Amount: A numerical field in the Detail Inventory Table which can be totaled.

Appraiser: The court appointed individual who examined, recorded, and in most cases, valued the estate of the deceased. The value of an item was based on it's condition and projected market value. It was usual for three appraisers to assess the estate and sign the document. The inventory was then entered into the county court record and used as part of the estate settlement process. For a thorough discussion of the probate document process, see: Alice Hanson Jones, American Colonial Wealth: Documents and Methods (New York: Arno Press, 1977) 3-24.

Art: Detail Inventory Table category including: drawings, engraving, frame, heads, images, likeness, maps, miscellaneous, painting, pictures, portraits, prints, profiles, and sculptural.

Aspiring: Economic designation for inventories deemed to have fairly extensive households that include spoons, knives and forks, as well as enough equipage to entertain and give dinner parties for ten or more people.

Asterisk: "*" Used to designate original spelling in Detail Inventory Table. Original spelling has been changed to a modern standard word. This change is indicated by the addition of an "=" to the word, i.e.: "chare*" becomes "chair=."

Beverage: Detail Inventory Table category including: alcohol, chocolate, coffee, general, miscellaneous, serving, storage, and tea.

Books noted: Main Inventory Table field that identifies, by Y, inventories listing books or libraries but not specific titles.

Books titled: Main Inventory Table field identifying, by T, inventories which list at least one book by title. Book titles have not been included in the database, but are available on the transcription.

Category: In the Detail Inventory Table, this is the highest order in which an item has been classified.

Cellar: A Main Inventory Table field that identifies inventories listing contents of a named cellar.

Class: The arbitrary social/economic designation given an inventory dependent upon the presence and amount of food service items. This designation is based on work of Barbara Carson, Ambitious Appetites, (Washington, DC: American Institute of Architects, 1990). Classifications are: elite, aspiring, decent, and old fashioned.

Closets: Main Inventory Table field pointing to inventories listing contents of at least one named closet.

Clothing: The category further refined by the addition of M for men, W for women, S for slave, C for children, or G for General (gender not known). It contains the sub-categories: accessories, body, feet, hand, and head.

Color: A Detail Inventory Table field which lists color of an item as defined by the appraiser.

Dairy: The Main Inventory Table field that identifies a dairy or milk house listed by name.

Database: comprised of two inventory tables, Main and Detail, the combination of which, provides a complete searchable register of the inventory contents. Pointers from the Main Inventory Table are available on the Gunston Hall website. The complete database will be available through a CD-ROM available by Summer 2000.

Decent: The economic designation for inventories that include spoons, knives and forks, but without enough equipage to seat a dinner party for ten persons.

Description: A short field in the Detail Inventory Table where descriptors are placed, ie: short, square, large, old, round, oval, etc.

Detail Inventory Table: Contains over 65,000 records, one for each item listed in a probate inventory, relating to household or personal usage. Each item is broken down by category, sub-category, type, quantity, location, amount, material, and color. Fields for short descriptions and longer memos provide space for all the information about each item which has been listed by the estate's appraiser. All inventory items pertaining to household usage, textile production, wearing apparel, personal items, weapons, and vehicular transportation are included in the Detail Inventory Table. Book titles, names of slaves, agricultural tools, and livestock are not listed in the Detail Inventory Table, but may be viewed in the inventory transcription.

Elite: The economic designation for inventories of the wealthiest decedents which exceed in quantity and quality all the criteria of the "Aspiring" classification.

Equal Sign: "=" Used to designate that an assumption has been made by the transcriber on meaning or spelling of a word due to appraiser's use of ditto, do, or erratic spelling. When original spelling has been changed to a modern standard word, the change is noted by the addition of an "-." Original spelling is noted in the description or memo field with an "*." i.e.: chare* becomes chair=.

Female: The probate inventory of a woman.

Filename: This is a key developed by using a combination of the decedent's name and the year in which the inventory was taken, ordered, or recorded, in that order. The eight character field is used to invisibly link the Main Inventory Table with the Detail Inventory Table.

Filters: links to selection of appropriate fields, records or data.

Food Preparation: Detail Inventory Table category including: cooking, measure, miscellaneous, processing, storage, and utensils.

Food Service: Detail Inventory Table category including: breakfast, condiments, cutlery, dessert, dishes, miscellaneous, serving, and storage.

Furniture: Detail Inventory Table category including: desk, hygiene, looking glasses, miscellaneous, recreation, seating, sleeping, storage, tables, and time keeping.

Heating: Detail Inventory Table category including: andirons, fenders, miscellaneous, stoves, and tools.

Household Decor: Detail Inventory Table category including: miscellaneous, ornament, paint, wall cover, and window.

Household Stores: Detail Inventory Table category including: beverage, food, hardware, heating, hygiene, laundry, lighting, miscellaneous, paint, textiles and writing.

Household Utensils: Detail Inventory Table category including: cleaning, dairy, fire fighting, garden, hygiene, laundry, miscellaneous, and storage.

Instruments: Detail Inventory Table category including: measure, miscellaneous, optical, scientific, survey, and time keeping.

Inventory: The probate document from the public records upon which the database is built. All included inventories have been photocopied from the microfilms of county court documents at the Library of Virginia or the Maryland State Archives. The photocopies are on file at Gunston Hall Plantation.

Kitchen: A Main Inventory Table field denoting that a kitchen has been defined by name or assumed by placement of kitchen tools distinct from other household items.

