The Henley Probate Project
At a meeting on 17th April 2007 at the Christchurch Centre, Dr Simon Townley of Victoria County History, Oxforshire, provided information about a VCH project with the aim of producing VCH Volume 16 for Henley-on-Thames. Attendees were invited to participate in gathering information for the project team. Two groups were set up to collect and transcribe:
- Probate documents, mainly wills
- Census returns
These two groups were able to provide the project team with useful information supporting the production in October 2009 of a paperback: Henley-on-Thames: Town, Trade and River, and in July 2011 the "Red Book": Oxfordshire XVI - Henley-on-Thames and Environs.
By the time the VCH team moved on to their next project, neither local group had completed the transcription of all the available documents. A reduced census group decided to continue and completed the transcription of the census returns for Henley and the eastern district of Rotherfield Greys for 1841 - 1901. Subsequently the data for 1911 was added. This data is now available at www.henleycensus.info in a readily searchable form.
The group working on probate documents moved on to support the next VCH project, leaving over 400 available documents to be transcribed. The transcripts prepared by the group are available in document form at the Oxfordshire History Centre. The transcripts were initially also made available in PDF form on an EPE website. The transcripts are no longer available on that website and are supposedly now available on the VCH explore website. At the time of writing this link stated that "An introduction to the Henley wills and inventories soon to be available on this website and many years later there has been no change.
The Henley-on-Thames Archaeological and Historical Group set up a new group to transcribe and extract key data initially from the otstanding documents, mostly over 400 C18th wills, but including some bonds and other documents relating to individuals who resided in the general Henley-on-Thames area. The aim was to store the transcript and key data in digital form in a database that can readily be searched over the internet to the level of individual bequests and display the information for the item(s) found.
We believe that this aim has been achieved and trust that family and social historians with an interest in the Henley area will find this website an asset in their studies.
The Group did decide that the transcripts prepared by the previous group should be made available on this website to provide easy access to all probate documents relating to residents of Henley and the surrounding area. A feasibility study showed that the transcripts could be added without re-keying but without the necessary support from members no further progress has been made.