On Saturday, September 8th, our first genealogy meeting of the 2007 - 2008 year was attended by several members of the Washington State Genealogical Society, who met with our board in anticipation of the 2009 WSGS State Conference, to be held in Spokane in September of that year. They included Steve Baylor, President; Laura Pemberton Starr, Conference Liaison; and Frank McLean of the Pioneer Certificates Committee. These guests remained after the general meeting to field questions and provide comments to any interested EWGS members in regard to the upcoming conference.
Our presenter for the general meeting was EWGS Past President Susan Beamer, who spoke on "A Sure Thing: Death & Taxes." Susan is very knowledgeable on probate and tax records, not only through her own genealogical research, but from a career standpoint as well, having previously worked in the Eastern Regional Branch of the Washington State Archives in Cheney. First, she carefully explained the types of each record, where they can be found, and what they generally contain. Then she demonstrated the wealth of information that is available to researchers in probate and tax records by using her own ancestors' records in her PowerPoint presentation. Susan is very fortunate to have Eastern Washington ancestors, and I admit I was envious at how easy it must be to access local records!
Some of the things I learned:
- You should search for a probate record in a span of ten or more years after the death of an individual, because sometimes it took that long before a will was probated.
- Sometimes the entire probate record is only the will, because it was easily probated (proved).
- The bondsmen, guardians, friends, and administrators named in the probate records are nearly always related or in-laws to the deceased individual.
- Tax records can show names, ages, residences, legal descriptions of property, and school districts (which leads to school records) for taxed individuals.
- Looking at the types of things an ancestor did and didn't own in tax records can be revealing; they can paint a better picture about their lifestyles.