Lighting: A Detail Inventory Table category including: candle, lamp, lantern, sconces, and snuffers

Livestock: A Main Inventory Table field that signals the presence of cattle, sheep, hogs, horses, or other animals in an inventory.

Location: The space or room where an item is listed in a probate inventory by the appraiser.

Main Inventory Table: A comprehensive overview of each inventory, containing name of deceased, filename, date taken, ordered, or recorded, county, state, and class. Specific fields which may be used to further examine the inventory are: rural, books, cellar, closet, dairy, female, kitchens, livestock, merchant, out-building, proximity to Potomac River, quarters, room by room assessment, slaves, tools, or presence of a wash house/laundry. Two additional fields are provided as options for further individualization of the inventory at the user's discretion.

Material: What the appraiser records that an item is made of: wood, china, etc.

Matrix: The format providing access to the available inventories on the Gunston Hall Website.

Memo: A longer field in either the Main or Detail Inventory Table which contains more complete descriptors for "listed as" entries, or specific "Notes" for the researcher.

Merchant: A Main Inventory Table field marking the inventory of a shopkeeper, with mercantile stock designated by the inventory appraiser. While the deceased's household items have been entered into the Detail Inventory Table, shop contents have not.

Minus Sign: "-" Used in the Main Inventory Table to designate a question of class. The sign is used in the Detail Inventory Table to link an item with other items listed as a unit by the appraisers.

Nomenclature: A hierarchy of terms which are used to place inventory items in a record. The terminology defines categories, sub-categories, and types of articles.

Old Fashioned: The economic designation for inventories that would otherwise be considered aspiring or elite but lack forks.

Option: Two Main Inventory Table fields accessed through the CD-ROM which the researcher may adapt for further individualization of the database. A three position field, with no restrictions, can be used for selection or deselection of inventories at the users discretion.

Out-Buildings: Main Inventory Table field designating buildings, other than a kitchen, dairy, or wash house listed by name in the probate inventory.

Page: where the item can be found in the probate inventory.

Personal: Detail Inventory Table category including: aids, hair, hygiene, jewelry, medicine, miscellaneous, money, recreation, religious, time keeping, tobacco, and writing.

Plus sign: When a "+" is added to designation of class, the inventory is slightly better than one would expect for a class, but not good enough for the next level.

Portable Document Format (PDF): enables the reading or printing of the transcriptions from Gunston Hall Plantation's website.

Potomac: The inventory was recorded in a county which borders the Potomac River.

Probate Inventory: A court ordered record of a deceased's personal property and chattels performed by court appointed appraisers. All inventories included in the database were recorded between 1750 and 1810 in Maryland or Virginia.

Quantity: The number of items listed for each entry by the appraiser.

Quarters: A specific location, defined as "quarter," or "plantation" listed in the probate inventory. This is a Main Inventory Table field.

Recreation: Detail Inventory Table category including: games, miscellaneous, and musical instruments.

Room by Room: A Main Inventory Table field which denotes that the inventory was recorded by the appraisers with at least one household space listed by name.

Rural: A Main Inventory Table field identifying the presence of agricultural tools and livestock.

Slaves: A Main Inventory Table field designating that slaves are listed, usually by name, in the probate inventory. While not included in the database, names and ages of slaves, when recorded, are part of the complete inventory transcription.

State: The inclusive two character term for the colony or state of Maryland or Virginia, noted on the Main Inventory and searchable through the Gunston Hall Website.

Sub-Category: The second level of hierarchal categorization of an item in the Detail Inventory Table.

Sundry: A Detail Inventory Table category that includes a variety of assorted items. This is also the place where unclassifiable items are entered.

Textiles: The Detail Inventory Table category that includes: bed linens, bed over (meaning bed coverings), bed upholstery, bedding (all of the items under the sheets), fibers, floor, hygiene, miscellaneous, production, stores, table, upholstery, and window.

Tools: A Main Inventory Table category to note the presence of agricultural or craft tools in the inventory. Only textile production tools have been included in the Detail Inventory.

Transcriptions: The typescript of the microfilmed court recorded probate inventory. Only microfilm copies have been examined; the original documents have not been consulted. All transcriptions in the collection list complete citations for the source of the original record.

Travel: Detail Inventory Table category including: boats, miscellaneous, tack, and vehicles.

Type: The Detail Inventory Table hierarchal field listing the actual item inventoried.

Urban: A Main Inventory Table field which designates inventories without agricultural tools, or with a separate agricultural operation, or with minimal livestock. An urban inventory is identified by a null in the rural field.

Wash house: A Main Inventory Table field identifying a wash house or laundry listed by name in the inventory.

Ware: A Detail Inventory Table category including those items listed in inventories as "ware": ceramics, glass, metal, pewter, silver, and wood.

Weapons: The Detail Inventory Table category includes: edge, fire, and miscellaneous.


Carson, Barbara C., Ambitious Appetites: Dining, Behavior, and Patterns of Consumption in Federal Washington. Washington, D.C.: The American Institute of Architects Press, 1990.

Hienton, Louise Joyner. Prince George's Heritage: sidelights on the early history of Prince George's County, Maryland, 1696-1800. Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1972.

Jones, Alice Hanson. American Colonial Wealth: Documents and Methods. 3 vol. New York: Arno Press, 1977.

Kulikoff, Allan. Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800. Williamsburg, Va.: The Institute of Early American History and Culture; Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986.

Rivoire, J. Richard. Homeplaces: traditional domestic architecture of Charles County, Maryland. La Plata, Md.: Southern Maryland Studies Center, Charles County Community College, 1990.