In June of this year (2014), I obtained copies of the Saunders County probate file for P.W. Pearson. Peter William Pearson was my great-grandfather. He was also known as “Will” or “Willie” by family and friends.
He had an untimely death, succumbing to cancer of the mouth at the age of only 43. He died on June 24, 1920.
His probate file is really interesting – perhaps one of the best ones I’ve come across so far! “Probate records” sounds like a really boring topic but I’ve come to realize that they are my favorite kind of genealogical record. In addition to confirming names and family relationships, they also shed light on the daily lives of ancestors and even touch on sensitive family controversies at times. That is certainly the case with this file!
Let us begin with his will. It was signed on February 2, 1920. P.W. had been sick for several months by that time, and he must have finally come to the realization that he would not survive this illness. It was time to get his affairs in order and make plans for the family to go on without him.
P.W.’s will is very simple. He leaves everything to his wife Clara and upon her death, everything is to be equally divided among his four children (Elmer, Herman, Edna and Irvin). He makes Clara the “executrix” of his estate.
The witnesses to the will were Gus Johnson and Rev. C.O. Granlund, the pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Ceresco.
I have in my files a letter written by their Pastor Granlund on February 1, 1920. Clara wrote on the envelope “From Granlund when we were quarantined with Smallpox”. But going back and reading this letter, it makes even more sense when read in the context of Pastor Granlund being called upon to witness P.W.’s Last Will and Testament the following day.
I wonder if Clara even knew what that letter was really about. Did she not know that P.W. was having his will drawn up?