Information on a state level death record in Massachusetts 1841-1910 (this example is from 1861) includes:
Name, Date of Death, Place of Death, Race, Marital Status, Occupation, Age, Birthplace, Cause of Death
Father and his birthplace, Mother and her birthplace.
The town level information includes the above, plus place of internment and informant. So, it can be worth it to "shop" in both places. The above certificate still only costs $3.00 from the Massachusetts State Archives--truly still a genealogical bargain.
I'm not sure how unusual it was for a woman to leave a will in the early part of the 20th century. But my great-great-great-grandmother did. Note the date of the will: 5 May 1910, so she still couldn't vote. She mentions her two married daughters by name and place of residence (a surplus of riches for information and identification). And, of course, she signs the will at the bottom. Amy is part of my umbilical line.
Two more examples of spinster meaning an adult woman who owns property in her own right.
Strafford County Deeds 40:222
Jane Wallace of Epsom, Spinster, widow of the late Samuel Wallis of Epsom, deceased for $150.00 sold to John Wallis of Pittsfield, yeoman, 100 acres in Gilmanton that my late husband left to me by his will. Dated 27 May 1802. Witnesses: Joseph C. Wallace and Comfort Wallace (her children).
Strafford County Deeds 120:415
Benjamin Wallis of Sandwich, husbandman for $95.00 to Maryan (sic) Wallace of Sandwich, wife of Thomas Wallace, spinster, 50 acres in Moultonborough, dated 1 January 1821.
So you can be a widow spinster or a married spinster.
Generally I think that unrecorded deeds are a canard some researchers use to spare themselves the agony that the records they need really no longer exist. A lawyer would say it was introducing facts not in evidence. However, unrecorded deeds did happen. The purpose of recording the deed was to make a public record of land ownership. However, as long as you had an actual deed to show someone, that was legally sufficient. If the deed got destroyed you were SOL.
However, you can see in the sketch of Samuel4 (William3) Wallis that there must have been an unrecorded deed, because we have the two deeds on either side of the missing one. On 17 December 1754 Thomas Bickford of Epsom, husbandman sold to Samuel Wallis of Barrington, husbandman, 60 acres in Epsom, it being lot #89 in the third range and 32 1/2 acres in lot 88. [Rockingham Co. Deeds 61:145] Then his son Nathaniel forty years later on 27 August 1792, as Nathaniel Wallis of Epsom, yeoman sold to Joseph March of Deerfield, a certain tract in Epsom, lot no. 88 in the third range and a lot containing 32 1/2 acres "land I purchased of my honored Father and the farm that I now live on." [Rockingham Co. Deeds 135:77]. The description of the land is exact. However, the intervening deed from Samuel to Nathaniel was never recorded.
When we hear the term spinster we think Miss Havisham: the older and unmarried woman. However, in colonial records spinster does not necessarily mean unmarried or never married. On 9 October 1762, William Wallis of Greenland, New Hampshire, yeoman for and in consideration "of the love and natural affection that I have and do bear towards my daughter Jane Moses of Epsom in said province, Spinster" have given and granted to her a certain parcel of land in Epsom containing 30 acres. William Wallis signs by mark and the deed is recorded on 2 March 1785. [Rockingham County Deeds 119:15].
Jane Moses was the Jane Wallis who married as his second wife, Mark Moses at Portsmouth on 12 March 1735/36. [Births, Marriages, and Deaths in Portsmouth, NH, NEHGR 25 (1871):122.] Mark Moses was alive at the time of this deed and died at Epsom on 2 February 1789 [Genealogical Dictionary of Me. and N.H., p. 496]. This is clearly a case where spinster means older woman. It was an anomaly for a woman to be given property in her own right and many deeds of this time period would actually have a father giving the land to the husband and daughter. Why William Wallis chose this method of conveyance is a mystery.
There's no denying this is who she is. She is called Jane Moses in the will of her father in 1772. [Rockingham County Probate #3944, Helen F. Evans, Abstracts of the Probate Records of Rockingham County, N.H. 1771-1799 (Batimore, Md.: Heritage Books, 2000) II:983.] She cannot be the Jane Moses Wallis baptized at Epsom on 1 January 1769 daughter of William, even as an adult, since Simeon Wallis is baptized at the same time, indicating they were both children [and of a different William].
The use of the appellation of senior and junior in colonial records merely refers to the elder and younger persons of the same name in the same town. Here’s a great example from Middlesex Court Records, Folio #53:
John Hayward senior aged about 30 yeares of age saith that about the latter end of summer last hee met with Philip Reade [splotch on document] and hee was drunke for he could not speake rationally . . .
John Hayward junior about 29 yeares of age saith the same above written being present with his cosen.
Taken upon oath this 13th day of Aprill 1670 by Daniel Gookin.