Why don't those wives mentioned in nineteenth century wills have names? Even if they do get all the riches left behind by their doting husbands, the legal document referring to them does me no good if it doesn't confirm their name.
Because I'm not yet entirely sure this Simon Rinehart from Perry County, Ohio—originally from Pennsylvania, then Bracken County, Kentucky, if he is the right one—was the father of Sarah Rinehart Gordon, my mother-in-law's second great grandmother, I felt the need to poke around other records to look for confirmation that I had the right man. It would have been helpful to find something encouraging like his wife's name alongside his, with their daughter Sarah mentioned in the same breath, for good measure.
Perhaps that was too much to hope for.
I thought looking up a Perry County will for someone named Simon Rinehart might deliver the goods I was seeking, so I took a look around. Correct that: I took a shortcut, in case the probate records for Perry County were not already searchable online; I visited website of W. David Samuelson, otherwise known as SAMPUBCO. For a long time, I had known he kept up on locating the type of legal documentation genealogists are keen on finding, and that his site included Perry County information.
Sure enough, in a long alphabetized list for Perry County documents, there was one lone Rinehart listed: Simon, thankfully. Along with his name, the entry included the volume and page number for his will, along with a link to the file at FamilySearch. In the subsequent subdirectory, I selected "Wills, 1852-1877, vol. 1-2" and started looking through the tiles until I arrived at page 27.
The May 23, 1852, will was a bit too simplified and uncomplicated for my genealogical taste. I was hoping for something a little less sentimental and more specific; his wife's name and a catalog of all his children's names—with a few married daughters' spouse's names thrown in for good measure—would have helped.
That, however, was not what I got. It started out simply:
I, Simon Rinehart, of the County of Perry and State of Ohio do make and publish this my last will and testament...
After a brief mention that he intended his executors to settle all his debts, he got to the main—and apparently only—point:
I give and bequeath unto my beloved wife all my lands, tenements + accoutrements wheresoever situated, together with all my personal property, moneys, credits and assets, in short, all my property both real + personal of whatsoever kind or nature it may be, to have and to hold the same forever.
Too bad he didn't take as much care in describing the people he was leaving behind. There was one glimmer of hope for me, however. Wills require executors. This is where I fervently hoped Simon didn't follow suit and appoint that responsibility to "my beloved wife."
As it turned out, there were two executors named. One was a man named Isaac Brown; no explanation was offered for who he was or if he was related somehow to the Rinehart family. The other executor, thankfully, was listed as "my son, Jesse Rinehart."
At last, I had a name to connect to this Simon Rinehart's family. While it wasn't the name of his wife, at least it was a solid identity which could hopefully lead me to other family connections—both within Perry County and back in Greene County, Pennsylvania, where I suspected the Rinehart family originated.
Above: Excerpt from the Perry County, Ohio, will of Simon Rinehart, drawn up on May 23, 1852, presented under oath on March 8, 1853, to probate judge William Brown by the two witnesses to the will, Peter Long and Matthew Brown; image from "Wills, 1852-1877 vol. 1-2," page 27, courtesy FamilySearch.org.