Providing historical probate information for people from the Henley area

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.

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.