A few years ago, my uncle gave my mother a large envelope full of items that had belonged to my Great Aunt Grace Norris Bailey. It is well known within her family that my mother is a lover of family photographs, so it was no surprise that my uncle decided to bestow this bounty upon my mother. Inside the envelope, we discovered an old photo album full of pictures from my great aunt's youth and her days at Otterbein College, newspaper articles, the guestbook full of signatures from my great uncle Red's funeral, and various other articles that my uncle had thought my mother would be interested. I borrowed several items to scan for my family history records and gave the envelope back to my mother for safekeeping.
A little while before Christmas, I revisted the envelope. This time I also found a small box that I hadn't noticed before. When I opened the box, I discovered a small, raggedy brown book. The pages were yellow with age and upon further inspection, I realized I had found a true gem of family history. Among the "practice" letters that Aunt Grace had written, along with a list of boys and girls she was inviting to a party, there were two written estate/probates records. One was for the estate of my 3rd great grandfather, Jacob Routsong and the other was for my 3rd great grandfather, Henry Sweadner. Each includes legal language pertaining to the executors, a list of the valuation of all property belonging to each man and a list of who bought what possessions and at what cost during the sale of the estates. As I read the list of what my ancestors owned and as I recognized the names of people who were early settlers here in what was then called Van Buren Township, I realized that I was holding a treasure. This book had been held by my ancestors. They had placed their signatures inside and left me a piece of their lives. I had previously purchased from the county a xeroxed copy of the actual "legal" copies of the estates that had been filed at the courthouse, but to have these original copies of the information means more to me than words can express. And I found it AFTER I had been through the envelope the first time. So let it be the lesson to you that it was for me. Never give up seeking your history. Even if you have been through the records before, check just one more time. You might find something you weren't expecting, and it could be fantastic!