Did you ever have one of those days where you find yourself in the middle of something, and you can't remember how or why you started it? That's where I found myself the other day - looking at records for my Shute family line, ancestors of my 2nd-great-grandmother, Eldora (Shute) (Wagner) Greenfield. I may have decided to finally start tracking down confirmation of information I downloaded from FamilySearch more than a dozen years ago. Anyways, while looking for Shute family history info, I soon found myself staring at the following entry in the Bi-Centennial History of Albany on MyHeritage.com:
I found that Braddock's defeat was part of the French and Indian War. But that got the wheels in my mind turning - did I have another Patriot ancestor on this side of my family tree? I would love to be able to document another Patriot in my family, and be able to commemorate them at my monthly SAR meetings. So I dug in and started researching.
I've spent the last several years of my personal research focusing on my more recent immigrant ancestors, so I wasn't too familiar with how to get hold of records from the Northeast before 1850. I soon found it's a lot more difficult than I had first anticipated. But I did find something incredible pretty quickly - the will of my 7th-great-grandfather Henry Shute!
It wasn't the original will, unfortunately, but it was a copy of the will as well as records of the court proceedings that reviewed the proofs and examinations made by the witnesses of the will. This was a fascinating document, for several reasons. First and foremost, Henry only names two grandchildren among his heirs, and one of them is my ancestor, Lewis P. Shute. Lucky me! Another reason is the description one of the witnesses gave of the circumstances of his being asked to witness the will. According to Philo Avery, it happened like this:
"[Philo Avery]and George W. Howard called into the house of said Shute one afternoon, he thinks when coming from Town meeting - that said Shute asked them to stay to tea as he had a piece of paper he wanted
to witness – they both staid and took tea and after tea Shute took them into another room where said instrument was lying on the table _ said Shute then put his hand on the instrument and said this is my last will and testament and shewed them where to sign their names and told them to put their residence
He also described later in his testimony that the will was folded up, so he couldn't read it and didn't ask to, just that he saw Henry's name exposed at the bottom, and signed where he was asked to. The whole episode is just so interesting to me - the idea that we have a description of an actual event sometime probably in early 1845 just fires my imagination. It's like turning on a video camera for just a few minutes and recording a scene in the living room of an ancestor 9 generations removed from me. Wow!
One other thing that caught my attention in these documents was Philo's acquaintance with Henry. When Henry died in 1850, he was over 70 years old, perhaps close to 80. Philo, at the time of Henry's death, was 31, and in his deposition says he had known Henry for 15 years prior to witnessing his will in 1845. That works out to roughly 20 years of acquaintance, so Philo would have met him at around the age of 10 or 11. How did this young boy meet Henry, and become so well acquainted with him that Henry would ask him, though they were 40 or more years apart in age, to be a witness on his last will and testament? I might need to look into Philo's history a little more, and see if there's anything about him that would help explain this.
While I have not yet uncovered any evidence of a Shute ancestor serving in the Revolutionary War, the information I have found on my Shute ancestors is amazing. I'm glad whatever it was that drew me into researching them caught me when it did. I love finding tidbits like this about my ancestors.