Recently I discovered, through DNA testing of a cousin, that my 2nd great-grandmother Rhoda Wilsey Prosser Jones was actually Rhoda Wiltse, the daughter of Reuben Wiltse, who lived in Saginaw, Michigan. Reuben died in 1882, and I desperately needed to look at his probate file. Since Saginaw county probate records are not online (even in the new Ancestry collection of wills and probates) OR on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I hired a local genealogist to go to the Saginaw county courthouse for me. There were 40 pages in the file, and I paid the $1 per page, willingly. When I sat down to go through the papers, I decided to make a list, in date order, of the actions taken by the administrator and the probate court. It made for a very interesting story:
1 March 1882: Ezra Wiltse of Ontario, Canada appeared and states that he was the son of Reuben Wiltse, who died 22 February 1882. Reuben had real and personal property valued at about $2000. Ezra stated that the other heirs were Mrs. Chloe Gibbs and Mrs. Phoebe Prettyman, but he did not know of their whereabouts. He requested Anson Sheldon to be the administrator of the estate.
3 March 1882: Editor's affidavit: probate notice published in the Chesaning Weekly Argus for 3 weeks.
29 April 1882: Probate court assigned Rufus Mason to be the administrator of Reuben Wiltse's estate.
29 April 1882: Bond in the amount of $500 posted by the administrator.
16 May 1882: Inventory of the estate taken; total including land and personal possessions, $2098.35.
9 June 1882: Editor's notice: ad in Chesaning paper requesting creditors to come forward before 8 December 1882.
16 December 1882: List of creditors: $600 owing against the estate.
10 January 1883: Administrator came before the court to state that a great part of Reuben's property is perishable, and requests to be authorized to dispose of it by public or private sale.
(no date): Personal estate originally valued at $290 has depreciated to $150.
12 January 1883: Administrator requests that "all the perishable assets be speedily disposed of and converted into money." Request granted by the court. If sold at public auction, posting of public notices required at least 3 days prior.
21 February 1883: The debts of the deceased amount to $900; personal estate is insufficient to pay this amount. The heirs are: Ezra Wiltse of Addison, Ontario, Canada; Chloe Gibbs of Middleville, Barry County, Michigan; Rhoda Jones of Hillssdale, Hillsdale County, Michigan; and Phoebe Prettyman of Fairfax, Atchison County, Missouri.
Rufus Mason requests to sell the described real estate "and make distribution of the surplus."
26 March 1883: No one appeared to oppose the sale of the real estate.
20 October 1883: Rufus Mason reports to the court. The property was initially offered for sale on 25 June 1883, at one o'clock in the afternoon, "and for want of bidders offering any price warranting a sale; such sale was adjourned from time to time" until 3 October 1883, when it was sold to Isaac Gibbs of Middleville, Michigan for $575.
Making a list like this made the actions of the court and the administrator clear.
Reuben's land was worth only what someone was willing to pay for it. It was sold to his son-in-law, Isaac Gibbs.
The heirs received nothing, because the debts outweighed the assets.