Providing historical probate information for people from the Henley area

WordPress update to version 4.9.7

WordPress has been successfully updated to version 4.9.7.

The website environment has been changed to allow the use of SSL  to encrypt transmissions between the webserver and the user using the LetsEncrypt certification authority.

This website can be accessed by any user without providing any personal data. It is ludicrous for Google and Co. to claim that this website is unsafe. If you have any  concerns, precede the website address with “https://”. This will bring up the green padlock and Google and Co, will agree that this website is secure. Do be aware, however, that the https protocol will be slower, use more electricity, increase global warming and cost you time and money!

It is probably worse than the European Union’s “Cookie Policy” for waste of resources.

Do please forgive this mild rant from an 84-year-old with over 60 years experience of computers.

 

WordPress update to version 4.5.3

This update, done on the morning of 26/06/2016, shows some incompatibilities with our scripts or the Advanced Custom Fields plugin. The database seems intact and is, in any case, backed up. Just bear with me until I resolve the issues.

A frequent message states that the function get_currentuserinfo() is deprecated and should be replaced by wp_get_current_user(). This is of no consequence except that it appears in some pages and adds to the error log.

[update]Our scripts have been changed to use the recommended function and the problem is now resolved.

User Notes

Introduction

The aim of the Henley Probate Project has been to transcribe the C18th Wills of Henley residents including extraction of key data for uploading on to a newly created website.  The work was undertaken by a small group of volunteers and every effort has been made to ensure a consistent approach.  Copies of the Wills were sourced as described below.

The Wills have been transcribed replicating the text exactly as it appeared in the copy document, as provided by the relevant records office, without any attempt to modernise the language or correcting any errors in spellings or punctuation.

‘TNA’ reference – The Wills with this prefix and reference are copies of Wills proved at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury when the deceased’s property was in more than one diocese. Copies worked on for this project were taken from the digital copies of those in Register of Wills proved in the probate court in London.  The Wills were copied out by clerks from the originals which do not appear to have been retained.  Any surviving Henley wills are to be found in The National Archives in Kew, where there is access on microfiche to a few original wills.  Copyright in the copies held by The National Archives is Crown copyright and subject to terms and conditions of use.  For this reason copies of the wills cannot be scanned and included on this website. However, as regards the ‘TNA’ Wills, the transcriptions worked on as part of this Project were made from the copy of the Will produced by a clerk at that time.  It is possible therefore that some of the apparent ‘errors’ or discrepancies in names and spellings may either have been in the original Will itself or introduced during the copying process by a clerk at a later date.

‘ORO’ reference – The Wills with this prefix and reference are photocopies of the originals which were proved in Oxfordshire, when all the deceased’s property was in the diocese and are held by the Oxfordshire History Centre in Oxford.  The text of the ‘ORO’ Wills was transcribed by the group from photocopies of the original Wills. 

WILL SUMMARY content

 Headings – Name of Testator and occupation as described in Will. All the occupations have been grouped in those categories as listed in The Classification of Occupations in the 1881 Census of England and Wales (Matthew Woollard, University of Essex 1999) for ease of searching.  The categories should be treated with caution however, as the information was collected during the C19th and it is noted that there were problems at the time with the standardisation of occupation titles as well as their classification

Reference number and location refers to location of the copy Wills either The National Archives at Kew, Surrey “TNA”; or the Oxfordshire History Centre in Oxford “ORO”.

Individuals referred to in the Will other than the testator and legatees, such as witnesses, court officials, trustees, guardians etc.

Summaries of the bequests in modern language have been made to provide a quick overview of the bequests to indicate the nature of the bequest and legatee.  The full text of the bequest as it was written in the Will itself should be viewed since in some instances due to the complexity and manner of expression; the bequests have proved problematic to summarise.   

Transcript of the Will itself which follow the line numberings are as per the copy Will and include the transcript of any Codicil or other document such as affidavits or oaths. Whilst every effort has been made to transcribe the text of the copy wills in an accurate manner, due to the handwriting and poor quality of some of the copies, some of the text may have been misread or missing altogether.  Where text is missing or illegible this has been indicated in the text by a series of full stops or within square brackets indicating the issue.

