Monday, October 29, 2012

Amanuensis Monday - 1776 Will of Abijah Gandy

On his TransylvanianDutch blog, John Newmark defines an amanuensis as “a person employed to write out what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.” For more information about this daily blogging prompt, see John’s post Amanuensis – Why?.

I have amassed quite a collection of scans of handwritten documents related to my ancestors—primarily marriage records, deeds, and wills. As I have been transcribing these documents, it occurred to me that most of these documents were not actually written by my ancestors, but rather dictated to someone else, and then transcribed by a clerk into official records.

Years ago I was given information about my Gandy ancestors by other researchers; part of that information included a statement that Abijah Gandy, one of my maternal 5th great-grandfathers, died at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777. I recently found Abijah's will posted on FamilySearch and have transcribed it below. Abijah wrote his will on 23 April 1776 and it was proved 12 March 1777. Abijah wrote that he was "very Weak and Sick in Body." Was his infirmity the result of service in the Revolutionary War or did he recover and then enlist in Revolutionary forces? Either way, he evidently did not die during Washington's legendary encampment at Valley Forge which happened during the winter of 1777-1778. To date I have not found any record of service during the Revolution nor have I found a burial location.

“In the Name of God Amen this Twenty third day of Apriel and year of our Lord one Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy Six I Abijah Gandy of the County of Cumberland and Province of West New jersey being Very weak and Sick in Body but of Perfect mind and Memory thanks be to God there for Calling to mind the mortality of my Body and knowing that it is apointed for all men once to Dye I do make and ordain this to be my Last will and Testament[.] Princaply and first of all I do Give my Soul to Almighty God that Give it and my Body I do Recomend to the Grave to be Buried in a Decent Christian Manner at the discresian of my Executors nothing Doubting but I Shall Receive the Same again in the General Resurection by the Power of God and as to worldly Estate wherewith it has pleased God to bless me with in this Life, I do Give and Dispose of in manner following[:] first my will is that all my Just deb[t]s and funeral Charges be fully paid. 2d I do Give and Bequeath to Mary Gandy my Dearly Beloved Wife the use of the Plantation I live on During her Life for the Bringing up of my Children. 3d I do Give to my oldest Son Henery Gandy the planation that I Live on at his mothers Decease or the Lower part. 4th I do Give to my Son Abijah Gandy twenty five acres of Land across the upper part of this Plantation. further my will is that my Son Henery out of his part Shall pay to my Son Shepherd Gandy the Sum of Ten Pounds when Shepherd is of age and he Shall further pay to my Daughter Deborah Gandy the Sum of Five Pounds when She is of age and and if henery Should dye under age my will is that Abijah shall have his part ^and Shepherd shall have Abijahs or if Abijah Should dye Shepherd Shall have his Part further my will is that my Two younger Sons Should when of Proper age be Bound out to as Good Trades as may be in that day, agreeable to an agreement that was made if my Son in Law Lives with his mother till he is of age my will is that he Shall have my Loom and Tackling and I do hereby apoint Mary Gandy my wife, and Nathan Shepherd Executors of this my Last Will and Testaman and do hereby disalow all others and do Establish and Confirm this to be my Last Will and Testament.
Signd Seald Publish,d and Pronous,d in the
Presence of us
Gideon Heaton                       Tabitha Shepherd                    Abijah Gandy
Anna     X    Lore

[Source: New Jersey, Probate Records, 1678-1980, Cumberland County, file 611F, will of Abijah Gandy; digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 22 Oct 2012).]

© 2012 Denise Spurlock


  1. I have some wills that start off the same way acknowledging the sick body but good mind. Maybe it was standard "legalese" of the day. I notice you have a Tabitha. I have one too. I had never heard that name before except on "Bewitched," so I was surprised when I found MY Tabitha - I had always assumed it was a made-up witchy name for tv.

    1. Most of the wills I have start that way as well, but I did find one the other day where the writer stated he was in good health, or words to that effect! I'm not sure how this Tabitha fits into the family; perhaps she is the sister of Abijah's wife, Mary Sheppard. I've run into the name a couple of times but not in my direct line.