My Ancestors and The Great Western Railway

I believe myself lucky to have ancestors that hail from very different backgrounds as it makes my research all the more interesting.

On the one hand I have the ubiquitous Ag Labs, some small business men, dressmakers, mariners, landed gentry,  the odd Victorian Army officers of various ranks and if I go back far enough down one branch, Scots Aristocrats who trace their lineage back to Normandy.

Looking at the records of The Great Western Railway, sometimes affectionately refereed to as “God’s Wonderful Railway”, I find that one of my great-great grandfathers was an employee of the company at the end of its Dartmouth link. Henry Thomas Thorne was the Captain of the paddle steam ferry that ran across the Dart from Kingswear, serving the GWR and its predecessor companies for more than 40 years. In today’s world of  job uncertainty this seems like a very long time!

Captain Henry Thomas Thorne on the GWR Dolphin, Dartmouth, Devon.
Captain Henry Thomas Thorne on the GWR Dolphin, Dartmouth, Devon.

I found him in the Ancestry.co.uk records for UK Railway Employment earning 5 shillings and tuppence in 1897 up from 4/8d in previous years.

In my maternal branch I have discovered one of my other great-great grandfather’s in the list of shareholders of the GWR at findmypast.co.uk as one of the owner’s of the gilt-edged stock.

The Society of Genealogists produced its GWR Shareholders Index from ledgers created by the Great Western Railway and now in the Society’s possession. The Great Western Railway’s original ledgers were compiled by the company for transactions relating to all shareholdings which changed hands other than by simple sale.

The GWR called the ledgers Probate Books, which reflects the fact that the great majority of such share transfers (approximately 95%) were as a result of the death of a shareholder and their shares changing hands during the administration of the deceased’s estate. The proportion of the GWR’s total number of shareholders included in the Society of Genealogists’ GWR Shareholders Index is not known but is estimated to be between 50% and 75%; this is because the railway shares were regarded as gilt-edged stock to be held for the long term. Source:Find My Past

To search the records of shareholders you have to either belong to the Society of Genealogists or they can be viewed at Find My Past website where you can get a 14 day free trial!

 

Click  below for a 14 day free trial..

Disclosure: The Link above is a Compensated Affiliate link. If you click on it then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk should you sign up for one of their subscriptions.

 

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Ancestors not on the database?

A problem that you may have encountered is one where your ancestors do not appear in the online data bases that you are searching through. I have had this problem with several forebears and when this happens I usually decide to look for the missing person in various alternative offline records.

If you too are experiencing the pain, of not finding an ancestor, then have you thought of looking at the original records at a county record office, or at some other repository? True, you may have a long and uphill task, as you methodically work your way back through the images, year by year, but this is how I came across one of my “lost” ancestors recently.

For one reason or another the transcript, which the search engine facility on the subscription site used to throw up likely records for me to consider, had recorded my ancestor’s name incorrectly. Only by browsing a microfiche, in the archive, did I find the person that I had been previously searching for without any luck.

In another and quite unrelated search, I found a transcript of burials to be a godsend to me. It had been created by the Devon Family History Society and I had found that they offered both printed booklets, and downloadable pdf versions, of parish burials for the area that I was interested in.

As I was too impatient to wait for the physical booklet to arrive in the post I opted for the download of the pdf from their website. Now this gave me an advantage. In addition to being instantly able to see my purchase, I was also able to use the really useful search facility that is built into a pdf document reader. By selecting from the tool bar: “Edit” and then on the drop-down menu: “Find”, I could look for a specific word.

I chose to search for my ancestor’s surname and when I couldn’t find him listed, because his family name had been spelled in a strange way by the clerk or vicar  (see the previous post on that subject on this blog), I then tried his first name.

After searching and rejecting many men called “James”, who had been listed in the booklet, I finally hit upon one in this list that seemed to fit the bill. His age matched my ancestor and the surname was indeed a novel interpretation of  the last name that I was looking for. Thus, in my family history quest to fill out my family tree I have encountered both a time when a transcript has helped me find an ancestor and a time when a transcript has hindered!

 

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Family Tree Questions Answered from a Visit to Ancestor’s Home Town

The Mouth of the DartI am still fresh from a visit to my ancestor’s home town and although I have been there before, I have still come back with some more answers to add to the story of my forebears.

It is all very well to sit at one’s computer and look at the census documents online or to pour over maps of the area, but there is often more to be gained by taking a look at the physical location where our ancestors lived, worked and played.

