tim. Ii. II). In fact, devoted Puritans found a source of continual supply of inspiration in the Epistle to the Romans:

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed” 3

Justice, Faith, Grace, Hope, Glory, Patience and … Experience. All names springing from the pages of the bible onto the town birth registers of Rhode Island in the 1700s.

Silence Potter was married in 1774, at the age of 21, to a man named Elijah Case.4 Elijah Case was a founding member of the Penfield Baptist Church in Monroe county, New York. He was also the first minister there. Silence and Elijah had ten children: Mary, Elijah, Catherine, Alexander, Joseph, Abel, Solomon, Elisha, Benjamin and Reaboan. All common names for the time period, with perhaps the exception of Reaboan. Although Reaboan appears to be a Baptist name, I wasn’t able to confirm its origins or meaning.

SilencePotter1753_grave
Gravestone for Silence Case, Oakwood Cemetery, Penfield, Monroe county, New York.

Experience Case
Elijah, the oldest son of Silence and Elijah, was born on 11 September 1776. 5 Elijah Case (1776) married Elizabeth Crandall and had several children. One they named, Experience. The other children again had fairly every day names like Solomon, Elizabeth, Daniel and Hannah.

Experience’s name would turn out to be a fitting one, and perhaps a foreshadowing of her life to come. A life that would be full of difficult challenges and experiences. Experience married in 1826 and settled in Michigan Territory with her husband, Lucius Hubbard Fuller. They moved to Warsaw, Hancock county, 6 where malaria was rampant in the swampy lands surrounding them. There was also great tension in the community between the Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and non-Mormon settlers. Lucius was a Mormon but there is no indication that Experience joined the church. In April 1845, Lucius died, likely of complications from malaria. 7 Experience was left a widow with four children still at home.  Experience and two of her children were also sick when Lucius died. One year later, in 1846, Experience died. 8 She was only 39 years old. The last few years of Experience’s life can be learned about  through the pages of her probate record which I wrote about in a previous post.

Silence and Experience, grandmother and granddaughter. Their unusual names help us to see them with more distinction at a time when women’s legal and social status was almost completely overshadowed by the men in their lives.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 6 prompt: Favorite Name.

 


  1. “Rhode Island, Vital Records, 1636-1899”, database with images; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 February 2018), entry for Silence Potter birth, 22 January 1753. 
  2. Charles W. Bardsley, Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature. (London, Chatto and Windus, 1880), 145; digital images, Internet Archive (https://archive.org : accessed 7 February 2018). 
  3. King James bible, Romans, Chapter 5: v. 1-5. 
  4. “Rhode Island, Vital Records, 1636-1899”, database with images; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 February 2018), marriage of Elijah Case and Silence Potter, 1774. 
  5. “Rhode Island, Birth Index, 1636-1930”, database with images; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 February 2018), entry for birth of Elijah Case, 11 September 1776. 
  6. 1840 U.S. census, Hancock County, Illinois, no township, p. 27 (written), entry for L.H. Fuller; digital image by subscription, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 7 February 2018); citing National Archives microfilm M704, roll 60. 
  7. Hancock County, Illinois, Probate Records, ca. 1831-1942, Boxes 15-16, 1840s-1850s, Case 16, letters of administration of estate of Lucius Hubbard Fuller, 3 August 1844; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 February 2018). 
  8. Hancock County, Illinois, Probate Records, ca. 1831-1942, Boxes 15-16, 1840s-1850s, Case 16, letters of administration of estate of Experience Fuller, 8 December 1846; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 February 2018). 

A Closer Look at a Probate Record

experiencecasefuller1803_probatecoversnip
Cover of Probate Record for Experience Fuller, Hancock Co, IL.

Probate documents are created by a court after an individual’s death. They relate to the distribution of the deceased’s estate and often contain information of great genealogical value.  One of the records created at probate is often a list of creditors and accounts of debts owed. At first glance these may not seem of as much value as a will for example.  However, a closer look at the debts incurred by Experience Case Fuller and her husband Lucius Hubbard Fuller allow us to create a more in-depth picture of the last year or so of their lives.

Experience Case Fuller was 39 years old when she died in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois in 1846.  She had lost her husband, Lucius Hubbard Fuller in April 1845 and had been left a widow with 4 children still at home. Her probate record contains 18 pages, consisting mostly of accounts and administration paperwork. Together with Lucius Hubbard Fuller’s probate records we are able to put together a timeline of the family from 1844 to Experience’s death in 1846.

One of the first creditors owed money by Lucius and Experience Fuller is a Dr. Jonathan Berry.  In September 1844 the account states that Experience was sick and had been treated with quinine.

luciushfuller1802_probate
Hancock County, Illinois probate records, ca. 1831-1942;  Author:  Hancock County (Illinois).  Illinois, Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999 http://www.Ancestry.com, citing Lucius Hubbard Fuller

Quinine was used to treat malaria, so rife in the swampy land of Warsaw, IL.  Malaria is the probable diagnosis although the actual cause of death is not given in the probate record.  Malaria was the most common cause of death in this time period in Illinois.

