Why Are Wills such A Valuable Resource?
While some more recent wills after the mid 19thC can seem rather bogged-down with legal verbiage, in earlier periods they tend to be more direct in what they say and can be very illuminating about family relationships. This is an important consideration, for relationships are more difficult to research in the years before the Victorian censuses and civil registration records.
Below you will find some extracts from wills I have studied. These have been chosen to show just how helpful wills can be and how they can provide information which may be impossible to find from any other source. Additionally some of the detail given helps our ancestors to come alive for us and make them so much more than just a name and a date on a chart.
Extract from the will of Philip CROKER of the City of Gloucester gent.
Proved in the PCC 8 Jan. 1634/5:
…I give and bequeath unto Edward Croker and Robert Croker and Thomas Croker sons of my brother Richard Croker deceased the sum of ten pounds apiece of lawful money of England to be paid to them within one year next after the decease or marriage of Anne my now wife……..I give and bequeath unto my cousin Peter Ingram son of Robert Ingram of Budocke in Cornwall the sum of ten pounds….
Extract from the will of John DODYNG, mariner, burgess of Bristol, dated 22 March 1379.
Proved at Bristol 16 April 1386:
In the name of God, amen. I John Dodyng mariner burgess of the town of Bristol in my sound mind … make my testament in this way. First I commend my soul to God almighty and my body to be buried in the church of St. Laurence in the aforesaid town. Item I leave to the works of the aforesaid church 40 pence. Item I leave to sir Thomas rector of the said church for tithes forgotten 6 shillings 8 pence. Item I leave to each priest celebrating divine office in the same church 6 pence and to each clerk serving the same 4 pence. Item I appoint and will that my exequies be performed according to the instructions of my executors. Item I leave to Elizabeth my wife my shop with appurtenances situate in the suburbs of the same town in Horsestreet which one shop I purchased from the Commonalty of Bristol…
Extract from the will of Thomas WHITTINGTON gent of Leominster, Herefordshire.
Proved in the PCC 17 March 1749/50:
…to nephew Isaac Whittington of Orford House near Stanton Mount Fitchett, Essex, esquire, all that my messuage or tenement wherein I now inhabit and dwell situate in the Burgess Street in Leominster with the stable, hayhouse and backside thereto adjoining with my barn stable fold and garden on the south side of Burgess Street occupied therewith, to him and his heirs for ever…
Extract from the will of William GYBBES of the parish of Christchurch in the City of Bristol, brewer, dated 17 March 1602/3,
proved at Bristol:
…to be buried in Saint Thomas churchyard as near as may be to my father’s grave there…I give and bequeath to my daughter Margery Fluellen twenty pounds of lawfully money to be paid unto her by the discretion of my executor from time to time as her need shall be and to her three children which she had by her former husband ten pounds apiece…
Extract from the will of Stephen TURNER of the City of Bristol, weaver.
Proved in the PCC 29 June 1658:
…I do give and bequeath unto my son Henry Turner the particulars following viz: two fine tablecloths, six fringed napkins, two fine towels, one fine pillowcase, three canvas sheets, one flax bolster-case, three ordinary napkins, one tick flock-bed, my worst feather bolster…my bigger brass kettle, one of my biggest pewter candlesticks, two pewter pottage dishes, my lesser pewter flagon…a silver beer bowl, my broad loom with a warping bar and frame and the tackling belonging to them…and twenty pounds in money…
Extract from the will of Thomas GAMAGE of the City of Bristol, saddler proved in the PCC proved in the PCC 25 February 1677/8:
…And I do nominate my father-in-law John Lovell to be overseer of this my will desiring him to be assistant to my executrix in the performance hereof. In witness whereof I have hereunto put my hand and seal this fifth day of December in the nine and twentieth year of the reign of our Lord Charles the Second by the grace of God King of England…
Extract from the will of Sarah LOVELL of the City of Bristol widow, dated 17 November 1702, proved at Bristol:
…I give unto my daughter Betty Lovell one hundred pounds in money with all my linen, silver plate, household goods, rings and apparel except what I have hereinafter given to others…Item I give to Richard Champion of the said City of Bristol, soapmaker, a walking cane with a silver head on it now in my house as a token of my love….
