I’ve known about succession records for years. In some states, they’re known as probate records. In Louisiana, they seem to be called successions. Basically, they’re what’s filed after someone dies in order to make a legal record of how their property was distributed.
You can find out useful information from succession records. They usually spell out which children were living at the time of a parent’s death, the death date itself and an inventory of the deceased’s property. Often times, the record notes the spouses of the daughters.
I was reading through an ancestor’s succession record a few months ago when I came across the mention of a will. I looked through the entire file and couldn’t find the will. At first, I assumed it just wasn’t included in the record. Then I thought to ask someone at the Clerk’s Office.
The answer to my question taught me another new word: conveyance. Conveyance records are basically property records. There, tucked into the conveyance records at the St. Mary Parish courthouse, was the will of my great-great-great grandmother. Alas, it’s in French so I’m still in the process of translating it. But how cool is it to find something that expressed her final wishes?
Assumption Parish has a will book with wills from the 1800s. It’s been scanned in and shared here.
Here’s one that I transcribed from Judge Bella Hubbard‘s will:
In the name of God amen! I Bela Hubbard of the Parish of Assumption and State aforesaid, sound in body and mind, being desirous to dispose of my property, which Providence has been pleased to bestow on me, solemnly declare, this present instrument of writing, to contain my last will and testament, and which I have been induced to make from my own voluntary movement and written and signed the same without the persuasion or suggestion of any person whomever and in matter, manner and form as follows to wit:
First, I desire that my body shall be committed to its mother earth without any vain show of ostentation.
Secondly, I bequeath and leave unto Melanie alias Mary Verret, my beloved wife, the daughter of August Verret and Mary Bijol his wife, of said Parish, the whole of my property, both moveable and immoveable, instituting her, my sole and universal heir and who on my demise shall be of full right, immediately seized, of all my property as aforesaid and which property she shall purely and simply enjoy until the day of her decease, which property shall then return to my legal heirs – the said Mary my wife, being bound to discharge and pay of all my debts.
Signed September 14th, 1841
Thomas Pugh first wrote his will in 1837, but he added to it over the years:
In the event of my death to which we are at all moments subject, I desire that this document so far as it goes to be my last will and testament.
My faithful negro man Slave Homer, I wish to set free comfortably supported as long as he lives.
I desire that three thousand dollars be given to my wife Eliza Pugh over and above her rightful portion of my Estate. She will understand the purpose for which this is intended and I trust cause it to be faithfully executed.
My old Negro woman Lucy, the mother of Homer, I wish comfortably supported from my Estate, free from labour for the balance of her life.
W.W. Pugh, my son Edward Pugh, I make my executors to settle up and close the whole of my Estate
Dec. 13, 1837
Addendums to the will:
This 7 day of June 1841:
I give to my wife the carriages and horses and Nathan the coachman and all the household furniture or so much of it as she chooses to take and I recommend to her to keep the property together at least till such time as the debts are all paid. I recommend her also to get W.W. Pugh to become tutor to our children, indeed this I earnestly desire.
June 8, 1841
In case of my incapacity or want of inclination on the part of my wife to execute the trust involved on the bequest of the three thousand dollars mentioned in the second paragraph of this instrument, then I request W.W. Pugh to take the said sum in charge and appropriate it to the support of a free colored boy named Henry Harrison now living in New Orleans under the care of an old yellow man named Essep or Isaac Taylor. When the boy Henry Harrison becomes to be 25 years of age, I desire the said W.W. Pugh to give up the said sum to him.
And now upon further consideration I associate my brother-in-law Arthur M. Foley with W.W. Pugh as administrators to my Estate and request both these gentlemen to have the kindness to accept the trust.