Widow Appraisements were one of several court records filed when a Lancaster County resident died without a will. Documents were often filed in the Orphans’ Court to distribute any remaining property. In the nineteenth century widows could elect to retain $300 worth of real estate from their husband’s estate. Two “disinterested and competent” persons were appointed to appraise and set apart for the widow $300 worth of real estate. However, if that property was appraised over $300 and could not be divided without “spoiling the whole” then the $300 was set aside as a payment to the widow. Early twentieth century legislation increased the amounts of widow appraisements. Husbands were also awarded similar compensation in the early twentieth century after their wife died.
Widow Appraisement records are significant because they typically provide a description of property and an individual’s death date. Estate File references indexed should be requested for additional information. Researchers should also search the Orphans’ Court Index for related estate records. Widow Appraisement records prior to 1872 and after 1920 are recorded in the Orphans’ Court Index.