As the oldest document of genealogical value I've found to date in a second-hand shop, this little item is one my favourite finds. The will was penned on the "twenty third day of August, one thousand Eight Hundred and Forty Eight" by James MacMillan (or McMillan) of Lot 6, 7th Concession in Kenyon Township, Eastern District in the Province of Canada. The surname appears interchangeably as MacMillan and McMillan throughout the will. It was witnessed by John Murray, Ewen McMillan, and Lachlan McMillan.
I deliver up my soul to Almighty God who gave it, and my body to the Earth, to be decently buried, as my family and Executors may think proper.
In his last testament, John makes a number of bequeaths. His son, Dougald McMillan, was to receive the west half of Lot number six in the seventh concession of Kenyon Township. James MacMillan goes on to bequeath to his other son, Duncan, the east half of the same lot, with the liberty to make a road along the river, westward through Dougald's part of the lot. Catherine MacMillan, who was James' wife, was given claim to all the cattle, house and household goods and farm implements, with the exception of two cows, a heifer and a mare that he left to his nephew, Ewan MacMillan.
James' nephew, Lachlan MacMillan, was given the north half of Lot number 31 in the 7th Concession in Kenyon, provided that he "shall prove to be faithful, sober, industrious, and kind" to James' wife and children, and remain with James' family for a period of six years.
James MacMillan also makes provisions for his three daughters. Peggy MacMillan was to received a cow, provided she marry. Nancy and Jean MacMillan were given the rights to live at the family home for their lifetime, as long as they remain unmarried.
James' wife, Catherine MacMillan, should she remarry, would forfeit any claim to the items and property that James had passed to her. Dougald McNaughton and Angus McMaster, the Younger, both of Kenyon, were appointed the Executors of this will.
Nowhere in the document does James' birth date appear. After reading through the will, I guessed that James' children were probably still quite young because of James' insistence that Lachlan stay with Catherine and family for a period of six years. The term may indicate the length of time until the eldest son reaches adulthood, and it could represent the appropriate length of service to justify the handing over of a valuable piece of property to someone outside the immediate family circle.
I believe James may have been ill when he wrote this will. I did not find him in the 1851 Canadian Census, but did locate Catherine Ferguson, 38; Dougal McMillan, 15; Nancy, 14; Mary, 10; Jean (Jane), 6; Duncan, 4 and nephews Ewan McMillan, 30; and Lachlan McMillan, 24; all living in the 7th Concession (1851 Canada Census, Canada West (Ontario) Glengarry, Kenyon, E.D. #4, page 87, lines 14-23). Unfortunately, I did not find a death record for James MacMillan, either.
I did find a record in the Upper & Lower Canada Marriage Bonds Index for James McMillan, of Kenyon, Glengarry and Catherine Ferguson, of Kenyon, Glengarry, (Ref: RG5, B9, Vol. 30, Bond #4826) registered on December 23rd, 1835. Ideally, the next step would be to locate the actual parish marriage record to see if we can obtain the birth dates & parentage of the couple.
If you have researched the McMillans of Glengarry County, you will know that there are many members of the clan with identical names, which creates a bit of a challenge when trying to untangle the relationships. Thankfully, James included the concession and lot numbers in his will, which helped in the tracing of this family.
There is so much work that could be done on this family. I've only shown the starting points here. Likely, most of the records would be held in Glengarry county, and would not be available online. I think it could be a fascinating project to continue the investigation.
UPDATE, June 5, 2012: The MacMillan will is being readied for a trip to Ontario to be "reunited" with a direct descendant of James MacMillan.