Thursday, March 18, 2021

"Done with these Worldly Goods and a Posterity to bestow them upon" - Examining inventory records of New England versus Southern records


Recently I had a chance to look back at some genealogy work that I had done.  This time trying to find inventory records of my female ancestors which in some cases is hard to do.   Out of all my Germanic relatives, I have a sliver of ancestors who lived in the Colonies during the 1600 and 1700s.  So I had this brainy idea to compare my New England relatives with my southern ones, the ones living in Virginia mostly.   Needless to say if you are looking for Massachusetts records, good luck.  I found most of my records available in Connecticut via   So without finding any Virginia relatives records (at this current time), I am going to compare a couple of Connecticut inventories with some North Carolina inventories by years.  

We are starting with Susannah Knowlton Olcutt who dies in East Haddam, Connecticut in 1754  - she is my 8th great grand aunt.  So finding this inventory made me super happy.  Her husband, Cullick Olcutt (my uncle) died in 1732 right before the birth of their last son Benjamin. 

In 1754, she leaves her three children her worldly possessions, Thomas, Benjamin and Hannah.  Ironically, her daughter does not receive the bulk of her clothing, only a few items.  

Thomas receives the following clothing items: one silk crape frock; and one blew (blue) shaloon quilt (quilted petticoat?) and one Black bonnet.  

Benjamin receives one pare of stays and one gown and one pare of gloves and one white Holland apron; one lutestring hood, one piece of green plain cloth and one piece of black and blue plain cloth and one little trunk and one fan and six Holland caps … one linnen patecoat (petticoat).

While Hannah Olcutt Fisher only receives one linen shift and two woolen westcots (waistcoats); two aprons and two linen caps.

The items were appraised per the law direct in 1754.   The quilted petticoat, gown and bonnet was appraised at 3 pounds;18 shillings. And then other items such as the stays, quilt, one cote, aprons, shifts, waistcoats, handkerchiefs, silk hood are all listed and appraised. 

Then we look at the inventory of Hannah Charles of Perquimans County, NC.  Her probate is processed in 1753.   Not much is known about her but what makes her interesting is that she has jackets listed in her inventory.   It is a possibility that she was a Quaker since there were a large contingent of Quakers living in northeast North Carolina in the early 1700s. 

Estate Record of Hannah Charles, Perquimans County NC 1753

Hannah has 1 old camblet mantle, 1 old woolen jacket, 5 homespun petticoats, 1 cotton jacket, 2 pare of stockings, 1 stuff quilted petticoat, 3 homespun petticotes, 2 garlicks shifts, 6 aprons, 4 fine caps, 1 check'd handkerchief, a half yard of homespun, 1 pare of pockets, (further down) a pocket, 1 pormester hat, 1 basket and then finally 1 pair of linen gloves.

The thing to notice are two things, one the presence of jackets and the lack of bonnets in Hannah's estate.   The jackets are found in Quaker inventories in the northeastern part of North Carolina.  The lack of a bonnets strikes me but bonnets are found in the Carolinas.  Interestedly enough she has a a pormester hat which I am guessing is a straw or wool hat. 


Now we go back to Connecticut to look at the estate of Dr. Samuel Ely of Durham, CT; he dies in 1755.  Within his estate there are several pieces of women's clothing.  As much as we would like to only look for women's estate records, in many cases, we need to look at the spouses' estate records as well.   This is a possible relative but haven't been able to track down for certain.

Estate of Dr. Samuel Ely of Durham, CT, December 24 1755

Estate record of Dr. Samuel Ely of Durham, CT 1755

I love the variety of clothing listed in this inventory.  His wife was Sarah as listed in a previous document.  More than likely she died shortly before he did.  

1 pair of stays which was worth 1-6-8 (1 pound, 6 shillings and 8 pence) those are some expensive stays in the 1750s.  But we will look at those again in a little bit after doing a little bit of digging.

1 silk crape gown; 1 black and white chintz gown, 1 calico gown, 1 striped gown, 1 pr women's stockings, 1 pr ditto; 1 green skirt; 1 red cloak, 1 velvet hood, 1 muslin apron; 3 shifts; 1 lawn handkerchief, 1 holland ditto; 1 pair ruffles; 1 lawn cap; 1 lawn cap; 2 caps; 2 cap ribbons; 1 pr shoe buckles; 1 fan; 1 silk damask blanket; 1 pair gold jewels (earings?); 1 gold ring.

