Providing historical probate information for people from the Henley area

Revised Guidance and Procedure

Revised Guidance and Procedure for Henley Probate Project



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.



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.