52 Documents in 52 Weeks #22 – Hiram H. Strait’s Last Will and Testament

Person of Interest: Hiram Heally Strait
Relationship: 1st cousin 5x removed


Source Citation: Sussex County, New Jersey, Wills Volume M 1900-1905: 37-39, Hiram Heally Strait (1901), last will and testament of Hiram Strait, recorded 24 January 1901; Digital image, Ancestry, “New Jersey, Wills and Probate Records, 1739-1991” (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 May 2017); Citing records from Sussex County Surrogate’s Office, Newton.


Document Description: This is the digital image of the last will and testament of Hiram Heally Strait from Sussex County, New Jersey, found on Ancestry. It is handwritten by the county clerk and is the proving of the will for Hiram after his death in early 1901. The executrix of his will was Martha F. Strait and she brought the will into the Surrogate’s Office to be proved so that she could open a probate case to administer his estate.


Document Scan/Transcription:
Will Volume M, page 37 (very bottom of page)

Last Will and Testament
of
Hiram H. Strait, Deceased
Sussex County Surrogate’s Office
In the Matter of the Probate of the
Last Will and Testament
of
Hiram H. Strait, Deceased.

 

 

Will Volume M, page 38
Be it remembered that on the Twenty fourth day of January A.D. 1901, the Executrix name in the last Will and Testament of Hiram H. Strait, late of the Township of Hardyston in the County of Sussex, deceased, appeared before the Surrogate of the County of Sussex, and made application to have the said will proved; and on such application said Surrogate adjudged the said Will to be a valid Will, and the proof thereof to be sufficient, which said last Will and Testament, and the proof thereof, are as follows, that is to say:
I, Hiram H. Strait, of the township of Hardyston, county of Sussex, New Jersey, do hereby make and publish this my last will and testament, as follows:-
After the payment of all my just debts and funeral expenses, I give, bequeath and devise all my property both real and personal, wheresoever situate, and whatever the same may be, to my sister, Martha F. Strait, of the township of Hardyston, county of Sussex, New Jersey, to her and her heirs or assigns forever.
I hereby nominate and appoint Martha F. Strait, sole executrix, without security, of this my last will and testament.
In witness whereof, I have hereto set my hand and seal this sixteenth day of December, 1892.

Hiram H. Strait [His seal]

Signed, published and declared by the
said Hiram H. Strait, to be his last
will and testament, in the presence
of us, who were present at the same
time, and subscribed our names as
witnesses in the presence of the testator.
Witness – Joseph P. Crayon
Witness – John Henderson
Witness – Helen Dunn

Sussex County S.S.
Joseph P. Crayon, one of the witnesses to the annexed writing purporting to be the last Will and Testament of Hiram H. Strait, the Testator therein named, deceased, being duly sworn, doth depose and say, that he saw the said Testator sign and seal the said annexed writing, and hear him publish and declare the same as and for his last Will and Testament; that at the time of the doing thereof, the said Testator was of sound disposing mind, memory and understanding, as far as this deponent knows, and as he verily believes that John Henderson and Helen Dunn the other subscribing witnesses is thereto, were present at the same time with this deponent, and together with him subscribed their names thereto as witnesses in the presence of the Testator and of each other, and at the request of the Testator and that the said Testator departed this life on the Thirteenth day of January A.D. 1901, according to the best of this deponent’s information and belief.

Joseph P. Crayon [his signature]

Sworn and subscribed before me this
24th day of January A.D. 1901.
Jacob M. Demerest, Surrogate.


Will Volume M, page 39
Sussex County S.S.
Martha F. Strait, the Executrix in the annexed writing named, being duly sworn doth depose and say that the said annexed writing contains the true last Will and Testament of Hiram H. Strait the Testator therein named, deceased, as far as she knows, and as she verily believes, that she will, as the Executrix thereof, well and truly perform the same, first by paying the debts of said deceased, and that the legacies therein specified, as far as the Goods, Chattels and Credits of said deceased will thereunto extend, and the law charges; that she will make and exhibit into the Surrogate’s Office of the County of Sussex, a true and perfect inventory of all and singular the said Goods, Chattels and Credits, as far as the same have or shall come to her possession or knowledge, or to the possession of any other person or persons to her use to her knowledge; and that she will well and truly account where thereunto lawfully required.

Martha F. Strait [her signature]

Sworn and subscribed before me
this 24th day of January A.D. 1901.
Jacob M. Demerest, Surrogate.

Sussex County Surrogate’s Office.

Order for Probate.

In the Matter of the Probate of the
Last Will and Testament
of
Hiram H. Strait, Deceased.
Application having been made to me by Martha F. Strait for probate of the last Will and Testament of Hiram H. Strait, deceased, and letters testamentary thereon, and the deposition of one of the subscribing witnesses to the same having been duly taken and it appearing to me upon such proof that the Will produced was duly executed according to law, and that more than ten days have elapsed since the death of the Testator, it is ordered and adjudged that the said Will be and the same is hereby established as the last Will and Testament of the said deceased, and that the same shall be and is admitted to probate, and that letters testamentary be granted thereon.
Dated January 24th A.D. 1901.

Jacob M. Demerest, Surrogate.