What I like about her inventory is the variety of gowns listed.  Silk, chintz, calico and a striped gown of unknown fabric more than likely linen I am guessing.  Also we see lawn being used as a textile for handkerchiefs, caps and then a muslin apron.  Little bits and pieces of textiles being used to elevate a person's status.  Not insanely rich but well off nonetheless.


Here is another version of the items listed in the inventory from another document.  It is attached to Dr. Ely's will.  Which I find interesting is that the stays are valued at a much lesser price of 26/8 (26 shillings, 8 pence). Also listed is what looks like a "hat" listed right before the lawn handkerchief.  This item was missing from the previous inventory taken.  And the striped gown is identified as being linen which helps us understand Mrs. Samuel Ely's wardrobe.


   Back in North Carolina....this time we examine the inventory of  Widow Rachel Mugaridge of New Hanover County from 1759.  More than likely, she lived in or near Wilmington, North Carolina. Here we see bed gowns and a "check" bonnet listed  among other items.  "Check" bonnets seem to definitely be a unique item in North Carolina.  The only other place that I  have found "check" bonnets listed is in Maryland, (1750s-60s) in runaway advertisements.  I have yet to find "check" bonnets mentioned anywhere else.

Inventory of Widow Rachel Mugaridge, New Hanover County, North Carolina 1759

What I find interesting about here inventory is that variety of clothing listed.  A silk gown, a calico gown along with 2 bedgowns.  Could the bedgowns considered a lesser item or a dress down item from the gowns, possibly.  Also are the "quilts" quilted petticoats?  They are listed alongside the "under petty coat", which again....what does that mean?


"Connecticut Journal" January 26, 1770 page 4

Here we see an advertisement for the estate of Sarah Granger, late of New Haven, Connecticut in 1770.  Again, a possible relative but haven't tracked her down yet.  Her inventory is interesting because we find a few things...

Above we see one stript gown old; one short gown? ; one quilt old shalloon? ; one quilt flannel old?; 2 old caps; one old sheet wore out and --- old check linen apron.

 Then on the 2nd page we see one old black silk hood and one old short cloak.   I would categorize her as a lower class person.  Her total estate was only worth 14 pounds.  What I find interesting is you don't see stays, shoes, shifts, hats or anything extra in her wardrobe.  I am guessing she was more than likely she was buried with them.

Next we examine the estate records of Sarah Wilson of Bertie County, North Carolina.  The inventory of goods and chattel were taken on March 20th 1770.  I had recently found this inventory while looking through some other records.   Bertie County is located in northeast North Carolina and was established as a county in 1739.   

Her inventory is interesting because she has 2 bonnets, a "permeter" hat, "shift's cloth" and a variety of other things too.   Of her bonnets, she has a white and a black bonnet listed.   Would the white bonnet be used in the summertime while the black bonnet is used during other times of the year?   

I like that the handkerchiefs are mentioned as either silk or just handkerchiefs.  You wonder if those 5 handkerchiefs were printed in some manner or not.  Again, another jacket is listed in her inventory.  I do not know if Sarah was a Quaker or maybe some other ethnic group. More to look into I suppose.  I love her inventory, I just wish there was more descriptions of her gowns and clothing but alas it's another story to look into.

And then my final inventory...Beluah Holmes of Woodstock, Connecticut.  She dies in 1778.  She was only 48 years old when she passed.  Her wardrobe is amazing.  She never married and her mother Hannah had died the previous August.  Again another possible relative but haven't traced it down for certain.  What I love about her inventory is the variety of clothing and that she has "short" gowns listed in her inventory but yet she is 48 when she passes away.  So does the rule that "short" gowns are only found on younger women seems a little bunk.   

She has 2 short gowns listed - a linen and a striped short gown. Again she is no spring chicken but what do short gowns exactly mean in the 1770-80s?  More goodies to dive into such as she has quilted petticoats, brown mitts, linen gloves, a black silk bonnet, cotton and linen stockings, and then the waistcoats.  Were the waistcoats used for informal wear like around the house instead of wearing stays?   She has 2 waistcoats and then a striped woolen waistcoat but she does have 1 pair of stays.  