In the probate records of Experience Case Fuller we see continued doctor visits, this time for Lucius Hubbard Fuller.  The last entry is on 27 April 1845, the day Lucius died.

luciushfuller1802_probate1

A few pages later there is another account for visits to treat Experience, a daughter and a child.  The first account is dated two days after Lucius died.  It would appear that many in the family were sick in 1845 including Experience.  The accounts show the doctor continued to care for Experience and one of the children in August.

experiencecase1803_probate-2

Hancock County, Illinois probate records, ca. 1831-1942;  Author:  Hancock County (Illinois). Illinois, Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999;  http://www.Ancestry.com, citing Experience Case Fuller.

The final account payable tells the story of the last few months of Experience’s life.  On Christmas Day 1845 Experience is bled by the doctor and attended to for a few more days.  Nothing is noted until March 2, 1846 where the Doctor’s account states that she was attended to in her ‘last illness’.  Experience was 39 years old.  Her youngest child Josephus was 2 years old.  The account in the probate record indicates that Josephus and older brother Lucius were also sick and the doctor continued to attend to them until November 1846.

experiencecase1803_probate

In thoroughly exploring a probate record we can discover information that may not be found anywhere else.  In this case, that the Fuller family experienced sickness, most likely malaria, which undoubtedly contributed to the deaths of Lucius Hubbard Fuller at age 43 and his wife Experience Case Fuller at age 39.    Not only do we have an idea of the cause of death based on the accounts in the probate record but we can see history reflected in the individual lives of our ancestors: “Epidemics of cholera, malaria and typhoid took their toll on the struggling Mormons until the swamp was drained” Brooks, Juanita (1962), John Doyle Lee, Zealot, Pioneer, Builder, Scapegoat, Glendale, California: Arthur H. Clark Co.

Lucius Hubbard Fuller and Experience Case Fuller are my husband’s fourth great grandparents.  Their eldest daughter, Lisania Fuller married Hyrum Judd in 1844 and set off across the plains in 1849, reaching the Salt Lake Valley between 22 – 24 September 1849.

Using the ‘Find A Will’ Service from England’s Gov.UK

As genealogist’s we know the value of probate records in our research.  Probate records are court records made after the death of an individual and relate to how that person’s estate is dispersed, the directions to heirs and creditors and the care of dependents. There are numerous records created during the probate process including wills, petitions and inventories.  Probate records may include a death certificate, guardianship records and sometimes even land records.

A will can sometimes be the only document you find that shows a relationship between people, or which gives you the name of a family member you did not know about. It provides the full name of the individual, the date of death and often occupation.  A will may name the spouse and children, may give a daughter’s married name and many times the names of grandchildren. A will gives us a personal glimpse into what was important to our ancestor.

So how do we go about finding an ancestor’s will?  Much of my research is in the British Isles and this post focuses on finding a will in England. I recently came across a service provided by gov.uk.  The Find a Will website is located at https://www.gov.uk/search-will-probate and consists of three databases:

  • Wills and Probate 1858-1996
  • Wills and Probate 1996 to date
  • Soldier’s Wills

I decided to try to find the will of my great-aunt, Charlotte Lillie Davis, who I have recently discovered had married in Germany, to a man by the name of Oluf Antonius Jensen.  The Find a Will website requires that you already know the year of death.   So there is a little work to do if you do not already have this information.   Besides parish registers, below are a couple of databases that may help you find a year of death:

  • FreeBMD contains information from the Civil Registration Index to Births, Marriages and Deaths from 1837-1983. Not all years are complete yet.  (Free)
  • Ancestry.com has the Civil Registration Death Index 1916-2007 ($)
  • Ancestry.com also has the England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1996, 1973-1995 ($)
  • Findmypast.com has England & Wales deaths 1837-2007 Transcription ($)
  • Findmypast.com also has Probate Calendars of England and Wales 1858-1959 as well as many individual County probate indexes. ($)

I did not have Charlotte’s year of death but a quick search on Ancestry.com came up with both a civil registration death index record and a probate record.

4thq

civilreg
England & Wales, Death Index: 1916-2005. Ancestry.com

According to the Civil Death Index Charlotte Lillie Jensen’s death was registered in the 4th Quarter of 1982.  The Probate record gave me the specific date of death as 13 December 1982 and a probate date of 11 February 1983.

probate2
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861-1941. Ancestry.com

Using this information I went to the Find a Will website and entered the Surname and Year of Death.

findawill

Charlotte Lillie Jensen was at the top of the second page of Probate Indexes.

probatejensen

The next step is to use the information you have just found in the Probate Index and fill in the form to the left of the results. I was able to find Charlotte Lillie Jensen’s probate index entry using Ancestry.com but the Find a Will website will search the Probate Index provided you have the year of death.

nextstep

A PDF of the will costs £10 (about $12) and can take up to 10 working days to be delivered electronically.  Once you receive an email letting you know the will is available you have 30 days to download it.

I ordered Charlotte Lillie Jensen’s will on October 19, 2016 and it was ready for download by October 24, 2016.  This is an easy to use and valuable service for genealogists.   In my opinion it is well worth the £10.

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