I have a growing number of wills connected to my family tree, some for people directly related to me and some from uncles, aunts and other family members. All can sometimes be an absolute goldmine of information and helpful when trying to prove that an ancestor is who you think they are.
For instance recently I have been researching the Woolven family of West Grinstead, who I have discovered connected to my Lander/Launder line. I found online a copy of a will written by Richard Woolven and proved in 1710 where he named every one of his children (helpful), the names of his daughters’ husbands and one of his witnesses had the surname which had been his mother’s maiden name, (could be a relative). All this information went along way to proving I had the correct death for this Richard.
A will I was sent for Richard Pilbeam of Ticehurst, Weaver, proved in 1653 mentions “I doe give unto my father my weaving and tooles” helpful because we now know what his occupation was.
The will of Richard Ledger who died in Orpington in 1821, and uncle to Mary Ledger who married Job Roffey in 1760, Horne in Surrey was very explicit about how he should be buried,
“It is my wish and desire to be buried in the Church Yard at Orpington in the County of Kent and to lay as near the Grave of my Father as can conveniently be I desire that my funeral may be as plain as possible and I wish to have a deep Oak Coffin pitched inside but not to be covered quite plain I desire to have a mattrass not less than three inches thick laid under me and the pillow under my head to come up high on both sides my head And it is my particular desire not to be screwed down until the eighth day after my death I also desire my Grave may be Bankt up a foot high and a flat black Stone to be laid on my Grave and on no account whatsoever to be moved for the burial of any other Corpse I also desire that the Grave Stone be not put down till one year after my death but it must be put down before any legacies are paid I also request my Nephew Mr Henry Wallis may stop to see my Grave filled up and also to be present at the putting down the Grave Stone”
Allsorts of thoughts went through my head when I read that one! Wills like this may not give us any particularly useful information but are brilliant for helping us to build a picture of what Richard was like when he was alive and just make fantastic reading!
All going to prove that wills are a useful addition to the documents to be searched as part of family history and should be searched carefully for the clues they can give about our ancestors and their lives.