Will of John Britton of Bucks County, Pa.
In the name of God Amen the twenty first day of March, in the year of our Lord Christ, one thousand seven hundred and seventy, 1770, I John Brittain of the Township of Plumstead in the County of Bucks and Province of Pennsylvania, Yeoman, being wekly in body, but of perfect mind and memory, thanks be given unto God, Therefore Calling unto mind the Mortality of my Body knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do make and ordain this my last will and Testament: That is to say, principally and first of allo, I give and recommend my Soul unto God that gave it; and for my Body I recommend it to the earth to be burried in a Christian like and Decent manner at the Discretion of my Executors, nothing Doubting but at the General Ressurestion, I shall receive the same again by the mighty power of God. And as Touching such wordly Estate wherewith it hath ploeased God to Bless me with in this Life. I give Devise and Dispose of the same in the following manner and form.
Imprimis. It is my Will and I do Ordain that in the first place, all my Just Debts and funeral charge be paid and satisfied.
Item. I give and bequeath unto Elizabeth my dearly beloved wife my House and Lot of Land lining with Perter Cosner, Robert Gibson and others, 1/a. during her widowhood and four pounds Pennsylvania Current money per year during her widowhood also, and if she may stand in need of any more sustainance for the support of Life by reason of old age and weakness of Body, it is my will and I do order my Executors hereinafter named, out of my Estate what they shall think needful and necessary while she remains in my name. Also it is my will that she may have her own riding horse and side saddle, and one Cow, her bed and furniture, all the Pewter in the House, her Spinning Wheel, Two Chairs, the largest Iron pot, the Tea Kettle and the Table that has the Drawers in it.
Item. And it is my will and I do order that my Land on the east side of Durham Road may be sold to the best advantage in some resonable time after my Decease, as also all my movables that is not already bequeathed, to be sold at public vendue as soon as possible also, and the money arising from the sale of the Land and ye monies of my Bills and Bonds etc. as wel from the sale of my movables, I give and bequeath unto my five Daughters (Viz.) Elizabeth, the wife of Edward Morris; Anna, wife of William Young; Hannah, the wife of Peter Cosner; Mary, the wife of James Lewis and Martha, the wife of Edward Poe, to be divided between them, share and share alike equally, but if any or all of my said Daughters should Die before Such share or shares come into their Hands, then it is my will and I do orde rhte same may be put to and for the Use and benefit of their Children and divided equally between them, share and share alike. And I do Order and it is my will that my daughter Anna, the wife of William Young, that her share or part shall be given to her from time to time as she may stand in need of it during her natural Life, and I do order that may be put out in some safe hands on Interest for her and paid as before Directed, and the remainder if any after her Decease be divided amongst her Children.
Item. It is my will and I do Order, that after the Decease of my beloved Wife or after she marries another husband, the Land that I have left her for maintainance during her widowhood or Natural life, that same Lot and Land shall be sold in some reasonable time after her death or marriage, and the moneys arising there from, I bequeath in the following manner, that is to say, to my sons (Viz) William, Nathaniel, Nathan, Joseph, and Benjamin and their Heirs a Double share of the said money so arising, and the Remainder after Taking Ten parts out of the said money I bequeath to my aforesaid mentioned Daughters to be divided equally between them.
Item. I give and bequeath unto my Grand Daughter, a daughter of my Oldest son, Richard Brittain, the sum of Twenty Shillings current money of Pennsylvania, and I do hereby appoint and Ordain my well beloved sons, Nathaniel Brittain and Nathan Brittain my whole and sole Executors of this my last will and Testament, and I do hereby utterly Disallow, Revoke and Disannul all and every other former Testaments Wills, Legacies and Executors, by me in anyways before this Time named, Willed and bequeathed, Ratifying and Confirming this and no other to be my last will and Testament. In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my Hand and Seal the day and year first above Written.
Signed, Sealed, Published, Pronounced )
and Declared, by the said John Britton )
as his last will and Testament in the )
Presence of us the Subscribers (Vis) )
Signed, John Brittin.
Bucks Co. The second Day of May, 1785, appeared Robert Gibson and Joseph Mishener two of the witnesses to the foregoing Instrument of Writing, when the said Robert on his solemn Oath and the said Joseph on his solemn Affirmation did severly declare and say That they and each of them were present at the Execution thereof and saw & heard John Britton sign, seal, publish and declare the same as and for his Testament and last Will, and that at the time of his so doing, he was of sound mind and memory, and of a disposing Understanding, to the best of their knowledge and belief.
Before me John Hart D Reg.
