Death. Yes, death might not be the most fun topic to discuss for the beginning of 2016 but death inventories are fun to talk about! And that’s today’s topic..ta da!
One of most important type of documents that we have are death inventories. A death inventory is a list of good (furniture, bedding, china, etc) found in your house. Back in the day, once there was a death, a person will come in and literally list every item in the house and how much it’s possibly worth and which family member it is going to. Wills were common but having an inventory of goods was also popular. Death inventories help figure out the class level of families, what furnishing were popular in the time period, and even how a house was set up.
In case you didn’t know from past blog posts, the Livingstons and Keans had a bad (good) case of hoarding. These inventories help us figure out what objects went where and if Liberty Hall Museum still owns them. We have 5 death inventories from those who inherited the family house. Here are some fun facts from each inventory:
William Livingston (d. 1790): His items are broken up by the rooms in the house as well as the items found on the farm. The 2nd half of his inventory is which furniture went to which relative. This inventory is most helpful as we can figure out which rooms are original and what they were called.
Susan (Livington) [Kean] Niemcewicz (d. 1820): Susan reorganized the types of rooms so for example, Livingston’s library became her bedroom. This is a time period of the house that we don’t know much about so this inventory helps piece together information from other death inventories and passed down stories.
Col. John Kean (d.1890): This inventory is fun because he specifically told his wife that any rooms that were still inhabited by either her or their children could not be inventoried. So this inventory stops in the middle of the house. During Col. Kean’s time living in the house, it saw the most changes so it’s interesting to see the drastic difference between his grandmother, Susan’s death inventory and his death inventory.
Senator John Kean (d.1914): His inventory follows the same suit as his father. The rooms that were inhabited still by his sisters and brother were not allowed to be inventory. His inventory also sheds light on which rooms his siblings where living in at the time of his death. Another helpful tidbit!
Captain John Kean (d.1949): His inventory is actually split into two. One with family items and one with items that aren’t family items. His inventory is interesting because of the way the rooms were put in order. It took us some time to figure out whose bedroom was whose as they are listed by number and not by family member.
**sorry, death doesn’t bring up fun gifs**