Friday, October 9, 2015

Darned, Stout Rope

Records are the darnedest things. And one in particular is particularly darned. It is, perhaps, the most famous will in American genealogy. And with the new will and probate collection, it is easy to access.

Perform an exact search of the “Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993” collection for George S Wolff, probate year 1908. Select the view images icon for George S Wolff, Philadelphia County. View image 158.

The top portion of the will appears as follows:

"a good stout rope with which to hang himself"

Page 1             The sentence scratched out was scratch
                       ed by me. George S. Wolff

                  George S Wolff
               Summerdale, Phila.

                                                Dec. 4th 1906

      I the undersigned George S Wolff being
of sound mind & body write this my last will
and testament :
      I first direct that all my debts be paid and
all my affairs be adjusted to establish the value
of my estate. When this is done  I direct that,
before anything else is done, ---------------------
Fifty cents (50 ¢) be paid to my son-in-law
Chas. W. Wensel  a native of Huntingdon, Pa. to
enable him to buy for himself a good stout rope
with which to hang himself & thus rid mankind
of one of the most infamous scoundrels that
ever roamed this broad land, or dwelt outside of
a penitentiary, [several words scratched out]
[several words scratched out] -------------------
    I next direct that all of my estate after
having paid my debts and said fifty cents
be held in trust until my youngest daughter
Irene is of age and when she has reached
her legal maturity an equal division of share
and share alike is to be made between all
of my children, six in number, provided however
                      Continued on P. 2

What adds to the amusement for me is that in his description of his son-in-law, George had to censor himself!

If Mariette doesn't divorce him, she gets nothing.

Continuation of my will  (P. 2)
       from P.1
  that my daughter Mariette now married to
before named Chas. W. Wensel is then divorced
from him & have full and absolute control of
her only child Robert or other children she may
have by that man before her divorce. -----------
  If however she is not divorced from Wensel then
the division shall only be share & share alike
between my five remaining children, and Mariette
now Mrs. Wensel is not to share in any form
part or manner in any property that I have
left behind. ------ …
[remainder of document is not shown.]

From the 1910 census of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania:

Detail from 1910 census showing Charles W Wensel is divorced and living with his parents.

Yes, records say the darnedest things.

Image Sources

Will: Portions of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Wills 2238-2261, 1908, book 56, page 395, will 2249, 4 December 1906, George S Wolff; images ( : accessed 4 October 2015). Subscription required.

Census: Detail from Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, enumeration district 67, Huntingdon Borough, sheet 6A, family 136; image ( : accessed 4 October 2015), path: Research:Records, Books and Datasets > U.S. Census > 1910 > Charles W Wensel.


  1. "Census" himself? What does that mean?

    1. I pretty sure the word was supposed to be "censor."

    2. Dear Auntie,

      You've never seen census yoused that way before? True, its an arkaic from. Try looking it up in Black's 2nd edition.

      ---The Insider

  2. Found this years ago when searching for a Wenzel in Pennsylvania. Laughed then and now. Thanks for bringing it back!


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