Strong Women: Mary, wife of Isaac WISEMAN († 1779)

Two weeks ago I wrote The Ancestors: Isaac WISEMAN (1738-1818) and Elizabeth DAVIS (1738-1807), a piece that took a month to research and write. The Ancestors series is reserved for my 5th great-grandparents and/or my children’s 6th great-grandparents. There are no plans at this time to further research Isaac or Elizabeth’s parents. But questions can still be asked and already discovered records shared.

Isaac’s parents moved from Berks County, Pennsylvania, to Rowan County, North Carolina, around 1768. They both left wills in that county at the time of their deaths in 1779 and 1791.

As this is Women’s History Month, I would like to share the records left by Isaac’s mother Mary. She outlived her husband Isaac by twelve years. On 28 December 1790, she wrote her last will and testament.1

The Last Will and Testament of Mary Wiseman written 28 December 1790

1790 Last Will and Testament of Mary Wiseman, courtesy of

In The name of God Amen
I Mary Wiseman of the state of North Carolina and County of Rowan, being sickly and weake in body but through Goods of God of a Good and Sound memory and in my senses and Considering my own mortality Do make this my last will and testament
and first I will that my body be buried after a Deasent Christen manner after my Decese at the Discresin of my Executors hearafter named and my soul to God that give it in the faith and Certin hope of the Reserection at the Last day
and what worldly goods it hath pleased God to bless me with I bestow in the following manner I give and bequath to my beloved Daughter Mary Marrell my fether bed. I give and bequeth to my beloved son James Wiseman my Cow and my big bible and the new Coverled. I give and bequeth to Elizabeth Marrell my grand Daughter my pided hifer. I give and bequath to my son James above named my big pott. I give and bequath Ann Wiseman my Daughter in law one of my big shifts. I give and bequath to Elizabeth Wiseman other one of my big Shifts. I give and bequeth to Elizabeth Marrell above named one of my smaller Shifts. I give and bequath to Lyde Wiseman my Daughter in law the other one of my small Shifts. I give and bequath to Rachell Marrell my beloved Daughter two Sheets, one blancket and one Coverled and four pewter plates, one qurt, one tea pott and tea kettle and one grid iron, one fier Shovel and tongs. I give and bequeth to my son James above named one pewter Dish and one pair Stilliards. I give and bequath to my beloved son William Wiseman one iron trammil. I give and bequath to Jane Wiseman my grand Daughter one box iron and one (?)atters. I give and bequath to my son James above named one pine Chest and one bull and the big pillow and bolster to his wife Lyda and one striped patecot. I give and bequeth to my Daughter Rachal above named two patet coats, one Cloak and one silk bonnet. I give and bequath to my son James one short gown, one peir speckticles, and I hearby nominete and appoint my sone James Wiseman and Andrew Marrell my son in law, Executors of this my Last will and testament and I Do hearby Deney all other wills and testaments whatsever in witness hear I the Sd Mary Wiseman have set my hand and seal this twenty Eight day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninty.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Her
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Mary X Wiseman
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . Mark <Seal>
Signed, Sealed and
pronounced in presents of
Jacob Wiseman
Mary X (her mark) Paterson

Notes concerning the will transcription:

The transcription above includes spelling errors or spelling of the time found in the record. No corrections were made. The surname Marrell in the document is more commonly seen as MERRILL.

A more legible copy of the will was found on FamilySearch. Several of the spelling errors were corrected in the copy, for example, bequeath and petticoat.2 I feel the document I transcribed with all its misspellings is much more original than the copy found in Will Book B of Rowan County.

Mary Wiseman’s will is proven

Mary WISEMAN was getting on in age but was likely not so sickly and weak that her death was imminent. Her will was proven eleven months later on 10 November 1791.3

County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions minutes (Rowan County, North Carolina), 1753-1868, courtesy of FamilySearch

The last Will of Mary Wiseman deceased proved by Mary Patterson. Letters with a copy to issue to James Wiseman and Andrew Merrill Executors.

Inventory of the estate of Mary Wiseman dated 9 February 1792

Nearly three months later, on 9 February 1792, a true inventory of the estate of Mary Wiseman was made.4

1792 Inventory of the estate of Mary Wiseman, FamilySearch

February the 9th 1792
a true inventory of Mary Wiseman’s Estate.

[left column]
one hackel
one wheell
one pillow
three plains Irons
two pales
one Earthan pot & pan
five pewter plates &
one bason four Spoons
three augers & two chisels
one hand Saw
one drawing nife
one foot adz
one grubing how
two Cleavises and Link
one table & bedsteds
one bottle & one jug
one Cag & one flower barrel
one meat tub & one hammer
one pittch fork one steal
for a Cuting —– cup
one broad ax & one Square
two trammels & two Shovel
one tea cup & Saucer
one pare of Sheaves
two small tubs
one feather bed

[right column]
two sheats & 1 blanket
two Coverlids
one tea pot
one fier tongs
one grid iron
and hur? Cloe?
one Cow
one heffer
one bull
one bible
two boks
one bolster
two pillows
two iron pots
one puter dish [pewter]
one box iron &
one tea kettle
one Chist
two knives
one pare of ___ [crossed out]
one iron wedg
one tray
one funnell

Is there any hope of finding the family Bible?