Probate clauses – The probate clauses have not been transcribed but the information included in the clause has been captured i.e. date of signature of the Will; place of probate; year; executor. Any other relevant information has been captured elsewhere generally in the ‘Comments’.  Where the date of probate was not available from the Will, the year of signature of the Will has been included with a ‘?’ to assist researchers.

Names – Within the Wills themselves, the name of the testator/trix have been spelt in more than one way, often the person writing the Will or perhaps the Clerk copying out the Will recorded the name differently from the signature of the testator/trix. 

Any researchers should bear this in mind when attempting to locate a Will.

Whilst every effort has been taken to check the accuracy of the names of persons and places, due to the quality of the handwriting, it has not always been possible to ensure that the names have been accurately read and transcribed.  The same applies to place names where the original names as they appear in the Wills have been recorded. If during the deciphering of any names there was some uncertainty as to the accuracy of the name or spelling, this has been indicated with ‘?’ in the text.

Comments – Where appropriate the authors of the transcripts have included additional information or observations as well as cross referencing to other Wills to relatives of the testator for interest.

Custom taxonomies

Custom taxonomies are used to assign “terms” or “key data” to wills and individual bequests.

For wills two taxonomies are used:

  • Occupation: The occupation or status of the testator. More than one term can be assigned.
  • Location: The place of residence of the testator. This taxonomy is hierarchical so that the place of residence can be defined to an individual house as in Oxfordshire -> Henley upon Thames -> Duke Street -> Queens Arms.

For Bequests three taxonomies are available:

  • Bequest Type: More than one term can be assigned. Types include property, land, household goods, etc and also can be used to identify bequests that are made in trust or are codicils.
  • Location: Used only for property or land and shared with wills.
  • Names: Used to identify legatees and any other persons mentioned in the bequest.

When a will or bequest is displayed, the “terms” assigned are listed as links on the right side of the display. Clicking a link will retrieve a list of all wills and/or bequests that have been assigned that particular “term”. For example, if an occupation of “Malster” is assigned to a testator, clicking that term will retrieve a list of wills of all Malsters in the database. Similarly, if the location “New Street” is assigned to a bequest of property, clicking that term will retrieve a list of property in New Street bequeathed in other wills, with the possibility of following the ownership of property over time.

Revised Guidance and Procedure

Revised Guidance and Procedure for Henley Probate Project

Introduction

 

The purpose of this guidance is to ensure a consistent approach both between ourselves in the Henley probate group and with the Oxfordshire Probate Group who were also involved in transcribing Henley wills.  You will also find guidance on the process for extracting key data and uploading to the Henley probate website.

 

Transcribing of Wills

 

The aim is to reproduce the text as accurately as possible, maintaining the line layout of the original document.  Retain the original spelling, however idiosyncratic or inconsistent and original punctuation, if it exists, marginal headings, paragraphing and capital letters (however odd their distribution).  Nothing is to be added or omitted without acknowledgement.  Contractions should be indicated with square brackets round the missing letters – such as afores[ai]d, Exec[uto]r etc.   Similarly for names of witnesses/probate officials if obvious, e.g. Tho[mas] or Fr[ancis].

 

Do not add your own punctuation or correct the spelling.  Where the document has been copied from an original, the ‘scribe’ will have marked the start of a new line on the original document with a / or \ then include this punctuation.  Page breaks are not being indicated since these are not always obvious from the photocopies in our possession.

 

Any editorial alterations made by you as transcriber should be italicised within square brackets, e.g. [illegible] or [change of handwriting] or [missing words].   Similarly words that have been deleted should be indicated by using the ‘striking through’ button in the first line of the tool bar e.g. and.  For items damaged you should indicate this as italicised within square brackets, in the same manner, [damaged] [blot] [watermark] etc. with a note in the author’s comments e.g. right hand edge damaged by water/fire if appropriate.