Many of my readers will know that my paternal line is from Dartmouth in Devon and I have a 2x great-grandfather that spent 40 years of his working life on the river Dart as the steersman and then Captain of the railway ferry that crosses from Kingswear to Dartmouth.  Today it is the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company that runs the heritage railway from Paignton to Kingswear, but in my great-great-grandfather’s time it was the South Devon Railway Company from 1866 until it amalgamated with the Great Western Railway in 1876.

I decided that this time I’d arrive by train and then cross the river on the modern equivalent of my 2 x great-grandfather’s ferry. Not exactly walking in his footsteps but traveling in his wake, perhaps? With me I had the print outs of the various census data, a map and also some of the birth, death and marriage certificates. My aim was not only to see the roads, where they lived, but also to find the houses they occupied and to visit the churches where they married, baptised their children and were buried. I have come back with many photographs to flesh out the family history story and have touched the ancient font in which some would have been christened.

Consulting with my copy of the 1901 census, I set off for the road where he had lived. There were many houses on that street and I did not know which was the one that he had occupied in that year.

Many people make the mistake of reading the first column of the census as being the house number, when it is actually the schedule number. It is in the next column that the name or number of the house is written but in some cases, including for my Dartmouth family, the enumerator did not give numbers to the various houses in the street. I have a census page in which only the name of the street is written and then duplicated for each separate household without any means of telling which building they occupied.

For 2 x great-grandfather Henry Thorne the census gave me the name of a road which climbs up the hill from the town, but no number. His last will gave me the name of a road, that runs parallel to the one named in the census but again with no number! His Death Certificate gave the name of a house, but no street and so I was flummoxed as to where exactly he had lived until, on my recent visit, I walked the length of the road.

As luck would have it, in a development of Victorian terraced houses, with bay windows looking out over the road named in the will – but in a walk way continuing up from the road named in the census – I found a likely house. Letters painted in the window light above its front door matched the name on the death certificate. It is almost certainly his house and so I took my photograph and went in search of where his parents’ (my 3x great-grandparents) lived down in the town.

Dartmouth Family Tree Researcher finds Ancestor's houseIt is not always possible to visit the home town of one’s ancestors, as I have been fortunate enough to do and so the next best thing is to use the technology that Google Maps provides us with in its very useful Street View facility. With this service you can walk the roads in virtual cyberspace looking from left to right and up and down by using the navigation control on the left top of the window.

 

Has anyone got similar stories? Leave a comment below.

 

 

Take your family history further by considering a subscription to these websites:

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online



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What Did Your Ancestors Do?

When we consciously decide to do Family history, as opposed to Genealogy, we set out to flesh out our ancestors lives a bit. We do this by seeking to understand what they did for a living, what the environment in which they lived and worked in was like and the social conditions that prevailed on them at the time.

My Devon ancestors are a mixture of Agricultural Labourers, Mariners, Small Businessmen and the like. Their work is very often dictated by where they lived. The countryside dwellers in and around Bigbury and South Huish worked on the land. Those that inhabited Dartmouth made a living on the river and at sea while those from Plymouth ran shops and small businesses. Not surprisingly none of them were coal miners or textile mill workers.

At the Society of Genealogists (SoG), in London, there is a good amount of material to help family historians research ancestors occupations and much of it is to be found in the Upper library at 14 Charterhouse Buildings. Although not all the material is exclusively on that floor, it is a good place to start as Else Churchill, the Genealogist at The Society of Genealogists pointed out in a talk I attended there last year.

With the “Ag Labs”, as we have come to call our Agricultural Labourers after the 1841 census introduced this shorthand way of describing them, there is a book that can be purchased from the SoG shop called My Ancestor Was an An Agricultural Labourer which explains what their lives were like and points the reader towards some source material that could be used apart from the census data.

Returning to the question in the headline of this article: What Did Your Ancestors Do? Finding the answer to this question will probably depend on what status they were and what and when they carried out their trade, profession or calling.

As some professions and crafts became more regulated then lists of those qualified to make a living from the activity will have thrown up records. Family historians can have recourse to Trade Directories, Apprenticeship lists and so on to try and find their forebears. Professional men, such as Medical men and Lawyers are going to be better documented than others. The SoG have extremely good runs of lists for these professions as well as those, such as Chemists and Apothecaries, who modelled their professional standards on the former class of practitioners, with the sanction of being struck off from the register to practice.

