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Oxfordshire Family History Society

Transcribed Wills - Notes for Users

Return to the Transcribed Wills page to Select a Will to View


This section of the OFHS website contains transcripts of wills relating to Oxfordshire, which have been generously donated by their transcribers.

We here use the word "wills" as a colloquial shorthand to refer to all documents relating to the disposal of property after death. It should be taken to include Admons, Inventories, Bonds and other such documents as well as actual Wills.

Some of the wording used in such documents may be unfamiliar to modern readers and so we have included a glossary of some of the terms used. This can be consulted from the individual wills pages whilst reading the text.

Finding a Will

There are two ways to find a particular document of interest:

If you know the name of the testator, you may Select this person from the Index of Testators in which wills are sorted by the testator's surname, forenames, and location, and the probate date.

If you want to find any wills in which a particular person, is mentioned, you may Search for that person in the Index of Persons Mentioned in which wills are sorted by the surname and forename of each person mentioned in the will.

There are often several Dates associated with a will, starting with date when it was first drawn up and ending with the date when all the legal processes are completed. For the purpose of the Index of Testators we show these as First date and Last date respectively. (The full transcripts give details of what event each date corresponds to). For the Index of Persons Mentioned we just show the first of these dates, since this date when it is most likely that the persons mentioned will still be alive.

In the Index of Persons Mentioned we include an Appears as column where we indicate the relationship between the person mentioned and the testator. There are many possible relationships appearing in a will, so for the purpose of the index we simplify these into the following seven categories. Persons falling into more than one category, will be classed in the category nearest the top of the list. So for example, a testator's brother, who also receives a legacy will be classed as a Close Relative rather than a Legatee.

Testator The person whom the document is about, including intestates (in Admons etc) and similar.
Close Relative Spouse, Grandparent, Parent, Sibling, Child, Grandchild, Spouse of sibling or of child.
Other Relative Nephew, Niece, Uncle, Aunt, Cousin, Kinsman, Kinswoman, Greatgrandchild etc.
Legatee Unrelated person with a legacy -- Friend, Servant etc.
Will Official Witness, Trustee, Overseer, Appraiser, Executor etc.
Mention Unrelated person with no legacy -- Bondee, Landlord, Tenant, Priest etc.
Bureaucrat Any official, clerk or witness involved in the Probate process.

Often a testator may mention a daughter as for example: "My daughter Mary the wife of John SMITH", in which case she will appear in the index of persons as Mary SMITH. However occasionally a testator will use the phrase: "My daughter Mary" without indicating whether or not she is married. In such cases, since the will gives no indication of a married surname, she will be indexed under her maiden name.

Once you have found a will in either of the indexes, just click on the testator's name (normally in blue, and underlined) in the index entry, to view the transcript.

The Component Parts of the Transcript

Each transcribed document is split into a number of component parts, (not all of which need be present for every will).

Each will has been given a heading, in a standard format, to make it easy to identify a particular will. The heading starts with a title, and the key dates relating to the will. This is followed by the location of the original document and the name of the person who contributed the will.

For all but the simplest documents, the heading is followed by a summary listing the names and key topics mentioned in the original. The intention is to give the reader sufficient information to decide whether or not this particular document is relevant to his/her research.

Transcriber's Notes
If present, these will provide any additional information known to the transcriber about the document itself or the people mentioned therein.

Modern Format Version
The layout and language used in old wills can be very confusing for a modern reader. The modern format version of the transcript attempts to convey the full sense of the will in a more easily accessible form. Spelling, paragraph layout and punctuation follow modern practice. Where the original is all or part in Latin, this is translated. Obscure legalese is omitted.

Original Format Version
This attempts to reproduce the original as accurately as possible, limited only by the constraints of a modern typeface and the computer screen area. The original language, spelling, line ends and paragraphing, are all retained. This allows the reader to draw his/her own conclusions about any assumptions made in producing the modern format version. It is this version that can most easily be cross checked against the original document, or an image thereof, to verify the accuracy of the transcript (and we would encourage researchers to make this comparison for all documents used in their research).

Scope, Intention and Accuracy of these Transcripts

These transcripts include Wills and other Probate documents relating to families from Oxfordshire (including the area formerly in North Berkshire, that was transferred to Oxfordshire in 1974). They are presented here with the permission of their transcribers, for the benefit of other family historians.

Whilst we hope that they will prove useful, they are a tiny proportion of the 50,000+ Oxfordshire wills proven during the last five hundred years and held by ORO. Those researchers who do not find an ancestor mentioned therein should not assume that they did not feature in a will - merely that the will in question has not yet been transcribed and submitted to Oxfordshire FHS.

The text of the transcripts remains the copyright © of their individual transcribers and this should be acknowledged in any use you make of the transcripts, or in quotations taken from them.

In presenting these transcripts our intention is to provide researchers with a secondary source which can be used to assess whether a will or similar document is of sufficient interest to warrant further study.

Old handwriting can often be difficult to interpret. Moreover we are all fallible mortals. Transcribers can introduce errors when reading the text and further errors can arise when converting the the transcript to a web page.

So as with any secondary source it is most important to stress that these transcripts are not intended to be a substitute for viewing the original documents. For every document you rely on in your research, you should aim to view the original or at least a photographic image of this, and must ultimately draw your own conclusions about its contents.

Even then it is worth remembering that the document that has survived was very often not written by the testator in person. Frequently he or she could neither read nor write and so the written version was prepared by someone else, from the testator's dictation. Even where the testator was literate, it is quite likely that a secretary or lawyer will have re-written the text from the testator's original, inserting the customary legalese where required. It will be this version that is the signed and witnessed copy. However even this may not be the document you are viewing. It is quite likely that the document which has survived is not the original will at all, but a copy made by a clerk in a probate register after the will was proved. So even when you have read the best surviving "original", you may still be two steps removed from the testator's original intent!

N.B. When reading original wills, you may find the Palaeography pages on the National Archives web site at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/ will provide a good introduction to the technique needed to read old handwriting.

Spotted a mistake?

We try to ensure that the transcribing, translation and formatting of these wills is as accurate as possible, but we are only human . . .

So if you should spot an error, please tell us about it, by sending an email to wills@ofhs.org.uk Your help in improving our accuracy will be greatly appreciated.

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This page structure was last updated on 2008-04-02