 Oh her gowns.....
1 crimson silk & worsted; 1 purple and white chintz; 1 double wrapping? gown; 1 brown camblet gown; 1 white corded dimmothy (dimmty) gown.   What shocks me the most is that her cambrick apron was worth 42p which is almost the same price as one of her gowns.  I just love this inventory.  So many ideas for a woman to wear in New England in the late 1770s.  

Looking at inventories always gives me ideas for my impression.   Maybe I will recreate some of the items listed in the estate records of my relatives as my way of honoring them.   I am really loving the purple and white chintz gown....(Ideas are brewing).......

Thanks again for checking out my blog.   Till next time.  Keep researching and always ask questions!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Imported and domestic knitted goods (Part Two)

Margaret McIntire - teaches knitting, sewing, marking and washing 1770 in Dutch Town - SC -
The South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (Charleston SC)- June 26 1770

Part Two of my research for imported and domestic knitted goods, I examine the types of knitting needles listed among inventories, invoices and store ledgers; how common were yarn stockings and finding advertisements to teaching people how to knit.  Also the types of stockings listed in women's inventories in North Carolina.

I am sure not the entire population of women during the 18th century knew how to knit.  It was a cottage industry in many areas of the world.   So the myth that everyone knitted or made their own stockings or knitted goods, is well untrue.  Ready made goods were available and imported from overseas or even within the colonies, there are advertisements posted to teach others how to knit and knitting needles were imported and sold in stores.  I don't find darning eggs listed in among items in women's inventories or as a ready made good/item.  

Out of the hundreds of women's inventories, only four list knitting needles among their possessions.  There is a 1750 sale of a man's estate that list several pairs of knitting needles as well   I might need to revisit the inventories again to look into more detail but my earlier notes I did list them as something of interest as I am a knitter myself.  

The 1762 inventory of Sarah Collings in Pasquotank County, North Carolina lists yarn, 2 pr of "nitten" needles and half a stocking (underlined in blue).  What does 2 pairs of knitting needles mean?  Most knitted items were knitted in the round on 4 needles and then a 5th needle as the working needle.  So does this mean 10 knitting needles in total?  

"North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979," Pasquotank County; Collings, Sarah (1762); State Archives, Raleigh.

The 1763 estate of Ann Overman lists all of her wearing apparel and then knitting needles and a pair of scissors.  

The 1779 estate of Hannah Alexander (not Bradley as noted on the files - John Bradley was the executor of her estate and I feel that there was an error on the outside of her estate file) from Mecklenburg County North Carolina lists several pairs of knitting needles, blue yarn, stockings and yarn and etc.

The final women's inventory that lists knitting needles is the 1744 estate of Elizabeth Hanner from Chowan County, North Carolina.  Oddly enough, she has 100 "nitten" needles listed in her estate.  It is unclear if she had a store in Chowan County but to have 100 knitting needles is rare.  It is listed near the bottom of the page right after 5 yards of coarse plad.  I tried to make it as large as it could possibly be.   I could have cropped the inventory but I wanted to also share all of her fabulous items listed in her estate.  

1744 estate of Elizabeth Hanner
"North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979," Chowan County Hanmer, Elizabeth (1744); State Archives, Raleigh.

Then we come to the 1750 estate for William Burnitt of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, he had both brass and plain knitting needles listed.   What is interesting is that they list them as four "pare" of "nitten" needles.  Again, what does that mean?  Four needles in total or 20 needles?

I wondered about brass knitting needles but looking at the image that I used in the last article you can clearly see the knitting needles are a brass or yellow color.  Were these used for finer yarns versus your typical metal or iron knitting needles that were used for heavier woolen yarns?   The answer I do not know.  But I found it odd that brass knitting needles were available and we know they were here in North Carolina as well as in South Carolina during the 1700s.

Jean Baptiste-Greuze (1724-1805) - Knitter Asleep

Store inventories and invoices of imported goods also provide us a clue of the commonness of knitting needles.  Were they brass, metal or both?  

The store sale of William Whitehead in Edgecombe County, North Carolina in 1750 lists the sale of several pairs of knitting needles. 

They do not denote if they are brass knitting needles or not.  They are sold as 4 prs. of needles.

