A List of Names Comes Alive

A List of Names Comes Alive

I’m still working on the Abraham Trafford probate file. The quick overview is this: When Abraham died in Monmouth County, New Jersey in 1871 he was an “insolvent debtor.” The inventory is long—it seems like it might have included stock from a store—and his debts were many.

Take a look at this list of creditors.

H. L. Brown
F. W. Devoe & Co
A. J. Butler
Gair & West
B. K. Bliss & Sons
Jas M. Thorburn & Co.
Thomas S. Field
James B. Weaver
Wm. T. Corlies
Jeremiah Curtis & Sons
Morris Pack
Worrell & Overson
(And it goes on and on …)

Quite frankly, it’s kind of flat and boring. But magical things began to happen as I Googled to try to find out more about who was on the list.

What if I told you that F. W. Devoe & Co. appear to have sold artist supplies? Was someone in Abraham’s family an artist? Or did he purchase things to resell?

And what if I told you B. K. Bliss & Sons and Jas M. Thornburn & Co. were seed dealers? Abraham was listed as a farmer in the 1870 census. Could he have ordered seed to plant crops that, for whatever reason, didn’t end up paying for themselves?

And does it make a difference to know that Jeremiah Curtis & Sons was a drug company? Does the debt hint that Abraham and his family had purchased medicines to treat or ward off illness? Or, again, did he purchase to resell?

Notice how the list of names is now beginning to come to life? How the hints have the potential to bring rich dimension to Abraham’s life?

I wonder–but haven’t looked–if any of the inventoried items will point back to these purchases?

Again, it will be important not to jump to conclusions. I mean, there was a James B. Weaver who was a 16-year-old clerk in a store in Shrewsbury in 1870, but was he someone Abraham owed money to? (I may never really know.)

But, I think it might be worth spending the time to try to find out more about people on the list, especially if I decide to write a family narrative sometime down the road.

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