The probate records for eighteenth-century Middlesex County are stored at the MA State Archives in Boston. They are available there in the original or, more easily accessible, on microfilm from which they can be photocopied. Probate records are those documents generated when someone died. They include: Wills- statements of the decedent’s will for the distribution of his estate; Inventories- itemized accounts of the decedent’s real and personal property; Administrations- distributions or accounts generated by estate administrators or probate officials with details of the settlement of the estate.
These records can reveal much about the decedent’s family, his possessions, and house, and his land. Such as: House architecture and room layout, i.e. Massachusetts Bay colonial houses before 1750 would be noted as consisting of one or two stories, center chimney, hall-and-parlor. Room furnishings and room use, i.e. the ‘best room’ used for sleeping and for entertaining guests. It usually contained the ‘best bed,’ table and chairs, luxury items such as a tall case clock, portraits, silver, china. Household textiles, i.e. bed sheets, pillowcases, coverlid quilt, tablecloths and napkins, skeins of yarn, straight-bodied coat, waistcoat, britches. Household, farm, and Craft production (Homespun goods), i.e. spinning wheel, cheese press, brine barrels, cider mill, hogs fat, ox yoke, plow, shovels, log sleds, casks, bee skeps, cattle, poultry, horses, bridles. Luxury goods, i.e. silverware, fine earthenware, clocks/watches. Cellars often served as cold-storage for tubs of salted meat, pickled vegetables, hog's fat, dairy products, fruit, and tallow products. Barns, in addition to housing animals, were storage areas for grains, hay, feed, tools, and lumber. Barnyards housed poultry, dung piles, firewood, pig stys, animal pens, and outdoor work spaces. Outbuildings included woodsheds, corn cribs, cider mills, stys, workshops, etc. The trend to updating and enlarging dwellings in the second half of the 18th century, as in Lexington, suggests a sense of prosperity, or a strong desire to keep up with the Joneses in residential refinement.