State of New Jersey
Sussex County Surrogate Office.
I, Jacob M. Demerest, Surrogate of the County of Sussex, do certify the annexed to be a true  copy of the last Will and Testament of Hiram H. Strait, late of the County of Sussex, deceased, and that Martha F. Strait, the Executrix therein named, proved the same before me, and id duly authorized to take upon herself the administration of the Estate of the Testator agreeably to the said Will.
Witness my hand and seal of office, the Twenty-fourth
day of January in the year of our Lord One Thousand
Nine Hundred and One.  Jacob M. Demerest
Filed January 24th 1901 and recorded by Jacob M. Demerest, Surrogate.


Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I make no attempt to make this lawyerly at all. This is not lawyerly advise. Please consult a lawyer if you have lawyerly questions!


Analysis: Let’s discuss some terminology first before discussing the document itself.

Testate: Having a will or testament
Intestate: Not having a will or testament
Bequeath: To leave one’s personal estate (real or personal) to a beneficiary

  • Will: Bequeaths real property
  • Testament: Bequeaths person property

Real Property: Land, houses, barns, buildings
Personal Property: Clothing, furniture, clothing, money, artwork, animals, etc.

Testator/Testatrix: Male/Female person making the last Will and Testament
Decedent: the dead person
Administrator/Administratrix: Male/Female person appointed by court to administer the estate when decedent is intestate
Executor/Executrix: Male/Female person appointed by the decedent to administer the estate
Beneficiary: person(s) who benefits from the decedent’s death
Heirs: person(s) who holds the rights to receive property

Types of wills:

  • Written – usually prepared by a lawyer or someone other than the person bequeathing
  • Nuncupative – verbal will. Must have two witnesses. Can only deal with the distribution of personal property.
  • Holographic – written out completely in the hand of the person also signing it
  • Codicils – a supplement or amendent to the original will

Probate: the legal process wherein the estate of a decedent is administered

In this case, Hiram was testate since he has a last Will and Testament. He has bequeathed (given) all of real and personal property to his sister, Martha F. Strait. This document is the point in probate where the principal heir (Martha) has applied to the court to begin the probate process. This document shows the will has been accepted and Martha has been granted the authority to deal with Hiram’s estate.

A short chronology based on these pages can be formed:

  • 16 December 1892: Hiram drafted, signed, and published his will and it was signed by three witnesses.
  • 13 January 1901: Hiram departed from this life – he died, thus setting the probate process in motion
  • 24 January 1901: Hiram’s executrix, his sister Martha, presented the will to the Surrogate’s Office for proving
  • 24 January 1901: Hiram’s witness to his will, Joseph P. Crayon, swore in a deposition that he was present with the other witness when Hiram drafted, signed, and published his will.
  • 24 January 1901: Hiram’s executrix, his sister Martha, swore that she would pay Hiram’s debt and present the court with true inventory of Hiram’s estate.
  • 24 January 1901: Based on will presented and letters of testamentary, the surrogate admitted the will to probate.
  • 24 January 1901: Surrogate appointed Martha as the executrix of Hiram’s estate.

Hiram’s last Will and Testament was a short and uncomplicated one:

I, Hiram H. Strait, of the township of Hardyston, county of Sussex, New Jersey, do hereby make and publish this my last will and testament, as follows:-
After the payment of all my just debts and funeral expenses, I give, bequeath and devise all my property both real and personal, wheresoever situate, and whatever the same may be, to my sister, Martha F. Strait, of the township of Hardyston, county of Sussex, New Jersey, to her and her heirs or assigns forever.
I hereby nominate and appoint Martha F. Strait, sole executrix, without security, of this my last will and testament.
In witness whereof, I have hereto set my hand and seal this sixteenth day of December, 1892.

Hiram H. Strait [His seal]

He left everything he owned to his sister and well as appointed her the sole executrix. Done!

Genealogical tidbits gleaned from this document are sparse. Hiram’s death date is revealed.  Hiram’s sister, Martha F. Strait, is named. The fact that she still was going by the last name of Strait would hint that she is a spinster or had married a cousin with the last name of Strait.

This is an original document, drafted by the Surrogate of Sussex County, New Jersey and records the administration of Hiram’s estate just ten short days after his death. With regards to the will and the proving of it, it is primary (firsthand) information. Martha was physically at the Surrogate’s Office, a witness to the will Joseph P. Crayon has attested he saw the will being drafted, signed and published, and the proceedings were being recorded very close to the time of the event (the death of Hiram) making it more reliable than a document recorded years afterwards.

The evidence is direct (explicit) for the research question, “When did Hiram H. Strait, of Hardyston Township, Sussex County, New Jersey, draft his will and when did he die?” The answers are explicit with 16 December 1892 and 13 January 1901, respectively. It is indirect for the research question, “What did Hiram H. Strait, of Hardyston Township, Sussex County, New Jersey, own when he passed away 13 January 1901?” Another document needs to be combined with this one to answer that question.

This document does provide clues on what to look for next. Martha had been ordered to provide the Surrogate’s Office with true inventory of Hiram’s estate. That should be in the probate files and the next thing to find. The inventory would give a nice feel for how meagerly or lavishly Hiram was living at the time of his death.

CONCLUSION

Locating Hiram’s short and sweet will provides a good look at the first step in the administration of an estate, the proving of the will. While he had an uncomplicated will, the fact that Martha was ordered to provide an inventory of his estate gives this researcher a good next step.

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