 

Insertions and interlineations should be distinguished by including the inserted word within square brackets marked with the symbol ↑ such as [↑surviving].  This symbol can be accessed on the second row of the tool bar by accessing the symbol key.

 

If you have any doubts about a word or number, insert an italic question mark immediately in front of it (without a space) and within square brackets, thus [?]word.

 

Dates should be recorded as they appear in the text e.g. day/month/year i.e. 16 February 1734 but not 16th February 1734.  Before 1752, the year started on 25 March rather than 1 January, so for the period January to 24 March for the years prior to 25 March 1752 the year should be shown as both the old and new, hence a date in January, February or up to 24 March will be shown as 1745/6 or 1750/1.

 

Whilst we are transcribing the original will as the Testator signed it including the signature/witness clause we are not transcribing the probate clause or any additional text added at the time of the grant of probate or any time after signature.  The exception would be any update to the will such as an additional provision or codicil signed by the Testator which should be added.  Any other text added after the will was signed where there is any interesting detail can be recorded in the ‘Comments’ box when entering the will to the website.

 

Entering the will on the website

Access ‘Add New’ from the Wills heading in left hand margin of the site, and at the top enter the Testator’s first name and surname as it appears on the will followed by a space then | another space followed by the probate date, such as “Ann Ovetts | 19 December 1742”.  If there is no probate date, specify “No probate date”.  If only the year can be deduced from the will then you should enter ?1742.

 

In the right hand column of the screen, select the place associated with the Testator as stated in the first few lines of the will, selecting all those which are relevant such as both Oxfordshire and Henley. Any new Locations can be added to this list. Then scroll down to the box for the Occupation of the Testator to enter the appropriate number from the taxonomy.  A list of the current index of occupations in our list is at the end of this guidance; any additional occupations can be included on this list at any time.  Where there is only a status but no occupation stated, 414 representing this category should be selected, for example for a widow or gentleman.  Select 415 where there is neither occupation nor status stated.  Any new occupations can be added to this list.

 

The Transcript of the will should be entered in the Transcript section ensuring that the ‘preformatted option is shown before typing starts.  Once finished, read over and check the transcript against the original copy will to ensure no errors, omissions etc.

 

Then complete the sections below for the Testator’s first and last names together with occupation or status, which is the written words rather than the numbers i.e. Locksmith; Widow.

The ‘Place name’ – will be the place associated with the testator mentioned at the outset of the will.

‘Document reference’ – this is the number written at the top of the will;  for those Oxford wills the reference is ‘MS Wills Oxon’ followed by the longer number written on the will, such as ‘MS Wills Oxon 14/5/29 or for The National Archive wills the reference is ‘TNA PROB 11/395.

‘First Date’ – this is the usually the date of signature of the will.

‘Probate date’ – this is the date probate was granted to the executor/executrix which is usually at the very end of the will or on the back.

‘Probate court’ is the location where probate was granted as stated in the probate clause, if any.  If there is no probate date or court, you should state “None stated” in these boxes.

 

The Comments section can be used as referenced above; ensure the ‘Paragraph’ heading in the box has been pre-selected.

 

The will transcript and other entries should be saved/pending on the website when completed, they can be updated at any time and when checked the will be shown as published.

 

Before proceeding further, access the ‘View Will’ part of the top black bar to find the unique ID number of the will allocated by the system so this can be used for the rest of the Bequests and Other data to be extracted from the will for the website.

 

Entering Will Bequests

 

You will need a separate page for each bequest as each legatee/beneficiary’s details have to be added for each bequest but you can cut and paste from the transcript to save time before summarising and modernising the language of the bequest without losing the meaning.

 

Select ‘Add New’ from the Bequests heading in the left hand margin.