The Law list’s at the SoG include Barristers, London Attorneys and Provincial Attorneys back into the eighteenth century. The medical directories only really start in the 1850’s with the formal registration of these professions but I did find in their catalogue A directory of English country physicians 1603-43.

Men who were Officers in the Army or Navy can be found in the run of military lists on the upper library floor along with a great collection of Regimental Histories and Medal Rolls.

Some enlisted men can be located by using the Findmypast Chelsea Pensioner 1760 to 1913 data set and the Militia Service Records 1806-1915. Look in the county record office for the Ballot Lists of those men eligible to serve in the local militia from the 1750’s to Napoleonic times (1799 to 1815).

What if your ancestor went into trade by serving an apprenticeship? Else Churchill, explained that apprenticeship records are better documented before 1800 than after. A tax levied in the 18th century caused records to be kept and they are to be found today at the National Archives IR1 series and they are indexed by the SoG and can be found in books in the upper library. Another database is on Ancestry. The SoG has another excellent book called My Ancestor was an Apprentice which may help.

If your ancestors served an apprenticeship in one of the larger towns, or boroughs, in order to become a freeman and gain the entitlement to vote, then look for the records for the town/borough at the county record office. Ms Churchill pointed out that the more likely scenario would be that your ancestor would have served their apprenticeship within a family and there would be no record as the tax was not applicable within a family apprenticeship.

A possible record that may be found is where a child is apprenticed by the parish to make them less of a burden on the parish. Typically the age of the apprentice is much younger (7 or 8yrs old) and husbandry or housewifery. If the records survive they will be in the Parish Chest material.

This is only a short look at this subject and I will return to it in a further article here.

Take your family history further by considering a subscription to these websites:

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online



Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk or The Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

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Family Tree Brick Wall Solved By British Newspaper Archive

British Newspaper ArchiveI have happily been spending some time looking around the newly launched British Newspaper Archive in the hope of finding ancestors from my family tree mentioned in articles or advertisements.

I can report that I have had some brilliant luck with some and no luck at all with others. I also have noticed that you have to deploy a lateral thought process to the search for a name mentioned in an article as an ancestor may have been named in full, or with initials or been misspelt by the journalist writing the piece.

Many results are clear and you can decide to save them by bookmarking them on the site. Some selections are, however, not so clear. The tip I would give you is to try and read the snippets, next to the results, with an open mind. On quite a few occasions my brain could make sense of the Gobbledygook that the optical character recognition OCR reports back for that article and recognised family names or places that otherwise would be disregarded as meaningless characters.

For example: 

At Cuttlehill Farm, Cross?ates. wit I I 12th ir.st., Helen Carmichael, wire of Jo»B| I jL C. Foord...

becomes: At Cuttlehill Farm, Crossgates. On the 12th instance, Helen Carmichael, wife of John I L C Foord

And now on to my discovery. I have, for some time, known of a 2x great-uncle that had been killed from a fall over the cliffs in Alderney and buried back on the English mainland near Weymouth. I had first come across this fact in a privately published book on the monumental inscriptions of a church in Cheltenham. In Christ Church Cheltenham there is a monument on the wall to his parents and at some time a local historian had written not only about the people commemorated by these plaques but also about their family.

As I am resident in Jersey I was intrigued to find that there was a family connection to the more northerly Channel Island and yet I had found nothing to explain how one of my ancestors had met his demise there. A few minutes on The British Newspaper Archive has solved this for me and I am now investigating this further.

To take a look at this great new resource for family historians go to:

http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

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Fantastic Society of Genealogist Course!

Society of GenealogistsI’ve been to London this weekend and, on Saturday, I attended a great course at the Society of Genealogists on My Ancestor Came From Devon given by the society’s Genealogist Else Churchill.

Over the afternoon we were introduced to what we would be able to find in the library at the SoG in Charterhouse Buildings and where to look on the internet for Devon sources.

The talk encompassed sources for beginners to beyond and if you can’t make it down to Devon itself and find getting to London easier, then what is available at the SoG really is a good alternative for anyone who, like me, have Devonian ancestors.

I shall be returning to this lecture in a future post, but today I’d just like to mention some of the resources that were highlighted by Else Churchill.

The Society of Genealogists has registers for about 10,000 parishes. It houses published indexes and finding aids including the Devon FHS publications and also has many transcripts and indexes in microfilm and CDs.  There are various trade directories spanning from 1783 to the 1930s in the library and poll books particularly from Exeter and Plymouth.

