Archives provide rare Pasquotank County will from 1665

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Kameron Iriarte

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By Kameron Iriarte
Museum of the Albemarle

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Museum of the Albemarle opened a new exhibit called Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives which contains a collection of many archival treasures from the State Archives of North Carolina. The exhibit contains many important documents relating to the 13 counties that the museum serves, including one of the earliest known wills in North Carolina: a Pasquotank County will dating to 1665. Besides the early dating of the will, it is unique because female property owners were extremely rare in the 1600’s. Provided below is a transcription of the will:

“Whereas there is a patent Granted unto mee, Mary Fortsen, wife to Fredrick Fortsen, for a divident of twoe thousand acres of land for mee, my heirs or assignes, ye said Land Lying & being att Paspetank, of w’ch divident there is disposed by ye Said Fredrick Fortsen & my Self nine hundred Acres, my right title and intrest of w’ch I doe by these presents assigne & sett over unto my Said Husband, to enable him to give bills of Sale for ye Same nine hundred Acres of land. Now, know yeu, That I, ye said Mary Fortsen, being Sicke, yet having my perfect senses, considering ye cartainty of death & ye uncertainty of ye houre thereof, I comitt my Soule Unto God Almighty; & my body to ye Earth whence it came; De-siring to dispose of ye remainder of ye said divident of land beinge elleaven hundred acres; I doe by these presents, give & bequeath unto my son, Theophilus Fortsen, all ye Said P’cell of Elleaven hundred Acres of Land, to have & enjoy ye Same after, ye decease of my said Husband, for my will & intention is y’t my Said Husband shall enjoy ye same during his life. But if my said son shall come to dye before my said husband, then he to dispose of ye sd. land according to his pleasure. And it is also my intention & will, y’t if my said husband shall think fitt to dispose of any part or p’cell of ye sd. land, it shall be lawfull for him to doe it. Soe yt the proceed thereof be imployed in Cattle for & to ye behoofe of my Said Son, Theophilus Fortsen. Provided allwaise yt. if it shall please God to send me safely delivered of ye child I goe wth, all yt ye same shall have Equall Share wth ye said Theophilus. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & Seale, the 20th day of June, 1665.”

As the purpose of an archive is to collect and preserve specific material, some documents like the Pasquotank County will are barely legible and hard to interpret. The will is just one of the many important historical documents displayed at the Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives exhibit at the Museum of the Albemarle. The transcription can be found on http://ncgenweb.us/pasquotank/mary-forsten-1665-will/ .

Kameron Iriarte is an Intern at Museum of the Albemarle. He is studying at Elizabeth City State University.