This week’s prompt for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge is “Where There’s a Will.” My first thought was of a will I discovered for my great-great grandmother’s sister-in-law. As a bonus, the story also involves several people named William.
Probably about 15 years ago, before I really got into genealogy, I asked my dad (William D. Hahn) what he remembered about his great-grandfather (William F. Hahn) who came over from Germany. I recalled him saying before that his name was Loper, which I took to mean Loper Hahn. My dad said that’s all he remembered; his father referred to his dad’s father as “Grandpa Loper.”
Several years later, after I got into genealogy, I discovered that Grandpa Loper was William F. Hahn’s brother-in-law. William’s wife was Ary Loper, and her brother was William J. Loper. Ary died in 1897, and in 1900, the Census shows her youngest son, my great-grandfather, Theodore Hahn living with William J. and his wife Margaret.
William J. married Margaret Emma Pate on November 18th, 1883. I’ve only ever found one record of a child. Wilhelmina G. died of cholera infantum in August of 1892. She was five months old.
I don’t know why Theodore was sent to live with his uncle and aunt. They may have needed help on their farm. I have searched and searched for William F. and Theodore’s two older brothers in the 1900 Census, but I have had no luck. I wondered if they went out of town or traveled to Germany to see family. Were they working long hours on the busy docks of Pensacola, with no time to care for a 15-year-old boy?
At any rate, I set out to learn more about William and Margaret, and I found her will. She died of cancer in 1915, three years after her husband passed.
Her instructions were to give $100 to the West Hill Baptist Church, to pay her debts and funeral expenses, and to give unto Robert Pate the sum of one dollar and no more. The rest of her estate she left to Theodore.
But who was Robert Pate to be left this token amount of one dollar? Was he an ex-husband, her father, a ne’er-do-well son from a previous marriage? I had no way of knowing if the name Pate on her marriage license was her maiden name. I was determined to find out who Robert was.
I did quite a few searches without any luck before getting a break about five weeks ago. I found the 1912 obituary for William J. Loper, which mentioned a pallbearer named Frank Pate, and that led me to a promising profile on FamilySearch.
Elijah Pate of Alabama had a son named Robert Francis, and he had a daughter named Margaret who was around the right age. Robert was living in Pensacola at the time of the 1900 Census. Everything seemed to fit.
Someone had made recent changes to the profile and I emailed to ask if he had any insights or concurred with my conclusions. He agreed that everything pointed to my Margaret also being his Margaret.
At last, Margaret is connected to her family on the great tree, and all because of one intriguing line in her will. I still don’t know what Robert did to “earn” that one dollar bequest. Perhaps that’s a mystery that will be solved someday.