Kings County Estate Files: Matilda Rau Stutzmann

So FamilySearch, the Mormons' genealogy research website is adding new records and building a new site, which can be found at the moment @ There still aren't very many records available, but for those of us with Brooklyn, New York ancestry, they do now have scanned images in their Kings County Estate Files from 1866-1923, which is where I found my third great grandmother on my dad's side of the family, Matilda Rau Stutzmann.

I don't know Matilda very well. She came over to New York from Germany on July 29, 1871 on the same ship as the man she would marry, Friedrich Stutzmann. She had three children with him, including my 2nd great grandfather Rudolph Stutzmann, who went on to found Ridgewood Savings Bank and be a leading member of German-American society in the Ridgewood area of Queens and Brooklyn. She's listed with her family in the 1880 census, but that same year, just 9 years after her arrival, on August 26, she died of bilious fever (also known as yellow fever) at the young age of 35.

Yet despite her short and seemingly ordinary life, she's the only person on my dad's side of the family that I've been able to find a record for in the Kings County estate files. And not only that, but there are two records for her. I'm still not sure I understand what these records are saying - there's a lot of legalese and repetition, but for anyone who has Brooklyn ancestry, some of these documents have a lot of good information that can either back up what you already know or shed new light on the person you're researching, including family members, address where the person lived, date of death, and possibly even a will.

Let's take a quick look at Matilda's record. The first one has 12 pages and is dated Oct. 4, 1880. It reads, "Kings County Surrogate's Court, in the matter of proving the last Will and Testament of Matilda Stutzmann, late of the City of Brooklyn."

"In the matter of the application for the probate of the last Will and Testament of Matilda Stutzmann...the petition of Friedrich Stutzmann of the City of Brooklyn respectfully shows to this court that I am an executor named in the last Will and Testament of Matilda Stutzmann late of the City of Brooklyn; that the deceased was at the time of her death a resident of the County of Kings and departed this life in said County on the 27th day of August in 1880; that said last Will and Testament relates to both real and personal estate and which said instrument bears the date the 25th day of August in the year 1880 and all the next of kin of said deceased are as follows, to wit: her husband your applicant of full age and three children to wit: Lena Stutzmann aged seven years, Rudolph Stutzmann aged five years, and Matilda Stutzmann aged seventeen months. Said infants have no general guardian and reside with their father your applicant in the City of Brooklyn."

It goes on to name a guardian for the kids to represent their interests through this whole proving process and has them all coming back to court several times, affadavits that summonses were delivered, that others witnessed Matilda signing a will even though apparently there was no official will on record, and of course, as with everything in government, everything seems to be in triplicate (that's an exaggeration, but that's what it feels like when you're reading the same exact thing page after page, so not an exaggeration by much...)