Might a child be excluded from intestacy inheritance (Connecticut, 1845)?

+2 votes
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For the last few months, I have been trying to discover the parents of Philemon Smith (1800–1872) of Newtown, Connecticut. Philemon left neither a birth record nor a death record, and the extant records from the church that probably would have performed his baptism do not begin until four years after his birth.

Nevertheless, records seem to indicate that his father was Philemon Smith (1777–1845) of West Haven/Orange, Connecticut. I believe this because:

  1. 1820 marriage record (earliest extant record) identifies Philemon as "Philemon junior" of Oxford, Connecticut. (Thus, his father would probably have been Philemon, since no other Philemon lived in Oxford or that area at the time.)
  2. 1820 marriage record also identifies reverend who performed marriage and a secondary source identifies that the reverend was employed at The Church in West Haven, in Orange in 1820. (Thus, Philemon was probably married in West Haven.)
  3. 1820 marriage record also identifies Philemon's wife, Betsey McCoy, as from New Haven, just next door to West Haven.
  4. 1895 death record of Philemon's daughter Eliza Smith lists Philemon's "nativity" as West Haven.

Despite this apparent evidence, the probate record of Philemon Smith (1777–1845) does not include Philemon Smith (1800–1872) as a distributee, claimant, or entitled heir. There was no will filed, so it seems the estate's distribution was governed by intestacy laws. The probate record is available on FamilySearch at https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L92K-S9PK-B.

Does anyone know whether a son might be excluded from intestacy laws? For example, was it rare for an estate administrator to fail to notify all heirs of a distribution?

Or, perhaps I am just grasping at straws here...

WikiTree profile: Philemon Smith
in Genealogy Help by Brian Fink G2G Rookie (190 points)
By 1820, you'd probably have to check the state statutes to see what sort of provisions they had for intestate succession, but the only bar I'm aware of at common law is parricide (the "slayer rule"). Unless he explicitly renounced his share, he's probably a nephew or cousin.
There is one other thing, which is that if the father had made a lifetime gift to the heir that was roughly equal to or more than the intestate share, that could be presumed to be an advancement, but I think that would be mentioned in the probate proceedings.
Thanks, Ben. I'll call the library to see if I can get my hands on some old statutes. I also thought about the lifetime gift. For example, before the older Philemon passed away, the younger Philemon, who apparently had been residing on the property of another, purchased his own home outright in a nearby town. Given how poor the younger Philemon was (based on tax records), I wondered whether the purchase money for that mortgage was a lifetime gift from a parent. During this time, the younger Philemon was living among several Candee families (per 1830 U.S. Census), and Candee is the maiden name of the older Philemon's wife. Assuming family connection among these Candees, it didn't seem far-fetched that the relative could be the older Philemon.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence of such a gift, including in the probate record. Thanks for the suggestion!

1 Answer

+2 votes
I can't comment on the main question about inheritance laws, but I do know that "junior" at that time does not necessarily imply a father-son. It can just mean something like "the younger." The recorder could have just meant, "Philemon Smith, the younger one with that name, not the older one." It could be an uncle, grandfather, older cousin, or not even related at all.

In my own tree around this same time period, I have a set of brothers, Uriah and Levi. Levi named a son after his brother, and on 1830 census records it has Uriah Sr (uncle) and Uriah Jr (nephew) as heads of households because there were two heads of households named Uriah at the same time and same place and same census sheet with the same surname. There is also another Levi with the same name who is of unknown relation at this time (even the genealogy society for this name has no idea who he is...). He is Levi Jr and the brother I mentioned above is Levi Sr on the census.
by Emily Yaden G2G6 Mach 1 (11.0k points)
Oh I just noticed that you did say that no other Philemon lived in that area at the time. Never mind!
Thanks, Emily! You got me thinking about Philemon in relation to the church where the reverend who married him and Betsy was the minister at. While searching the records of that church during Philemon's life, I noticed several mentions of an older Philemon who had contributed money to the church, either through donations or loans. This older Philemon was apparently quite involved in that church. I believe I know two possible candidates for this Philemon.

Needless to say, it may be that, in relation to the church (not necessarily family), the younger Philemon here was "junior" to this older and involved Philemon of the church.

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