Probate Records: Patrick O’Meara & Martin McGuire

On Thursday, I got a call from MNHS saying that the microfiche rolls I ordered had come in.  So, today I spent the day at MNHS.  The first one I dove into was roll 39 for Patrick O’Meara.  The case file contained 60-something pages! Lots of legal documents, his will, copies of the checks that were used to disperse his estate, an account of what he left behind – money, furniture, land, etc.  And I made copies of it all. I’m not really happy about that, but I wanted to be able scour them later, and spend my time at the library searching for other things.  I haven’t really dug through all of those copies yet, but there was one page that stood out  to me a bit. It listed all of Patrick O’Meara’s living heirs, including some of my guys.

Rosa O’Meara aged 23 years Green Isle, Minn.
Margaret O’Meara aged 90 years Green Isle, Minn.
John O’Meara aged 50 years Green Isle, Minn.
William O’Meara aged 49 years Swan River, Man., Canada
James O’Meara aged 57 years St. Paul, Minn.
Martin O’Meara aged 46 years Green Isle, Minn.
Michael Young aged 33 years Minneapolis Minn.
Charles McGuire aged 30 years Green Isle, Minn.
Martin McGuire aged 27 years Green Isle, Minn.
Margaret McGuire aged 24 years St. Paul, Minn.
Henry McGuire aged 22/23? years Residence Unknown
Mary (Clancy) Wilson aged 21 years Glencoe, Minn.
Teresa Clancy aged 21 years Glencoe, Minn.
James Clancy aged 23 years Residence Unknown

The next roll I checked I thought would be more interesting: SAM 432 Roll 21.  And it was interesting, just not in the way I expected. I expected to find something similar to what I found for Patrick O’Meara, but instead for my great grand uncle, Martin McGuire.  Recently, I learned that Minnesota Probate courts handled cases other than estate/wills/whatever.  Insanity cases and guardianship cases were also handled by the probate courts.  And, apparently Inebriety cases were handled by them, too.  In Martin’s case file (01836) is first, a petition by Harry W. Davitt (the Mayor?) on the 18th of July, 1914 to get care for Martin, who,

[..] is a habitual drunkard and has been for the past three or four years.  He at times shows symptoms of delirium tremens and neglects to provide for himself.

After the petition, a warrant was issued on 23 July 1914 to Sheriff Charles Wegge to “deliver” Martin to the State Inebriate Hospital in Willmar, Minnesota for treatment.  Sheriff Wegge must have been successful, because next is a 3 page medical questionnaire about Martin’s health, as well as the health of his family members (sweet!). Here are some of ’em:

1b. Age? 34
5. Is the patient educated? If so, to what extent? common school education, country school
7a. Did either of the grandparents of the patient suffer from insanity, rheumatism, consumption, headache, neuralgia, cancer, nervousness or inebriety in any form, and if so, from which?  no
8a. Did any of the aunts or uncles of the patient suffer from any of the diseases mentioned in No. 7, and if so; from which? three uncles suffered from inebriety.
8b. Are any of the paternal aunts or uncles of the patient dead, and of what disease and at what age did they die? unknown.
10b. Which parent does the patient resemble physically?  mother.
11b. What was the patient’s natural disposition? quiet disposition.
11f. Did the patient always finish any task undertaken?  no.
11h. What degree of self-control has the patient?  no self-control.
14a. Does the patient use morphine, opium, chloral, alcohol, cocaine, or other narcotic drugs? State what drugs are used and in what form: alcohol, whiskey.
14b. At what age did the patient begin to use them? 17 years old.
14d. To what extent does the patient use them now? (be specific): Drinks whiskey […] about a quart a day when he can get it, drunk for last 5 years most of the time.
14e. Has their use been steadily increasing, variable, or decreasing of late?  increasing.

Very sad questions and answers, yes, but I am given a little bit of genealogy-research-hope from questions 8a and 8b.   I know that Martin’s mother, Mary O’Meara had 5 brothers. And I should confirm this, but I think most of them were pretty successful and beloved businessmen in Green Isle. Would they have been drunkards? I wouldn’t think so.  I guess I don’t know that much about Charles and James, so maybe they were.  But those questions makes me wonder if one or more of the three uncles he’s referring to are brothers of Anthony’s?  I have absolutely no paper record of Anthony having any siblings (but I have a feeling that he did–does that count?).  Regarding 8b, and the death(s) of his paternal aunts/uncles: wouldn’t they have written nothing or something other than “unknown” if he didn’t have any aunts/uncles on his father’s side?

Following the questionnaire were monthly check-ins from Martin about his condition, weight loss/gain, eating and sleeping habits, work, and alcohol use. Each month the reports were “good”; he hadn’t used alcohol, had steady work (first farm work, then janitorial work at a school). It’s unclear to me if he was living at the hospital during this time, or back in Green Isle, and I’m not sure how to find that out.  I guess I would think that he was at the hospital, I don’t think it would be so easy to just sober up so quickly if he were still living in Green Isle.  He made parole on 18 January 1915, about 6 months after being taken to the hospital.

After copying Martin’s case file, I went on to check a couple more: Mary O’Meara’s probate case file, and Margaret O’Meara’s file as well. Mary’s case file was not the Mary I was expecting – and, duh – she would’ve had a different last name if it were who I was expecting.  This Mary was the wife of Martin O’meara, and there was nothing really of interest to me in that file.  Margaret’s file was a guardianship probate case file for Martin & Mary’s daughters, Margaret & Sarah.  Nothing really for me there, either.  Except, now I know what a guardianship probate file looks like.

This is Insane.

In my last post I mentioned a probate index I found at MNHS, with Anthony McGuire listed as “insanity of”, instead of “estate of”.  Around the time I found this record, a new genealogy question and answer site on a familiar/beloved/reputable network was being born.  Since this record confused the heck out of me, I posed my question the day the site when into beta.  I learned that Minnesota Probate courts handled some cases other than estate cases.  They sometimes handled insanity cases, guardianship cases, and more. Somehow, I need to see if I can get a hold of the “Insanity Books” for McLeod county, if they even still exist.  MNHS does not have them, so I’ve sent an email query off to the McLeod county probate courts.  We’ll see what I hear back from them.

I’ve gotta say though, if this really is my McG, I’m a bit surprised that he might be an “insane” person. Would they let an insane person own and operate a saloon? It sounds like it would have been a petition to have him declared insane, so maybe the attempt to commit him did not go through? Or maybe this isn’t my McG – maybe it’s his son of the same name? I don’t know what happened to him, and he doesn’t show up on censuses that I can find, so…maybe? Either way, it’s got to be one of the two; there weren’t many (any?) other McGuires in McLeod county at this time.  Oh how I want to get my hands on these court files.