Probate records are wonderful when you can find them as they provide so much detail and texture about an individual’s life. I just loved learning that Timothy Munsell‘s family spent a dollar (6 shillings) for “Spirits.” I also learned the things he had that were of importance. Apparently, no horse but he did have two hogs.
Ancestry.Com is a great resource for Wills and Probate Records. These images come from “Connecticut, Wills and Probate Records, 1609-1999” original data from “Connecticut County, District and Probate Courts.” For all the images and higher quality images see Ancestry.Com. (You must have Ancestry account or be using a library account to access.)
I have often wonder how money worked in the post-colonial period. I know originally there were 20 shillings in a pound, but the old pounds and shillings worked in comparison with dollars. I’ve read many descriptions that read like a technical journal – “how many grains or grams were in something….” I knew that the early Americans had to have a simple system for day-to-day conversion, but it eluded me until I looked at the probate record of Timothy Munsell. In the records, there was a list of expenses done in pounds, shillings, and pence and the receipts for payment were done in dollars. Building the casket cost 2 dollars, but was entered as 12 shillings in the ledger. Likewise, digging the grave cost one dollar, but was entered as 6 shillings in the ledger. Simple. No more confusion on my part. It is clear, from looking at the ledger, that a pound is 20 shillings and 12 pence makes a shilling. Again simple.
However, with genealogy, when one thing becomes clear, often something else leaps up and confuses me. In this case, there was an expense for “spirits.” I just don’t understand enough about 18th-century burial practices to know what this really means. Was this the cost of the process to clean and wrap the body and prepare the spirit for its journey? Or was this payment for the booze for a spirited party following the burial? Either seems possible, but I suspect it was the latter. However, a dollar (6 shillings) doesn’t seem like that much of a party, even in 1798 money. I would love to hear from anyone that had a definitive source for my understanding this conflict.
The Munsell surname is also spelled Munsill, Monsell, and, sometimes, Maunsell. Regardless of record, I have standardized on the Munsell spelling.
Timothy Munsell was born on 24 Nov 1745 to John and Mary (unknown) Munsell.[i]
Nothing is known of Timothy’s childhood.
Timothy married Eleshiba Smith on 11 Feb 1768 in Lyme, New London, Connecticut Colony.[ii]
There is some confusion regarding the children of Timothy and Eleshiba, their number and their birthdates. I have settled upon the following:
NAME Birth Comments
William Wescott Munsell 24 Jan 1770
James Munsell 28 Jun 1773
Anna Munsell 07 Sep 1775
Timothy Munsell 16 Apr 1778
Sally Ann Munsell 1780 3rd Great Grandmother
James Andross Munsell 09 Jul 1781
Thomas Munsell 1784 “Supposed son”
I suspect that James (b. 1773) probably died before 1781 thus freeing up the given name of James for James Andross in 1781. James Andross was also known as Andress, Andrus, and Andrew Munsell so it may be that James for James Andross was a confusion in some records. Further investigation is needed to clear up that question.
Some records indicate that Timothy Munsell may have served during the Revolutionary War as a private for Connecticut. However, The Daughters of the American Revolution have provided notice for ancestor #A082980 which states: THIS LINE MAY NOT BE USED FOR MEMBERSHIP IN THE DAR. It appears there were two Timothy Munsells in Lyme, CT, during the revolutionary war. One was born in 1735 and appears to have served while our Timothy Munsell was born in 1748 and did not serve.
Timothy Munsell died on 26 Oct 1798 in Lyme, New London County, Connecticut.
He was buried before 12 November 1798 in Lyme, New London County, Connecticut.[iii]
His burial cost $2 for the casket, $1 to dig the grave, and $1 for the spirits. [iv]
His land was appraised at £3. His personal property was valued at £12. His wearing apparel was the most valuable, worth £2 12s. His bed and bedding, valued at £2 10s, and a hogg, valued at £1, 17s, 6p, were the top valued items of personal property.[v]
I currently have 23 individuals with the surname Munsell identified and 69 known direct descendants of Timothy and Eleshiba (Smith) Munsell.
Looking at Ancestry DNA, I viewed Shirley’s closest DNA Matches that have trees with the Munsell surname and found the following cousins.
W1 – Shares 61 cM – Common Ancestor Abner and Sally Anne (Munsell) Darling.
M0 – Shares 31 cM – Common Ancestor – Unknown ancestor of William J Munsell?
GS – Shares 25 cM – Common Ancestor Abner and Sally Anne (Munsell) Darling.
SM – Shares 24 cM – Conflict. Sally Ann Munsel with the spouse of Warren Darling.
(Note: For privacy concerns, I only use initials of individuals matched.
Further Actions / Follow-up
Follow-up on children of Timothy Munsell. Did he have two children named James? If so, did the first James died before the second James was born?
Learn why Timothy Munsell is no longer accepted as Revolutionary War Ancestor. It appears to relate somehow to John Munsell b. 7-16-1735 Lyme, CT, d. 7-17-1819.[vi]
Follow and document the Ancestry DNA descendant lines resolve any conflicts and add linkage into William J. Munsell’s ancestry.