6 Unusual Wills and Testaments

Posted October 16, 2015 by Amanda | No Comment

Have you used wills as a resource in your family history research? When a person dies, they will often leave their possessions and money to their family and thereby, giving you more clues about other relatives in your family tree. Occasionally, you may come across a few odd requests made by the deceased.

Here are some notable, unusual last requests:

1. Harry Houdini

6 Unusual Wills and Testaments

Image: Library of Congress

In the 1920s, legendary illusionist Harry Houdini spent much time debunking psychics and mediums. His passion for exposing these frauds eventually came between Houdini and his friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a firm believer in spiritualism. Houdini died of a ruptured appendix on October 31, 1926. He told his wife that if he could find away to communicate after death, he would communicate a secret message to her. For ten years after his death, Houdini’s wife held a yearly séance on Halloween, but never heard from her husband. In 1943, she said that “ten years is long enough to wait for any man.”

2. Gene Roddenberry

6 Unusual Wills and Testaments

Image: NASA

Perhaps not so unusual today, Gene Roddenberry, creator of the original Star Trek series, requested his ashes be scattered in space. In 1997, some of his cremated remains were launched into orbit. After his wife, Majel Barrett, died in 2008, more of his ashes  as well as her’s were set to be launched together into space.

3. Fred Baur

6 Unusual Wills and Testaments

Image: Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Fred Baur was an American chemist and food storage technician who was responsible for inventing the unique packaging for Pringles potato chips. At his death, his will requested that a portion of his ashes be buried in a Pringles can. His children followed through with his wishes, placing a small portion of his ashes into a can. They placed his remaining ashes in an urn that was buried alongside the can and another urn that was given to one of his grandchildren.

4. Charles Vance Millar

6 Unusual Wills and Testaments

Image: Kingsport Times, March 20, 1938

Ever for a good prank, Canadian lawyer Charles Vance Millar’s will reflected his unusual sense of humor. In addition to a list of highly irregular bequests, Millar left a bizarre clause at the end of his will. A piece of his fortune would be given to the woman who would give birth to the most children in the ten years immediately following his death. Known as the Great Stork Derby, women all over the country vied for the large prize. In the end, the race ended in a tie between four women who had each given birth to 9 children within the 10-year timeframe.

5. Jack Benny

6 Unusual Wills and Testaments

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Popular radio and television star Jack Benny died on December 26, 1974 at the age of 80. In his will, Benny arranged for a single long-stemmed red rose to be delivered to his widow, Mary Livingston, every day for the rest of her life. His wife died nine years later on June 30, 1983.

6. Marie Curie

6 Unusual Wills and Testaments

Image: Smithsonian Institution Archives

Renowned physicist Marie Curie is best remembered for her pioneering research on radiation. Along with her husband, Pierre, the Curies conducted groundbreaking research into radioactivity and successfully isolated the radioactive elements polonium and radium. Not only did she become the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, but also the first person to win twice in different fields, physics and chemistry. In 1934, she died from aplastic anemia caused from her long-term exposure to radiation. Upon her death, she left a gram of pure radium to the University of Paris with the stipulation that her daughter, Irene Curie, be given access to use it for her own scientific research. In 1935, Irene would win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

What strange requests have you found in your ancestors’ wills?

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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