Wills and Estates
Scattered throughout the administrative records of New Netherland are documents relating to the wills and estates of New Netherland's residents. These kinds of records often provide evidence of family groups; they might give clues about the marriages of daughters, include names of grandchildren, or provide details that help researchers understand the life an ancestor. Furthermore, records concerning estates often include information that researchers can use as leads, or pieces of evidence that point to other useful records.
Appeared before us, undersigned magistrates of Albany, colony of Rensselaerswijck and Schanechtade in America the honorable Cornelis Theunisz van Vechten, farmer, in the aforesaid colony, and Sara Salomons, his wife, daughter of Salomon Abelsz, deceased, in his lifetime carpenter here in this country, born in Amsterdam in Holland, who make known that she, Sara Salomons and her four brothers and sister, named Phillip, Jacob, Jan, David, and Lijsbet Salomons (of whom, here in this country are still alive besides her, Sara, the said Jacob, Jan and Lijsbet Salomons), by will of their uncle Poppe Abels, deceased (deceased at said Amsterdam), each have inherited the sum of one hundred guilders capital ... Done in Albany the 27th of June/7th of July 1668. (Fort Orange Records 1654-1679,  p. 444)
This record contains several very important pieces of information, including:
Comelis Theunisz van Vechten and Sara Salomons were married.
Sara Salomons was the daughter of Salomon Abelsz.
Salomon Abelsz was born in Amsterdam, Holland but lived in the colony at some point.
Salomon Abelsz was a carpenter.
Salomon Abelsz died before 1668.
Salomon Abelsz's children were Sara, Phillip, Jacob, Jan, David, and Lijsbet.
Sara, Jacob, Jan and Lijsbet were all living in the colony in 1668.
Poppe Abels, uncle to Sara, Phillip, Jacob, Jan, David, and Lijsbet, died in Amsterdam before 1668.
The following example regarding the intestate (without a will) death of Tomas Jansz Mingael also helps define a family group, even though the minor children are not named. The footnote (see below) adds critical information.
The director general and council of New Netherland, to all who shall see this or hear it read, greetings. Let it be known that we have received the humble petition of Marritgen Abrahams, widow, and Abraham Pietersz Moolenaer father-in-law of Tomas Jansz Mingael, deceased now about three weeks, and that the possessions he left behind from an intestate have devolved upon his three minority children, and because the petitioners, mother and grandfather, hence guardians of the aforesaid three children, are concerned that the estate of her deceased husband and his son-in-law might be burdened with many debts, so that the simple acceptance of it might be detrimental to the petitioners, they find it not advisable to accept the same estate except under benefit of inventory.... (Laws and Writs of Appeal, [16:29] pp. 131-132)
Footnote: While there is no date on this copy, the widow and her father appeared before the court of New Amsterdam on January 9, 1663, with letters of benefit of inventory from the council dated January 2, 1663. See RNA, 4:178-79.
The above excerpt illustrates that records about wills and estates might also concern the guardianship of children. The following record does not tell us exactly when the father, John Ruckman of Gravesend, died, though it was clearly before 1655. It does however tell us that he had a son also named John, who was not yet of age in 1655.
5 May: The lords councilors of New Netherland having seen and read the petition William Bouwne and Eduard Bronje, inhabitants of the village of Gravesende on Long Island, guardians of John Ruckman, son of John Ruckman, whereby they remonstrate and inform that their guardianship over the aforesaid John Ruckman, according to law, still has three years to run; however, whereas he has requested to be his own guardian and master of the goods left him ... (Council Minutes, 1655-1656, [6:36d] p. 40-41)