Be it remembered that on the second day of May, 1785 the Last Will and Testament of John Britton dec'd was duly proved when Letters testamentary were granted to Nathaniel Britton, one of the Executors herein named (Nathan Britton who is also named as an Executor being dead), He being first solomnly sworn well and truly to administer the Goods and Chattles, Rights and Credit of the said John Britton dec'd and to carry (?) into the Registers Office for the County of Bucks within one month from the date hereof, a true inventory and conscionable (?) Appraisment of the same, and within twelve months, or when thereunto lawfully required, to render a just account of this whole Administration. In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my Hand and ofrficial the seal of said Office the Day and Year above written.
Signed John Hard D. Reg. C.
Original spelling, capitalization and punctuation retained.
This was transcribed from Thomas Bailey's transcription -- p.371, p.372, and p.373 (1962 book: "Bailey-Britton History and Genealogy").
Note: in the second addendum, it notes that son Nathan Britton had already died by May 2, 1785, as specified in the notes at the 1785 proving of the will -- Richard had died prior to 1770; Nathan died 1770-1785.
From "Pennsylvania Vital Records Vol. II, Memoranda from the Diary of John Dyer of Plumstead, Bucks County, Pennsylvania" mention is made of John's death with the following entry: "10/28/1784 John Brittain departed this life this day, an aged man of good repute." (BRI HIS 054) Also from the same source:"9/10/1777 - John Brittain's wife died this day, I believe, of a cancer."
While we are indeed fortunate that so many of the Britton ancestors lived long lives and anticipated their deaths and wrote wills, these wills alone do not yield confirmation of exact family composition. And land records often were not joint ownership by husband and wife. limiting the source of available records over time. While is is certain that John is married to Elizabeth in 1770, no records of her surname has been located, resulting in speculation that it could be Stillwell or Vansandt (both Staten Island families) or Stevens (1761 marriage record).
----the case for Stillwell. Wills of Jeremiah Stillwell (John's "Father-in-law"): In his advanced years Jeremiah Stillwell made several wills. The first, dated 1739, gave to his grandson, Richard Britton, a large proportion of his property and appointed him one of his executors; the second, dated 1745, made his grandson, Richard Britton, his residuary legatee; the third, dated 1749, omits Richard Britton's name, and that which was formerly bequeathed to him was given to his [Richard's] daughter, Elizabeth Britton, living in New York. From these facts, I [Stillwell genealogist] deduce that John Britton married Elizabeth, daughter of Jeremiah Stillwell; that John Britton was born probably about 1695, and his wife Elizabeth at or near the same date; that somewhere near 1727, he removed with all of his family, save his eldest son Richard Britton** to Pennsylvania; that he made his will when about seventy-five years old, and lived until he was ninety; this his wife lived beyond 1770, and may have died before or after the probate of his will in 1785; that Jeremiah Stillwell, by reason of the great separation** from his daughter, Elizabeth, gave to her son Richard, her proportion of his estate, with succession to Richard's daughter Elizabeth Britton, of New York, and that likewise, John Britton, of Plumstead, in his will gives to her (though not named) 20 shillings as a daughter of my oldest son Richard Britton, emphasizing, in the formality of the expression, a limited acquaintance with the child, and a knowledge that she would inherit from Jeremiah Stillwell his daughter Elizabeth's share." Stillwell Genealogy, p. 141 and 142 (BRI HIS 009)
Additionally, the land deed record for 1718 confirms: John Brittain [Jr] and w. Elizabeth were named 1718 as living in old Shrewsbury township, Monmouth County, NJ in a deed to Jeremiah Stillwell.
-----the case for Vansandt. This is based on the will of Cornelius Vansandt (John's "brother-in-law"), of Wrightstown township, Bucks County, PA in 1789. He was "far advanced in years" and left money "to Cornelius Brittain, son of my nephew Joseph Brittain" (and two other Conelius'es who were sons of nephews). From this, it is clear that there was some male Britton who married a sister to Cornelius Vansandt, and they had a son Joseph Britton and a grandson Cornelius Britton, probably living in Bucks County circa 1789. It sounds like the sister was deceased at the time of writing this will, but it is not certain, since she is not mentioned (if she were alive, it would more likely read my sister's grandson Cornelius Britton). It is also possible that it was a brother of Cornelius Vansandt who had a daughter who married a Britton, but then he would probably have described the relationship as son of my niece since the spouse would technically not be a nephew. John appears to be the only Britton in Bucks county to be of the correct age to marry a sister of this Cornelius Vansandt. Genealogist Thomas Bailey concluded that John had married a Vansandt, but did not mention the Stillwell wife.
