A cousin recently sent me some probate records from Lunenburg County, Virginia. Included among them were some wills and inventories. One was the inventory of the personal property of my third-greatgrandfather, Jeremiah Gee who died 8 December 1857.
“Inventory, [illegible] & appraisement of the personal property & Estate of Jeremiah Gee decd made this the 28th day of December 1857:
Richmond 850.00 $3500.00
Ann & child Henry 900.00
Liza & child Louisa 850.00
Will 750.00 $3350.00
Miranda & child John 800.00
Mary Jane 300.00
Rilla worth nothing more than a maintenance 000.00 $2700.00”[i]
Who was Rilla? According to this inventory she was worth nothing. Less than an ox cart, valued at $8. Less than one of his sheep valued at $1.50 each. Less even than one of the 27 hogs valued at $1 each.
I know nothing about Rilla, other than her name from this inventory. Did she have children and grandchildren? When she held them in her lap, when she sang to them, when she touched them - did they see her as worth nothing? I hope to do some more research to find out more about Rilla.
I struggle with the history of my family and the history of a culture that saw human beings as items of property worth $1,000 or $850 or $250. I struggle even more with the idea that one of them was worth nothing.
I can only strive to do my part to make the world a more equal and just place. I do this in the name of Rilla.
[i] “Inventory of Jeremiah Gee,” Virginia Circuit Court, Lunenburg County, Virginia. Inventories book F2, page 315
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.