Many of us subscribe to one or other of the subscription sites, but very few of us can afford to belong to more than one or two. Well that is where a visit to the SoG  can be useful as they have free access to a number of the pay per view websites so allowing us to do searches on the sites that we don’t subscribe to ourselves. This is an important resource for the family historian, as often the way the database has been transcribed can have a bearing on what you are able to find on one over another. So if you have hit a brick wall and can’t find a forbear on one site then it is worth looking on another. Also one may be stronger for the counties that you are interested in. Findmypast turns out to be particularly good for Devon.

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Tracing my Great-Grandfather in Trade Directories

Directories1869 at TheGenealogist.co.uk

I’ve used trade directories before, when I was tracing my tradesmen ancestors down in Plymouth. At that time I’d found one enterprising forebear, of mine, who had been a Victualler and Brass founder on the 1861 census employing  one woman, six men and some boys in this Devon City. This had lead me on to use the University of Leicester’s site, Historical Directories at www.historicaldirectories.org to find him and his advertisement in a Plymouth Trade Directory. Its great fun to see how polite were the requests of a Victorian era businessman, asking for trade, in an advertisement from this time.

This week I had turned my attention to my maternal great-grandfather. In a book, complied on the family, that I was lucky enough to have found on the shelves of the Society of Genealogists, in Goswell Road, London, my ancestor was given a brief mention in between his more illustrious brother’s, cousin’s and forefather’s. What I was able to glean, from this book, was that Edward Massy Hay had been a merchant in London for a period in the 1860’s, after a short spell in the army.

The book had been complied by his Father, Charles Crosland Hay and completed by his cousin on the death of the former. It gave me a clue that all was not well in the business world of Edward, as a line simply said: “Partner in the firm of Stevens & Hay, Merchants in London; on its failure he became a tea-planter in Ceylon.”

My first reaction was to see if the business went bankrupt and was mentioned in the London Gazette. I checked the website at www.london-gazette.co.uk, where it is possible to search back through the archives for free, but I found nothing on the business. I’d read a tip that it was always worth checking the Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes, in case the bankruptcy had been hidden in one of these publications. The results came back negative and so it looks as if the business was wound up without going bankrupt.

Recently, on taking a look around TheGenealogist.co.uk‘s data sets, I came across the 1869 Kelly’s Post Office Directory for London on their site. By entering “Stevens and Hay” I was eventually able to locate their business to an office at 65 Fenchurch Street, London. EC3

Moving on, to a Kelly’s Directory for 1880 London, I found my great-grandfather listed as living in Princes Square, Bayswater, London. Also at that address was his sister, Mrs Mary Ann Webster, whose husband was in the Madras Civil Service. But I had already begun investigating the move to Ceylon (today known as Sri Lanka), by my ancestor. By 1880 he was appearing in a directory for that island, as well as at Bayswater!

From a website, dedicated to the history of Ceylon Tea (www.historyofceylontea.com), I found there are links to many years of the Ferguson’s Ceylon Directory. In 1880 Edward M. Hay was an Assistant for R.Books & Co of London, in the British Colony. He appears in several of the directories, one of which has him as Chairman of his local area’s planters association and in 1905 he was listed as the owner of a tea estate called Denmark in Dolosbage, Ceylon.

This little peep into my great-grandfather’s life was made possible by the use of various trade directories and the fact that they have been scanned and uploaded to websites on the internet. But before I turned off my computer, on a whim I decided to enter the address that he had shared with his sister in London into Google street view. I was rewarded with the Georgian fronts of Princes Square and easily found the house where he lived. It is now a small hotel and so its address is on the internet.

A search for 65 Fenchurch Street, and the offices, shows that they have been replaced by a modern vista. Lastly, I did a Google search for the Denmark Tea Estate in Sri Lanka and by chance it still exists! Using Google Earth I was able to use the satellite view to see, from the air, the hillside estate that once was where my great-grandfather cultivated tea.

It seems to me to be well worth using some of these alternative tools, available to us, when doing family history research. They may add just a little bit of flesh to the bones of facts gained from the census data or the birth, marriage and death records for our ancestors.

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Small Errors In My Great-Great Grandfather’s Will

I am a bit of a pedant and so I got slightly annoyed recently with a number of small inaccuracies that I found in a copy of a 1908 will and have wondered if the solicitor for my great-great-grandfather knew him at all and whether my ancestor actually read the will that he signed three months before his death!