-----two wives theory (Stillwell and Vansandt), espoused by DLH in 2008. With the predeliction of the Brittons to name all the children by the same given names, it is difficult to sort out the exact relationships, and perhaps nothing will ever be known for certain. It seems likely that John married Elizabeth Stillwell, daughter of Jeremiah Stillwell. However, **it also seems likely that Elizabeth Stillwell was John's first wife, and the mother of (maybe only) Richard, and had died by 1739 -- else, why was only Richard named in his grandfather's Jeremiah Stillwell's 1739 will and no mention of Jeremiah's daughter? Furthermore, Richard's birthyear is estimated at 1716; therefore, in 1727, when the family supposedly moved to Pennsylvania, he would have been only 11 and would not likely have been left behind in New Jersey. Note that Richard could scarely be born much prior to 1716, as John is already 90 upon his death, and only 21 upon Richard's birth -- and it was the Stillwell genealogist who espoused this left-behind-theory that estimated John's birthyear as 1695 and Richard's as 1716. I (DLH, 2008) think that the only-child theory/Elizabeth Stillwell Britton's early-demise theory is preferable to the Richard-staying-in-NJ-at-age-11 theory. It is easy to make the assumption that John's wife Elizabeth Stillwell is the Elizabeth named in the 1770 will, however, it is possible that 1770 Elizabeth is a second or third wife. This theory would make the Vansandt wife the mother of (all or many of) the rest of the children, including Joseph. Finally, the marriage to a VanSandt would also explain the move to Bucks circa 1727 -- the VanSandts were from Bucks, and cousin Mary Britton (William-Nathaniel-Nathaniel-Mary) married a Nicholas VanSandt of Bucks circa 1720s. While it is also possible that the Britton who married Vansandt is another Britton in Bucks with a son Joseph, the 1790 census data does not imply this (although without even age ranges, it is impossible to infer much of anything), and there appear to be no other contemporaries (brothers/cousins) who also moved to Bucks besides John. It may be possible to clear this up if death/burial/tombstone records (circa 1717) are found in NJ/PA for Elizabeth Stillwell Britton, or a marriage record (circa 1717) for John Britton and Vansandt, etc. It is noteworthy that the Stillwell genealogist did not entertain a multiple-wife theory, and therefore did not offer any evidence for or against this theory.
-----three wives (first and third wife named Elizabeth). Note that it is possible that John had three wives, and the Vansandt wife was not named Elizabeth. Her name being Elizabeth is assuming that the 1770 wife Elizabeth in John's will was the same as the mother of his children. However, there is an August 22, 1761 marriage record in Montgomery County, PA for a John Britton and Elizabeth Stevens. It is possible that this record is for John Sr who married for a third time; although this marriage would seem suspect since it is from Montgomery County and not Bucks, it is noteworthy that John's son Nathan married Ann Thomas in 1739, the daughter of the minister of the Montgomery County Baptist Church, who later became minister of the Hilltown Baptist church in Bucks County -- so there is a Montgomery-Bucks connection.
Note we are fortunate that it appears that the only Britton family in Bucks appears to belong to this John, which helps to determine composition, and to make inferences from what information is available in diaries, marriage records and wills.
HIS: In 1770 Nathan, John, Nathaniel, Joseph, Richard, Ann, Elizabeth and Rachel Britton were members of the Hilltown Church. In 1783, ten of the same name were recorded: Abigail, John, Jr. and Jand (check what this was really supposed to be from original -- copy bad) being the additonal names whilst Nathan and Richard had disappeared. "Stillwell Genealogy," Vol. IV. P. 141. (BRI HIS 009) Note, it is hard to determine who these family members are -- in 1770 John and Elizabeth should be the parents; Nathan is probaly son Nathan born 1732 who is missing in 1783 as he died ~1778; Nathan is probably son Nathan 1732-1778, with wife Ann; Nathaniel is probably son Nathaniel 1724-1791, with his wife Rachel; Joseph is probably not son Joseph 1734-?, as his wife Mary is not listed; Richard should not be son Richard who died in the 1740s -- so unknown are Joseph and Richard, who could be the older grandsons (sons of William who is not on the list, as well as Abraham?). This underscores the difficulty of trying to determine who moved where when.
For reference -- 1790 Bucks PA census: Jesse 1-1-6, Joseph 2-1-5, Joseph 2-2-4, Nathaniel 2-0-6 and Thomas 3-0-1. check for more -- Thomas has secnond Jesse!! The sons named in the 1885 will were Richard (died), William, Nathaniel, Nathan (died), Joseph, and Benjamin. It is hard to understand how the census and the family composition are so disparate. (Look for another Nathaniel -- 3-2-7). This 1790 census listing for Jesse Britton is "our" Jesse Britton, who moved from Winchester, VA circa 1787 (not on census there), with what appears to be his younger brother Joseph, and they move back to Winchester circa 1790 (after the census). It is certain that Jesse married Anna Gibson. It is likely that Jesse's parents were Joseph Britton and Mary Gibson, and that he returned for his grandfather Robert Gibson's imminent death in 1788 (Robert's will had Jesse's father Joseph Britton as an executor along with William McCalla, left money to his daughter Mary Britton, and Nathaniel Brittain was a witness -- Jesse fought for the Associators in the Revolution for McCalla and Gibson).