Under ‘Enter Title’ heading add the Testator name followed by ‘to’ then the legatee’s name followed by a space then | another space then the bequest, such as ‘Ten pounds’; ‘Household goods’; ‘Property at Northfield End’ or similar.   So the title will show the names of the testator, legatee and the bequest title, such as:

 

John Smith to Elizabeth Smith | Ten Pounds

Sarah Marshall to Christopher Sayer | Household Goods

William Pratt to Edmund Simmons | Two Cottages at Northfield End

 

The ‘Will ID’ needs to be entered from the ‘View Will’ section of the Wills page.

In the Text box, the setting should be set at “Paragraph” before entering the bequest summary. As the full transcript of the Will has already been entered, it is intended that the bequest is a modern summary of the original wording wherever possible.

 

Such as “To my daughter Mary five pounds to be paid within one month of my death”;

“My property in Bell Street to my son Christopher for the term of his natural life and upon his death to my brother William Harkford.”  You do not need to adhere to the original spelling/language.

 

The tag box headed Types on the right hand side of the screen needs to be completed as regards the type of bequest, by clicking on the relevant word.  For any bequest involving property the tag for Location of the property needs to be clicked on for the relevant place name, such as Oxfordshire; Henley and Bell Street if the bequest involved a property in Bell Street.

 

In the tag for Names section on the right hand side of the screen type in the name of the legatee as well as any other persons referred to in the bequest, such as adjoining owners, and then click on the button ‘Add Name’.

 

The sections below require completion for the full name of the Legatee in the Legatee box and their relationship to the Testator needs to be added, or if none then “None” should be selected.

 

Under the section headed ‘Bequest’ although this is no longer required it has been retained for now so a brief indication of the bequest should be included in here, such as ‘ten pounds’ or ‘household goods’.

 

Again, once you have completed this screen you can choose to publish it or save as draft and complete later.

 

Will Others

 

This section relates to other individuals referred to in the will who are not legatees, and generally comprise the executors/executrix; witnesses to the testator’s signature and probate/court officials.

Select ‘Add New’ from the ‘Executors, witnesses and Others’ heading in the left hand margin and insert the person’s name in the top of the ‘Add New Other’ screen under ‘Enter Title Here’.  The ‘Will ID’ needs to be entered where indicated.  In the following boxes the name of the same person’s ‘First’ and ‘Last’ names, with their role from the drop down box.  If there is any additional information you wish to add relating to these individuals then this can be included in the ‘additional text’ section.  Remember to save the entry.

 

Once the Others has been completed for that individual witness etc., then you can proceed to enter the other individuals involved with the will in the same way until you have recorded all the persons mentioned in the will, other than the testator and legatees.

 

Once you have completed the above steps you should have entered all data from the will as well as a full transcript.  The final format can be viewed as mentioned above by accessing the ‘View Will’ to check all information has been entered.  You can update the data and transcript at any time if you find some of the words that were previously impossible to decipher in the will become legible after further work.

 

Occupations:

065        Servant

089        Bargeman

100        Farmer, Grazier, Yeoman

103        Agricultural Labourer, Cottager

109        Others engaged in, or connected with agriculture

110       Woodman, agricultural

115        Veterinary Surgeon, Farrier

168        Carpenter, Joiner

169        Bricklayer

175        Painter, Glazier

180        Locksmith, Bellhanger

214        Innkeeper, Hotel keeper, publican

218        Maltster

225        Butcher, Meat Salesman

229        Corn, Flour, Seed Merchant, Dealer

231        Baker

236        Grocer. Tea, Coffee, Chocolate Maker, Dealer

238        Others dealing in Food

269        Weaver

282        Tailor

290        Shoe, Boot-Maker, Dealer

292         Wig maker, Hairdresser, Barber

321        Timber, Wood-Merchant, Dealer

322        Sawyer

325        Cooper, Hoop Maker, Bender

377        Blacksmith

393        Wiremaker

399        General shopkeeper, dealer

404        General labourer (unspecified)

414        Status only, widow, gentleman, inndweller; no stated occupation

415        Not stated

500        Inn holder

 

Also barber, mealman and yeoman included but with no reference number allocated.

