Working with 19th-century deeds, I often find the wife has executed the deed in what is described as an act of relinquishing her "right of Dower." (Corrections to the way I have described that execution are welcome.)
Below is an example of one such deed, ca1830. The relevant clause reads, "And I Asenath Preston wife of the said William Preston in consideration aforesaid do hereby relinquish my right of Dower in the before mentioned premises."
- I'm interested both in what Asenath was "relinquishing" and why.
- The deed obviously calls Asenath his wife, but is there any other meaning can be drawn from the wife's act to "relinquish her right of Dower."
As to the second part of the question, some context/back story. For ten years, we could not find evidence about how William Preston of Defiance, Ohio, had acquired the subject property interest in Rumney, New Hampshire.1 Knowing that William and Asenath had married in 1820, at one time I hoped Asenath's release of dower might provide a clue about when and/or in what hame the interest had been acquired.2
Graphic follows; click HERE to view a resizable version of the deed.
1 The 1829 sale (this deed) identified the underlying property only as "the lands which Jabes H. Weld & Oliver F. Weld conveyed to Daniel Easton by their deed dated 21st Nov A.D. 1803 & recorded in the Register of Deeds for [Grafton County book 37, p. 557]. Even intense research in the Grafton deed books did not provide any related transaction between William Preston and either the Welds, their business or Daniel Eaton.
2 At the time, I asked myself questions like this:
The entry for this deed in the registry book does not carry the wife's name (it reads, "William Preston to Collins Preston"). Is my understanding correct that she was not a "grantor" of the deed, even though her signature (or mark) appears? (Including that when I cite this source, the deed is described as "William Preston to Collins Preston," not "William and Asenath Preston to Collins Preston.")
Does "Dower" attach regardless of when the property was acquired (before or during a marriage), or would it only attached if the property had been acquired before the marriage? Only if acquired during the marriage?
If a wife releases her Dower, does that mean the property had been held by the husband as his "sole and separate" asset? Would the wife have had a right of Dower if she had been a co-owner? What if the couple had held the property as joint tenants (joint tenancy)?
What if the property had been held by the wife? Would the husband have been required to release his "dower?"