The 1750 sale of the store owned by Major Joseph Howell in Edgecombe County also lists knitting needles but 3/4th knitting needles.  

Then we have the invoices for imported knitting needles into Charleston, SC in the early 1760s.  
 The vessel "Little Carpenter" brought in a variety of imported goods including iron and brass knitting needles.

Imported iron and brass knitting needles, in the Robert Hogg Account Books, #343, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Knitting needles versus knitting pins

I have found 2 early citations of "knitting pins" both are in Pennsylvania but it seems that this terminology falls out of favor and return again by the late 1770s this time surfacing in South Carolina.  I don't see the term "knitting pins" in North Carolina until 1787 in a newspaper in New Bern. I had wondered if it was a typo in the newspaper where they were missing a comma between knitting and pins but  Could knitting pins refer to a different type of knitting needle or again just a regional terminology?   I did search in foreign newspapers and the term "knitting pins" shows up post-1811 in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.  So for the most part, I would call them knitting needles for the majority of the 18th century.

Ready made or imported stocking advertisements

The North-Carolina Weekly Gazette New Bern, North Carolina 13 Mar 1778  •  Page 3

Woolen, thread and silk stockings imported from France into North Carolina during the American Revolution. 1778.  There are several advertisements for French imported goods during this period coming into North Carolina. 

Worsted caps, black worsted mitts and worsted and yarn gloves 1758 England -
The South-Carolina Gazette Charleston, South Carolina 10 Dec 1764 •  Page 4

Worsted, thread, cotton and yarn stockings imported along with black worsted mitts and yarn for knitting.  

german town manufactured brown and white thread stocking and etc. 1767 -

The South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Charleston, South Carolina 
08 Dec 1767,•  Page 3

In my previous blog article, "Seeking Worldly Goods", Pennsylvania stockings were highly prized and it is evident in William Sample Alexander diary where family members requested stockings to be made in Philadelphia (mid 1770s).  So could one speculate that with Charleston importing these Germantown stockings, is what spurred the Alexander family to seek out these stockings?  Just a guess.

Teaching people to knit or making stockings for purchasing

A few advertisements

The Pennsylvania Gazette Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 30 Aug 1770, •  Page 6

 What I find interesting is that they wanted to set up shop in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1770.  Haven't been able to find any more about if this business succeeded in Wilmington or not.

The South-Carolina Gazette, Charleston SC; 9 August 1770 pg. 5

Margaret McIntire - teaches knitting, sewing, marking and washing 1770 in Dutch Town - SC -
The South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (Charleston SC)- June 26 1770

I find this advertisement very interesting.  Keep in mind there were no commercial patterns for knitting unlike the early to mid 19th century were books are printed with various patterns.  So having some one teach you how to knit, is probably how most people shared information and pattern styles. Although it is from Charleston it clearly shows that there was a need by both white and black people to learn how to knit, sew, mark and wash clothing.  I think it is also note worthy that she is located in Dutch-Town section of Charleston.  I wonder if this where the German immigrants resided as there was influx of German indentured servants in the 1750s and 1760s.

Types of stockings listed in women's inventories 

So, what was common for women to have in their wardrobes for stockings?  We are in the south, it gets hot and humid in the summer and damp in the winter.  So what would be best?  Silk, thread, cotton, worsted and all of the above?  Within the estate records in North Carolina, 33 women have stockings listed as an item out of 92 estate records that have clothing listed.

The break down of the types of stockings goes like this:

Total of 102 pairs listed

49 listed as "stockings"
29 listed as "thread"
9 listed as "old"
6 listed as ""worsted"
5 listed as "silk"
2 or less
"Yarn", "Cotton", "Old Worsted", "Old Silk", "Blue" and "Womens"

The average number of stockings listed in a women's inventory is 3 pairs.
However some estates can skew the numbers such as the 1770 estate of Ann Carter she had 16 pairs of thread stockings listed (Onslow County NC).  And the 1740 estate of Mary Glouster  (who was a Quaker in Pasquotank County, North Carolina) had 8 pairs of stockings listed which were a variety of styles. (cotton, worsted, "stockings" and thread).  In some cases, there were a variety of stockings listed but usually they just list x pair of stockings.  