Mary left her big Bible to her son James. Did he pass it on to one of his children? Has anyone heard of its existence other than the mention in Mary’s last will and testament and in the inventory of her estate?

My wish is, if a direct descendant now owns the Bible of my 6th great-grandmother Mary WISEMAN, that he/she would be kind enough to let us know if there is any useful information recorded in the Bible. Is there proof written in her hand or the hand of another person that she was the daughter of a man surnamed MARSHALL?

Update (25 March 2020): Following a conversation today with another member of the Wiseman Family Association group on Facebook, I have removed “the immigrant” from the title of this blogpost. The person I conversed with helped compile the research records of the association prior to 2000. He questioned the use of the term as no proof has to date been found to substantiate the family lore that Isaac WISEMAN was born aboard a ship on the way to America.


In a few days, we’ll be entering our third week of self-imposed confinement. It’s been twelve days of ups and downs. We had to cancel our 42nd wedding anniversary dinner reservations last week. Mom’s AncestryDNA test results came in and she’s her parents’ daughter. I caught my husband’s cold but neither of us had a fever. It’s taking me longer than normal to get well. It must be the stress we’re all under. I haven’t been able to concentrate on anything for a long amount of time. The sun has been shining a lot and the birds are singing. Mom’s using the cell phone we got her last month to make and receive calls. I had to snooze several of my Facebook friends. Our son’s cat is going to have kittens. It’ll be at least another week before Luxembourg is expected to hit the peak of the crisis. Personally, I think we are in for at least six weeks of #bleiftdoheem (Luxembourgish for #stayathome). Stay at home and stay safe.

© 2020, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. “North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998,” (index and images), Ancestry, North Carolina County, District and Probate Courts, North Carolina, Rowan County, Original wills, Verble, Daniel – Zimmerman, Christian, file with the will of Mary Wiseman. ( : accessed 25 June 2019). 
  2. “North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970,” images, FamilySearch, citing county courthouses, North Carolina, Rowan > Wills, 1781-1791, Vol. B > image 94 of 230, Will of Mary Wiseman, pages 179-181. ( : accessed 15 March 2020). 
  3. North Carolina. County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (Rowan County) (Main Author), “County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions minutes (Rowan County, North Carolina), 1753-1868”, FamilySearch, Raleigh, North Carolina : Filmed by North Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1962, Film 313776, GGS 7640159, Minutes, Vol. 4-6 1773-1800, page 399, entries dated 10 November 1791.  ( : accessed 15 March 2020). 
  4. “North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979,” database with images, FamilySearch, Microfilm of originals in the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh, North Carolina., Wills and estate papers (Rowan County), 1663-1978 > Rowan County > W > Wiseman, Mary (1792) > image 2 of 3. ( : accessed 6 March 2020). 

Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

15 thoughts on “Strong Women: Mary, wife of Isaac WISEMAN († 1779)”

  1. Cathy, Let me first say that the origination of Berks County, PA for the Wisemans certainly intrigued me. If you ever need or want help in the area of Berks County, I have many Berks County resources, both records and people. Secondly, I hope you both feel better and that you stay safe. It’s more than likely that you’re going to experience the passing of this event before we do. If you ever need anything, no matter what, just let me know. Brian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t even know what I should be asking for in ways of help for Berks County. Thank you for the offer, Brian. Secondly, I fear it will be some time before this event will be over. Take care, my friend.


  2. I am curious as to the “shifts” that Mary left to some of her heirs. Are those dresses? Something else? I love how detailed her bequests are. I imagine it saved the children from squabbles over who gets what.

    Stay safely inside, Cathy. It’s the one thing we can do to minimize the risks to others as well as ourselves. If you’re allowed to, take a walk or a bike ride—but away from others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shifts were undergarments they wore under the petticoats. I think the difference between a small and a large shift might have been that a small shift was cooler and worn in the summer.

      We are to stay home and only leave the house to run necessary errands at the store or pharmacy. We are allowed to take a walk and ride our bikes (6 ft. distance from others) but it’ll be a few more days before we go out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Can you imagine bequeathing your underwear to your daughter? But times were different!

        Take good care of yourselves. We are doing the same. Thank goodness for food delivery services.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It would be great if the big bible surfaced. I wonder if some descendancy work on James’ line might surface locations where you could reach out to local archives and/or historical societies to see if they have anything already donated to their collection.

    Hope you and your family are all staying healthy, Cathy! Hang in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wiseman Association and descendants of James’ line have done descendants work. However, I suspect it may have ended with the 1920 or 1930 census. We all know how much the tree can spread out in 100 years especially now that we are connecting with DNA cousins whose trees have to be built. Hope all is well with you and yours, Michael. Stay safe.


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