Sunday, June 21, 2009

Judge, I'm Leaving the Wife and Kids Behind

Judge, I'm Leaving the Wife and Kids Behind

Husbands don't often write letters to judges telling them they are leaving their new wife and her children behind and taking off for greener pastures. However, that is exactly what George Fennan did in the late spring of 1856 in Warsaw, Illinois. Why George wrote the letter begins approximately six months earlier in the late fall of 1855—all of which is documented in records of the local county court.

German emigrant Peter Bieger died in Warsaw, Illinois, in November of 1855, leaving behind a wife and two infant children. The tavern owner was not wealthy and did not leave a large estate, but it was fortunate for me that he did own the village lot on which his tavern and home were located. Because of this, his estate warranted a probate settlement and a guardianship case for his two daughters. Even though his wife survived, a guardianship for his children was necessary. Given the laws of the time, his widow, Barbara, could not “automatically” manage her children's inheritance. Someone would have to be appointed as the children's guardian to handle their inheritance. A mother could be appointed her children's guardian, but usually the guardian would be a male family member or relative.

This "Casefile Clues" column Judge, I'm Leaving the Wife and Kids Behind originally ran in Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter on 4 June 2009. The rest of it can be read here.

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