Our outdoor thermometer puts the temperature at the moment at 40˚ in the shade at the moment, and our brain pretty much stops functioning at 35˚ but we shall endeavor to carry out our plan of discussing the value of probate inventory, or l'inventaire après décès. We have touched on them before, in a list of types of notarial records and in an early introduction to notarial records or actes notariés.
Wherever an estate is to be divided or if executors simply think it expedient, there will be probate inventory. It is performed by a notaire. All heirs must be present or represented. Normally, it is this listing of heirs and their relationships that give probate inventories their great genealogical value. But there is more.
The modern probate inventory, since 1792 at least, generally has four sections.
- The, date, the place, and the identification of the notaire, the deceased and all those present
- The listing, room by room, property by property, of all possessions and their value
- The listing of all possessions on paper or documents, such as shares, promissory notes, IOUs, deeds, again with their value
- The listing of all claims against the estate and their value.
The probate inventory of Richard Ferris, (an Irish priest who rejected the Revolution's abandonment of religion, but accepted the end of celibacy by becoming a romantic partner and father, who spied on the French government for the English and stayed in Paris during the Restoration to run a Catholic college) runs to more than thirty pages. It was requested by his executors:
In the inventory for Lucie Cauchois, the detail and minutiae of possessions listed is endless:
The inventory for Pierre Lallemand shows many types of documents listed:
And it also shows they types of claims submitted:
While the list of possessions and the list of claims may show quite a lot about the personal lifestyle of the deceased, the list of document can be another part of the document to contain genealogical detail and also to lead to further research. It is here that one sees loans to friends and family, or companies that were formed or ended, shares bought in other countries, all property owned -- with names of those renting it, and all the other notes or letters the deceased did not want seen until after he or she were gone.
Richard Ferris had few possessions, but his fingers were in many financial pies, as the documents list in his probate inventory shows; it goes on for many, many pages. Another man left a letter explaining that the reason an unknown young woman was named as an heir in his will was that she was reputed to be his daughter; though he did not recognize her, he was leaving quite a lot of property to her "out of respect for her mother".
Often, further notarial actes are detailed, giving the information necessary to find them in the archives and extend the research. With this, one can get those as well. Inventories are clearly identified as such in each notarial étude's repertoire, as can be seen at the top of the page here:
It can be long and tedious reading, but the rewards can be very interesting indeed.
©2015 Anne Morddel