Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Jerusha (Wood(s)) Gilbert Barr - Marriage Contract found in Land Records

I have been updating this post to use in Dear Myrtle's Study Group
examining Elizabeth Shown Mills' Quick Lesson Number 5 from Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source . This lesson calls for considering the laws and customs of the area and time period in which a document was created, in order gain a better understanding of its meaning and significance.
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 5: Analyzing Records,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 10 April 2016.)
   While searching for land records at, I came across an interesting entry in the index.  The marriage contract of Jerusha Gilbert, located in Deed Book 429, Page 461 and 462, is a contract between Jerusha, widow of Harvey Gilbert, and James P. Barr, agreeing that Jerusha will maintain sole control over the property she inherited from her late husband and any profits derived from it. 

Online image, Massachusetts Land Records, Worcester County;  1840-1889, Grantor Index, entry for Harvey Gilbert to James P. Barr; ( 29 April 2014.)


   Here is a transcription of the contract dated 16 November 1847.
James P. Barr to Jerusha A. Gilbert
This intention of the parts made and entered into this sixteenth day of November in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty seven by and between James P. Barr of Brookfield in the county of Worcester of the first part, and Jerusha A. Gilbert of said Brookfield in the said county of Worcester of the other part Witnesseth that whereas the said Jerusha A. Gilbert seized to her + to her heirs of certain real estate and personal property situate and lying in said Brookfield a schedule whereof is hereunto annexed which schedule is hereunto signed by the said James P. Barr and the said Jerusha A. Gilbert upon the contract of which marriage the said James P. Barr hath agreed that if the same shall take effect then notwithstanding the said marriage he the said James P. Barr his executors, administrators or assigns shall not and will not intermeddle with, or have any right title or interest either in law or equity in or to any part of the rents issues + profits of the said real and personal estate of the said Jerusha A. Gilbert a schedule whereof is hereunto annexed but same shall remain contain and be the property of the said Jerusha A. Gilbert to her sole and separate use as she the said Jerusha a shall think fit + appoint free from the control and interference of the said James P. Barr.  And the said James P. Barr for the purpose of making this said agreement effectual in law doth for himself his heirs executors administrators and assigns covenant to and with the said Jerusha A. Gilbert by these presents and in the manner following, that is to say, that if the intended marriage shall take effect, he the said James P. Barr shall + will permit and suffer the said Jerusha A. Gilbert to give grant and dispose of her said separate estate as she shall think fit in her lifetime and to make such will or other writing as aforesaid and thereby to give order or devise limit + appoint her said separate estate to any person or persons for ant trust use interest or purpose whatsoever, and also it shall an may be lawful to + for the said Jerusha A. at any time from + after the said marriage shall take effect to commence any action or suit in law or equity in her own name against any person or persons for the recovery of any sum or fund of money now due or to grow due to her Jerusha A. on her said separate estate as aforesaid ______. In witness whereof we the said parties above named have hereunto set our hands and seals the day above written signed sealed in the presence of us.
James P. Barr (Seal)
Jerusha A. Gilbert (Seal)
Mary Ann Bliss
Jesse Bliss
[Following the agreement is a schedule of property, including a farm of about 110 acres, real estate being the same lately owned by Harvey Gilbert the late husband of said Jerusha A who is now deceased. Also listed were a few cows and some household furnishings with no value given, and a promissory note.]
   Evidence that a marriage between Jerusha Gilbert and James P. Burr, took place on Nov. 18, 1847 in Brattleboro, Vermont, just two days after the above contract was signed was found in the Family Search collection of "Vermont Vital Records, 1760-1954," which includes images of index cards and not an actual record.  I  also found Jerusha's 1869 petition for guardianship of two of her children with James Barr, which states that she is the widow of James P. Barr.

Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954, image index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 30 Apr 2014), 004542971 > image 2940 of 3920; citing State Capitol Building, Montpelier.

Massachusetts, Worcester County, Probate Files, 1731-1881, images, FamilySearch (,1055526701 : accessed 30 Apr 2014), Worcester > Case no 3696-3781, Barnes, Samuel-Barrett, Danforth K, 1731-1881 > image 647 of 1113; citing Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts.
  The statute at that time said that either party in a marriage could retain individual rights for property owned before a marriage if a marriage contract was signed before the marriage. A description of a statute enacted in Massachusetts in 1845 and later codified as MGL c.209 §25. Antenuptial settlements; force and effect is explained on this web page Brief History of Enforcement of Prenuptial Agreements in Massachusetts
   Why was the document created? It was the available legal way for Jerusha to protect her interests and keep control of the real estate and personal property which she had inherited from her first husband, Harvey Gilbert. [See Worcester County Probate case 23649]
   Why was it of importance to her?  Some insight may be gained by looking at -
   1. The history of the property and in particular, the real estate which belonged to Jerusha.  Was this originally Wood property or Gilbert property?
    2. Jerusha had 4 children (Lyman, Susan, Amelia and Harvey) with Harvey Gilbert who were minors at the time of her marriage to James Barr. Perhaps she wanted to provide for them from the revenue of the farm or the proceeds of its sale.
   3. Other reasons not yet evident including possible character issues involving families involved. Was it just common sense and customary practice for a woman to protect her own interests in this way? (I have not seen any other marriage contracts, but perhaps I should look for others.)
   Action Items
   1. Trace this history of the property prior to Harvey Gilbert's Death. I know it bordered other Gilbert lands, and was originally sold to a member of the Gilbert family by a member of the Wood family. I need to look at the family relationships of the landholders for possible relevance.
   2. Reexamine probate records for Harvey Gilbert including Guardianship records for his children.  Also look for probate files for Jerusha's parents, Harvey, Srs. parents and siblings.
   3. I remember being disappointed to learn that Jerusha sold the property to her father-in-law, Aseph Barr, just 11 months after her marriage to his son.  I need to go back and determine if she sold all of the property in question, and to see if I can understand possible reasons for the sale. Were there financial or other discernible reasons for the sale?
  4. Look for instances from that time period where other woman with property married, to see if and how they maintained ownership of property brought to the marriage.
   5. Read newspapers from that time and place, and books about that era, to gain a better  insight into things that may have influenced the lives of Jerusha and her family.
New Information Since Writing This Post
Guardianship records for the four children of Harvey and Jerusha Gilbert show that Jerusha tried to have their guardian removed after he threatened to take them away from her and bind them out.  It appears that either she changed her mind, or that she was unsuccessful, as I did not find a document allowing or disallowing her request, and the children were not released by their guardian until years later. Susan Barr age 11 appears in Jerusha's household in the 1850 U.S. Census, but not the other Gilbert children. None of the children were found in her household in the Massachusetts State Census of 1855. Further examination of these and other records is needed.