By Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith
COPYRIGHT, Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith, 1995

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            The genealogical information in this publication has been gleaned from the five will books of Madison County, Tennessee covering the period from late 1821 through 1854. (Will Book One, 1821-1835. Will Book Two, 1835-1839. Will Book Three, 1839-1843. Will Book Four, 1843-1845. Will Book Five, 1845-1854) An effort has been made to abstract in strictly paraphrasal form (with occasional direct quotations) from this mass of material. It is suggested to any researcher that he or she use this publication as an annotated index to these wills, a cross-referencing of names and relationships that would be difficult to achieve by almost any other method.

            Madison County, Tennessee was created by the state legislature of Tennessee, November 7, 1821 and was actually organized December 17, thereafter. The first will admitted to probate in the county court where all last wills and testaments were proven and the clerk of which filed and recorded these documents was that of Robert Doak on December 18, 1821. From then until the time of the Civil War the wills were usually recorded in the same books with the other probate documents, viz administrators-executors reports and guardian accounts. If a person died intestate (without leaving a will) if he or she had any appreciable property an administrator of the estate was court-appointed, usually the nearest adult kin or largest creditor of the decedent. Such administrators made annual reports to the county court, detailing business conducted in the estate; a court-appointed guardian for minor children (under age 21) made similar annual reports. These reports may contain genealogical information as well as business transactions data but were not within the scope of this publication although a few such reports are mentioned herein. In order for the county court to admit wills to probate they had to be "proven" by witnesses to the wills. Occasionally the court allowed wills to be probated by testimony provided by a witness or witnesses and a further fact of probate was allowed at a future date, hence creating two probate dates for such a will. Wills were usually probated at the first session of the county court, that met quarterly throughout the year, after the death of the testator. Seldom was the precise date of probate given in the will books but these have been supplied herein, taken from the county court minute books; hence the abbreviation MCCM refers to Madison County Court Minute Book, followed by number of book and page on which the fact of probate was mentioned.

          Abbreviations used in this publication:

abt = about
dau = daughter
dec = deceased
exec/execs = executor(male); executrix (female), singular or plural
grdn = guardian
hr/hrs = heir, heirs
wit/wits = witness, witnesses
yr/yrs = year, years

            Most testators began their wills with brief preambles, calling to mind the brevity of life, the mercy of God and a statement that their just debts were to be paid as soon as possible. Such conventional remarks have been deleted in this publication unless there was some uniqueness in them.

            Appreciation for the cooperation of the following persons who made this publication possible is expressed here, to Jack Darel Wood and Robert D. taylor, Jr., librarians, Jackson-Madison County Library and to Lula Scarbrough and Katie Coffman, staff members, probate Division of the Madison County Court Clerk's Office.


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