Extract from the will of Rose LARDGE widow of the parish of St. Mark upon St. Augustine’s Green in the City of Bristol, dated 5 March 1609/1610, proved in the PCC 8 November 1610:
…to be buried by my husband in the chancel at Westbury…I do nominate and appoint my good friends Nicholas Veale gent and my brother Richard Cooke gent and my brother in law Adam Blandye to be my overseers to this my present testament and I give unto each of them a French crown as a token of my good will…A note of the several debts due and owing to me the said Rose Lardge for which I have no speciality to shew. First there is owing unto me by Thomas Jefferyes one of the singing men of the Cathedral Church of Bristol for which I have a bill of his hand to shew but no witness thereunto three pounds…more by Mistress Haynes of Shirehampton for which I have a pistol or “dagge” in pawn ten shillings.
Extract from the will of John WHITTINGTON the elder of Ivythorn, Somerset, proved in the PCC 9 October 1677:
…but my will is that none of the goods hereby bequeathed to my said daughter Arundell shall be delivered unto her or her said husband until her husband Edmund Arundell shall give a bond to the rest of my overseers hereunder appointed for his leaving of the same goods in kind (reasonable wearing excepted) unto my said daughter after his decease if she shall outlive him…Item I give to my servant John Hill a college cup, a silver dish and my little [w]riggled [=twisted design?] cup and a silver spoon and another little silver college cup to drink wine. Item I give to the said John Hill one hundred pounds over and besides forty pounds which I owe him, the same to be paid out of my farm and manor of Ivythorn and manor of Street and Clifton…
Extract from the will of Thomas GWILLIAM malster of Westbury-on-Trym, Gloucestershire, dated 25 September 1797, proved at Bristol 21 May 1806.
…my will is that there be no more expended on my funeral than £3 which is allowed by the Club at Westbury of which I am a member and that there be no hatbands and gloves worn for me by either or any of my children or grandchildren at my funeral or otherwise. I give to my grand daughter Ann Hughes…£10 paid by the Club held at Westbury…which said £10 I desire to be paid to my son John Gwilliam and to remain in his hands for him to lay out the same in clothes for her…from time to time [as] occasion may require according to his discretion…
Extract from the will of Whittington ROOKE of the City of Bristol, gentleman, proved at Bristol 15 November 1750:
…Also I give unto my said mother all my plate, linen, china, earthenware, pewter, brass and brewing utensils and also the furniture of the great parlour and parlour chamber, the Red or Green Room and of my own room called The Blue Room in my capital house at Iveythorne, to her own use and disposal…
The Nuncupative [spoken] will of Agnes MASONE widow of Thomas MASONE baker of Bristol, dated 23 December 1599, administration granted at Bristol 27 December 1599:
Being willed to make her will she answered “they say I have nothing” then she being told that her husband made her full executrix and that all was hers to dispose at her will, saying “who shall be your executor” she the foresaid Annes Mason straight [a]way put her hand forth and took her cousin Ann Clovyll by the hand and said “Ann” and therewithal held her fast in presence of Humphrey Clovyll, Thomas Taylor, Richard Calde and her keeper and Chrytie Cowarde. [Thomas’s will had been proved 20 October 1599, also at Bristol.]
Extract from the will of the Reverend John WHITTINGTON, clerk, proved in the PCC 1 August 1842:
I John Whittington Rector of the Parish and Parish Church of Cold Aston in the diocese & County of Gloucester mindful of my mortality do…declare this to be my last will & Testament in manner following First then commending my soul to God I desire to have my body buried in the Vault which was prepared in Coal Aston Churchyard in the year 1835 and I direct on this head that my funeral be very private & that no unnecessary expences be incurred with the undertakers their sham mourning I detest… [This will was dated 26 January 1837; the testator’s only son to survive infancy had died childless aged 36 on 11 January 1837 “in the 37th year of his age” (monumental inscription at Cold Ashton).]