As for colors of stockings, unfortunately there is only one reference to a color associated with stockings.  Blue stockings were listed in the inventory of Rebecca Eborn of Hyde County in 1758, there is a reference to red stockings on a Irish runaway servant from New Bern in 1757.   Are colored stockings a mid-18th century fashion statement or were there more colors but we are yet to find them within the confines of what resources we have available online.

There is more to learn about imported and domestic knitted goods.  I hope these 2 blog articles have helped share some light on what was available in both North and South Carolina.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Imported and domestic knitted goods (Part One)

Jean Baptiste-Greuze (1724-1805) - Knitter Asleep

Knitted goods both domestic and imported are seen in store inventories, personal inventories and on imported goods advertisements in the Carolinas.   Knitted or worsted caps, stockings, Scotch "bonnets" for men, mitts and mittens were the most common knitted items in the 18th century.  

For the love of god - please do not use Outlander as a historical resource for knitted or crocheted items. They are modern interpretations plus there were no crocheted items during the 18th century.  There were no knit shawls or sontags - those don't show until the 19th century for women. Crochet did not come around in popularity until the early to mid 19th century.   I highly recommend Mara Riley's patterns and also Sally Pointer.  If you are on Ravelry, they have patterns for sale there as well.   18th Century Material Culture page also a great resource for images of original items. 

Okay....back to our regular scheduled program.  

Scotch blue bonnets

"The North Carolina Weekly Gazette" New Bern, NC 24 December 1773

Anson county had many Scots-Irish settlers as well as New Hanover, Duplin, Bladen and Cumberland counties. Here is one example of a runaway enslaved person named SHIE from Anson County, North Carolina wearing a "scotch" bonnet.  

I have found several bonnets listed in inventories in New Hanover County such as James McDonough. Talking among other historians from North Carolina, we agree that these more than likely were blue "scotch" bonnets. 

"North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979,"  James McDonough, 1760; citing New Hanover County, North Carolina, United States, State Archives, Raleigh, NC

In Neill Buie's 1761 Cumberland County inventory, a bonnet (again more than likely a scotch bonnet) sold for 3 shillings, 4d.  It is underlined in blue.

"North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979,"  Neill Buie, 1761; citing Cumberland County, North Carolina, United States, State Archives, Raleigh 
Scots Bonnet- to order
Source: Sally Pointer
Example of plain scots bonnets or blue bonnet. 

Worsted Caps or Knit Caps

Particularly you see worsted caps or knit caps imported into the colonies and sold in stores.

Worsted, knit, milled caps are all seen being imported in the Colonies and including the Carolinas.  

Imported French goods to be sold at Mrs. Batchelor's store 1778 -
North Carolina Weekly Gazette, New Bern NC
9 January 1778.

Runaway Welsh indented servant boy.  January 1773 -
The North Carolina Gazette, Wilmington NC
13 January 1773

mens blue mill'd caps 1768 SC -
"Mens blue mill'd caps" The South Carolina Gazette, Charleston SC
8 August 1768

Blue, red and white worsted cap 1746 Derby, England -
The Derby Mercury, Derby Derbyshire, England
24 September 1746
Another variation of the woolen cap this one a blue, red and white worsted cap on.  A runaway prisoner for the County Goal in Derby, England.

This is my take on this cap.  Blue with red stripes and white at the edge

Stripe, scarlet and mill'd woolen caps 1763 SC -
The South Carolina Gazette, Charleston SC
12 November 1763
"Stripe, scarlet and mill'd woolen caps"

 Knitted goods whether imported or domestically manufactured were a part of the clothing of the men in the Carolinas.  Knitting needles are found in many store inventories as well as women's inventories sometimes with a stocking or mitten still on the needles.  Despite this, imported knitted goods were available to many people in the 18th century.  My next article will be on stockings, mittens, and knitting needles.  

I will close this part with a knitted cap that was found at Dry's Wharf at Brunswick Town/ Fort Anderson State Historic Site near Winnabow, North Carolina.  The photos are courtesy from Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson

Based off the archaeological findings, the cap dates from 1748.  My friend Hannah Smith wrote about the conservation work on it for her Master's Thesis, which I have linked here. 

There is some debate if this was a stocking that was altered to create a men's cap, or was this someone who was learning to knit and created this unique cap.