 

Guidance for Transcribing Wills

Introduction

The purpose of this guidance is to ensure a consistent approach both between ourselves in the Henley probate group and with the Oxfordshire Probate Group who are also involved in transcribing Henley wills.  Once you have transcribed the document using these guidelines, then you can proceed to upload the transcript and key information to the website. These documents have been source from either the Oxfordshire Records Office (ORO) or The National Archives (TNA).

 

Language, Spelling, Format and illegible provisions

The aim is to reproduce the text as accurately as possible, maintaining the line layout of the original document.  To retain the line breaks to mirror the original lines of the will, you need to access the second tool bar row by pressing the rightmost button on the single row.  On the left hand button of the second row, there is a dropdown box, select the preformatted option.  Start typing and press enter at end of each line to ensure lines of will are preserved.   If there is more than one page to the will, you can indicate page breaks; see the Revised Guidance in the Posts of the website. Within the Transcript area, at the bottom right hand corner of this panel there is a triangular pattern.  If you click on this and drag the corner it will expand the entry area.

 

Retain the original spelling, however idiosyncratic or inconsistent.  Also retain the original punctuation, if it exists, marginal headings, paragraphing and capital letters (however odd their distribution).  Nothing is to be added or omitted without acknowledgement.  Contractions should be indicated with square brackets round the missing letters – such as afors[ai]d, Exec[uto]r etc.

 

Do not add your own punctuation or correct the spelling.  Where the document has been copied from an original, the ‘scribe’ will have marked the start of a new line on the original document with a / or \ then include this punctuation.

 

Any editorial alterations made by you as transcriber should be italicised within square brackets, e.g. [illegible] or [change of handwriting] or [missing words].   Similarly deletions should be noted and transcribed by using the ‘striking through’ button in the single tool bar.  For items damaged you should indicate this as italicised within square brackets, in the same manner, [damaged] [blot] [watermark] etc. with a note in the author’s notes e.g. right hand edge damaged by water/fire if appropriate.

 

Insertions and interlineations should be distinguished by including the inserted word within square brackets marked with the symbol ↑ such as [↑surviving].  This symbol can be accessed on the second row of the tool bar by accessing the symbol key.

 

If you have any doubts about a word or number, insert an italic question mark immediately in front of it (without a space) and within square brackets, thus [?]word.

 

Dates should be recorded as they appear in the text e.g. day/month/year i.e. 16 February 1734 but not 16th February 1734.   Numbers should be given as in original (whether Roman, Arabic, or a mixture of the two).  If necessary, insert modern number in square brackets.

 

We are not intending to transcribe either the signature/witness clause and probate clause at the end of the will since the relevant content of these clauses will have been included within the extracted data.  However any other wording on the will, added later, such as a codicil or other should be transcribed.

 

The will transcript and other entries should be published on the website when completed, they can be updated at any time and when checked this can be indicated in the appropriate box.

Browsers

The Henley Probate website is being developed using the latest HTML5 and CSS3 standards, It will appear as intended in all recent versions of most browsers including Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer(version IE9 and subsequent only), Opera and Safari. and the appearance is checked occasionally using these browsers. It is suggested that you keep your preferred browser up to date. Older versions will probably not display the pages as intended. Also, javascript and cookies should be allowed using browser options.

Users of Windows XP are unable to upgrade to IE9 and it is suggested that users of XP download and use Firefox, using this link:

http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/update

or another modern browser.

It is not necessary to enter the full name of the website in the address bar each time. When you are in a page that you use often, register it as a favourite or whatever term your browser uses; in Firefox click on the star at the right end of the address bar. You will then find that if you enter the letters “pro” in the address bar you will see a list of pages from which you can select the page you need with a single click.

Browsers have built-in search facilities which enable a user to find text within a page. When using the custom taxonomies, a substantial number of wills might be returned and the browser search facility will help to locate those that are most relevant. The procedure varies across browsers, but locate the find facility and enter the text to be searched for. It will then be possible to step from one will to the next containing the entered text.