Captain Henry Thomas Thorne on the GWR Dolphin, Dartmouth, Devon.
Captain Henry Thomas Thorne on the GWR Dolphin, Dartmouth.

 

I have got hot under the collar because I had sent off for my forebear’s will. The story is that recently, while looking around the Ancestry.co.uk site, I discovered, within the National Probate Calendar for England & Wales, a listing for my 2x great-grandfather Henry Thomas Thorne. I was aware that he had died in 1908 in Dartmouth, Devon, but until then I had no idea that he had left a will. He was the son of a boatman and one time cordwainer from Dartmouth. Henry had moved, in his youth, to Portsmouth to work in the Royal Naval dockyard as a ropemaker.

It was here that he met and married his wife Ellen Malser, the daughter of a Master Mariner if the records are to be believed. Henry and Ellen soon moved back to Dartmouth where Henry obtained a job, in 1864, as the steersman of the railway ferry that crossed the Dart from Kingswear to Dartmouth. He was to eventually became the Captain of the steamer, called the Dolphin, that replaced it.

Henry Thomas Thorne spent 40 years working on that vessel and even had the privilege of sailing King Edward VII & Queen Alexandra across the Dart, when they came to lay the foundation stone for the Royal Naval College. From that time on the townsfolk nicknamed Henry “The Admiral”, according to sources that I have read.

With the details, from the National Probate Calendar, I was able to download a form (PA1S) from the Government’s Justice website and send off my cheque to the Postal Searches and Copies Department, which is in Leeds.

http://hmctscourtfinder.justice.gov.uk/HMCTS/GetForm.do?court_forms_id=739

When the will arrived, on my door mat, I was somewhat confused to find that it contained some interesting errors.

Henry Thomas Thorne was listed as a retired “Ropemaker”, an occupation that he had pursued in his youth in Portsmouth. But surely, with 44 years as the steersman and then Captain of the railway steamer across the Dart, it would have been more appropriate for the solicitor to have identified him as a retired mariner? No matter, I thought, and read on.

Next Henry appoints his wife Helen, along with the solicitor to be executors.

Helen, I wonder, who was this wife called Helen? It was, of course Ellen.

The will goes on to mention his “free-hold house situate at Victoria Road, Dartmouth, which had me looking on a map as all his census records show him living on South Ford Road and his death certificate mentions Fernleigh. From the map I can see that a Ferndale is an extension of South Ford Street and it overlooks Victoria Road. Using Google Street View I could see that Ferndale was not navigable by the Street View car and is a sort of walk rising up the hill. So perhaps I can assume that his house at Fernleigh was indeed in the area of Ferndale, but was it on Victoria Road?

He bequeaths money, in trust, to his daughter Florence Melzer Thorne. She was named after her mother’s family, Malser and not Melzer. In fact she was actually named Ellen Florence Malser Thorne, but I digress!

So it is a lesson to us all to take what is written down in any record that we find, even a will, as not necessarily being completely accurate. Check several sources before you can be sure of any fact.

In this case I wondered if the solicitor was new to the area. However a check of the census, in 1901, shows me that he would have been 33 in 1908 and had been born in the town. As such he would have, no doubt, been ferried across the river by my 2x great-grandfather on any occasions that he had need of catching the GWR train as Dartmouth had no railway lines itself. He must have been familiar with the character called The Admiral, who had been in the same job on the water from before the solicitor’s birth!

 

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Where To Look For English Ancestor’s Wills

You may be wondering where to go looking for your ancestor’s will.
The first thing that you need to consider is that before 1858, England and Wales were divided up into two provinces.

Canterbury was the largest and most influential and its remit covered the South of England up to the Midlands along with Wales. The other one was The Province of York, whose area covered the counties of Durham, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Westmorland, Cumberland, Lancashire, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, and also the Isle of Man.

The structure of these ecclesiastic provinces were that at the head of each was an Archbishop. Then the province was subdivided into several smaller dioceses with each diocese having a minimum of two bishops. A further division was where these dioceses were divided again into archdeaconries.

Until 12 January 1858, all wills had to be “proven” in a church court to ensure that it was considered a legal will. There were, in effect, over 250 church courts across the country that proved wills and the records of these wills are now to be found stored mostly in local record offices.

