Ancestry.com has recently added a database for U.S. probate records - wills, letters of administration, inventories of goods, and all the proceedings before and after. So I've been going through and adding these records to people in my trees - so far, no new, groundbreaking information had been coming to light, but the insight into life - and death - from the 1800s & 1900s can be interesting - children inheriting farmland and farm animals such as cows and pigs, an entire estate including housing and properties being valued only in the low $1000s, etc. My something-great grandmother Rebecca Raynor had her bank account included in one of her records, including day-to-day transactions for rent, necessities, loans, etc. Probate records can be a snapshot into what daily life was like. You might find out that your great-grandmother actually remarried (I had one listed by her first married name and second married name, which is how I found that out) and that's why she seemed to suddenly disappear from public records. But for newbies dealing with these records, if you're lucky, these records spell out crystal clear relationships between individuals - so-and-so's next of kin include 3 sons and 2 daughters, wives of so-and-so and so-and-so, and ten grandchildren, with all names, including married names, listed as well as where they lived. Oh, those records are the best! God bless the people who left super-detailed wills for posterity!
Anyway, I'm still in the middle of adding these records but had to take a quick break to say that sometimes these records will reveal BOMBSHELLS. Oh boy. I was researching my 3rd great grandfather Edward Haase and found some probate records that were for the right name, right year of death (1919) but with a provision at the beginning of the will for a son named Edward George Haase. As far as I had known, there was only my second great grandfather, Gustave, and a brother Edward F. who had died very young. So, yay, interesting, third child. Who was born in 1909, when Edward's wife and my 3rd great-grandmother, Eva Meinberg, was 48. How likely was that without the help of fertility drugs, unheard of back then? So must not be my Edward...until I looked at page 2 and saw all familiar names from my family tree. So it WAS my Edward. And his son Edward George is listed as having a Catherine Graham as his guardian. Catherine Graham is listed as his mother in the 1920 census.
Edward's wife, Eva, was still alive in 1909 when this Edward George was born and as far as I know, Edward and Eva were still married. So what's going on here? Were they NOT married or at least not living together? Did Edward have an affair? Was Catherine his mistress? Did Eva and Gustave know about Catherine Graham and Edward George? I'm so intrigued by this unexpected family mystery and I can't wait to discover more!