Extract from the will of Mary JARRETT of the parish of Temple otherwise Holy Cross in the City of Bristol Spinster, proved at Bristol 26 March 1760:
…I Give and Bequeath unto Joseph son of John Greenaway of Warmley in the parish of Bitton in the County of Gloucestershire Horsedriver the Sum of Ten Pounds of lawful Money of Great Britain Also I Give and Bequeath unto Catherine Penny, Susannah Penny and Elizabeth Penny Daughters of Phillip Penny of the Parish of Saint James in the City of Bristol Cordwainer the Sum of Ten Pounds each of like lawful Money…
Extract from the will of Elizabeth PEPWELL of the City of Bristol, widow, proved in the PCC 24 July 1591; this text has been taken from the copy preserved in Bristol’s Great Orphan Book of Wills:
…I give to my son Timothy Pepwell four hundred pounds of currant money of England for the payment whereof I do appoint the two hundred pounds now remaining in the hands of Mr. Reade and fifty pounds now remaining in the hands of Mr. Osborne of Maxfeild [Marshfield, Gloucestershire] And the other hundred pounds now remaining in my son Langley’s hands. And which said four hundred pounds I do appoint to be delivered to my son Mr. Langley for the use of the said Timothy to be by him put forth for the most benefit & profit of the said Timothy, the increase and profit whereof to be paid yearly to the said Timothy for the maintenance of him, his wife and children…
Extract from the will of Richard JAYNE the elder of the City of Bristol, cooper, proved at Bristol 9 December 1643:
…Item I give and bequeath unto my daughter Margery Jayne the sum of fifteen pounds of lawful money of England, one gold ring which was her own mother’s wedding ring and a stammel coloured petticoat the which was her said own mother’s, to be paid and delivered unto her within three months next after my decease, by my said executrix hereafter named… [Stammel was the shade of red in which a type of coarse woollen cloth called stammel was commonly dyed.]
Extract from the will of Stephen HIETT yeoman of Westbury-on-Trym, Gloucestershire, proved at Bristol 16 January 1618/19:
…and I do appoint my loving friends Francis Browne, gent., John Walter and William Dymock yeomen to be overseers of this my last will and testament, and my will is that my overseers shall have the custody of my leases and keep them in a chest under three locks whereunto every of them shall have one key…
Extract from the will of Katherine RUTLAND widow of Henbury, Gloucestershire, proved at Bristol, dated 25 March 1684:
…all these my lands and tenements in the tithing of Charlton in the said county of Gloucester and all other my lands and tenements whatsoever or wheresoever which I hold in fee, unto Sarah, Elizabeth, Hannah and …Katherine and Felicia Wasborow five of the daughters of my sister Sarah Wasborow deceased and to their heirs and assigns forever….Whereas I paid a debt of £80 for my brother Mr. Thomas Wasborow deceased I do hereby declare that my will and meaning is that the payment of the same debt shall redound to the equal benefit of my five nieces his five surviving daughters Sarah, Elizabeth, Hannah, Katherine and Felicia Wasborow…
Extract from the will of Edward CREED of Shirehampton, Gloucestershire, clerk, proved at Bristol, dated 4 December 1647:
…well knowing that all men shall once die forasmuch as all have sinned and being now well stricken in years yet in good health, I thank my God…I give and bequeath to Raphael, my disobedient son, 12d in money and I pray God to open his eyes that he may see his own errors and may repent & amend his lewd life, in time…Item I give to my son William Creed 2s 6d in money & also my book of Mr. Tindall’s works…in witness whereof I have written this my last will with mine owne hand…
How to obtain copies of the above wills:
Wills which were proved at Bristol are held at Bristol Record Office. Copies can be purchased, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Wills proved in the P.C.C. [Prerogative Court of Canterbury] can be downloaded for a fee from the following website: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk in their Documents Online section.