Where a will was proved would depend upon where the lands the property was situated in. Another important consideration was whether they were contained within a single archdeaconry. If they were then the will would be proven in the Archdeacon’s court. If, however, the property of the deceased was to be found stretching across several archdeaconries, then it would have to be proven in a Bishop’s Court.

In a similar fashion, should the land be in more than one diocese then it would be to the Archbishop’s Prerogative Court that the will would need to go to be proved.

As always, there are the exceptions to the rules and one of these is if the deceased had died abroad. I such a case the will would be proven at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury regardless of where the property was.

Wills proven in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury are now held at the National Archives in Kew, while the wills proven in the Prerogative Court of York are to be found at the Bothwick Institute in the University of York.

All of the wills proven in the lower courts up to 1858 are usually held in the Diocesan Record Office and often this will be the County Record Office. In Wales, however, wills from 1521 are held at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Family historians can find locating wills to be an up hill task. It is recommended that you try to locate an index before you set off to one archive or another, to see if a will for your forebear exists. Many indexes are now available on CD and online via the subscription sites like TheGenealogist.co.uk and Ancestry.

A will and testament from the 19th century
A Will from the 19th century online
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Well Worth Family Historians Looking For A Will

A will and testament from the 19th century
A Will from the 19th century

It was not just the rich who would leave a will in the Britain of the past. For this reason, family historians looking into their family tree, should consider it worth researching whether their ancestor did so. This area of family history research is often recorded as Wills and Administrations. I will write about Administrations in another post concentrating today on Wills.

Technically what we refer to in common speech as a ‘will’ is in fact a joint deed that is legally known as ‘The Last Will and Testament’ of the person who has died and it was in 1540 that in England it came into existence. From that date on a party could now devise, or gift, their ‘Freehold’ land by the means of a will.

In order for a deceased’s wishes to be carried out an executor, or executrix, would need to be appointed by the departed to administer and distribute their estate after their death. The executor/executrix would need to apply to a court for the will to be carried out and that court would have to be satisfied the will was valid and that it was the deceased’s final will, and testament. This is the process known as “proving a will”. When satisfied the court then issues a grant of probate that allowed the executors to finally carry out the will’s terms and distribute the deceased’s property.

Before 1540, in England, a testament was only concerned with what is known as “personality” or personal property, which is a person’s moveable goods and chattels. This was because a person’s interests in any “real property” (that is the land and any buildings that they owned) would automatically descended  to the
deceased’s immediate heir, normally the first son. Ecclesiastical law, however, held that at least one-third of a man’s property should pass to his widow as her dower and then another one-third should go to all his children.

As you delve into this area of family history you may possibly come across something called a nuncupative will, or perhaps you will see it referred to as an oral will. If you consider that in some places, in years gone by, very few people other than the clergy could read and write. So if your ancestor was dying, with no one available with the skill to write down his wishes, then the court may have relied on the deceased’s oral declaration of their last wishes to another party. Probate would only be granted after the courts had listened to the sworn evidence of those persons who had heard that declaration being made.

As I am sure we can all imagine, this sort of will would often lead to disputes. Needless to say nuncupative wills were made invalid in England by the Wills Act of 1837. There being one exception, however, and that is in the case of members of the armed forces on active duty, for whom they are still legal today.

You can tell such wills apart in the records, as they can usually be identified because they start with the word: Memorandum.

A holographic will, on the other hand, is a will and testament that has been entirely handwritten and signed by the testator. In the United Kingdom, unwitnessed holographic wills remained valid in Scotland up until the Requirements of Writing Scotland Act 1995. This Act of Parliament abolished the provision and so such wills written after 1st August 1995 are now invalid in all of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Family historians, may well find that the ancestor that they though would just not have written a will, may well have done so. Consider that even if your ancestor was not wealthy, but a person who owned the tools of a trade, then they may well have wanted to make sure that these were passed on to the right person.

Another lesson that I have learnt is that finding wills can be difficult. I had searched many times, over the years, in various online places before I found the probate for my 2x great-grandfather on the recently available Ancestry Wills & Probate data.

Henry Thomas Thorne, for forty years worked on the River Dart first as the steersman of the railway ferry the Perseverance and then as captain of the GWR Steamer The Dolphin making the short crossing between Kingswear and Dartmouth. He died in 1908 and left effects of £202 17 shillings. That’s about £15,700.00 now, using the retail price index.

As with all family history research, don’t give up on blanks in your family tree, simply resolve to return to unfruitful searches at regular intervals as more data becomes available all the time.

The Nosey Genealogist.

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