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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Wills - Beyond the Internet.

Cassmob at Family History Across the Seas, has introduced a series "Beyond the Internet" to highlight some of the sources for family stories beyond our computer screens. The latest theme focuses on Wills.

Feather bed, sheets and bedstead desk and books, meal chests and corner cupboards  - all items  of personal value mentioned in the wills of my ancestors.

Quite early on in my research, I was delighted to trace through the Index at Lancashire Record Office  two wills relating to my Danson ancestors. 

They not only gave information on their children and grandchildren, including the married name of daughters - some unknown to me previously, but also cast a light on what were considered important possessions at the time. 

My great great great, great grandfather John Danson (1736-1821) made his will in 1813. It conveys something about his standing in the community, his level of education and confirmed the names of grandchildren. It is the little personal touches which give a picture on important possessions at the time -  " I bequeath to my son Henry my desk and all my books...to my daughter Jennet, wife of John Bryning, my corner cupboard now standing in the parlour of my house and my meal chest in the room above

John Danson's Will, 1813

The will of Henry Danson (1767-1839) is dated 1833, six years before his death. It is beautifully written in copperplate but very short on punctuation. The will brought first knowledge of two daughters - Ellen and Margaret (who predeceased her father) and the names of Margaret's five children. It also raised interesting questions as middle son Peter, unlike his brothers John and Henry,  was not named as a legatee or executor.  Was he perhaps not regarded as fit or suitable in some way ?  Peter never married and in the 1841 and 1851 censuses was in the household of his brother Henry until his death in 1855.  

As a follow up to the wills, I traced online an index to Death Duty Records held at the National Archives (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk), and found entries relating to John and Henry Danson.    I had to use someone in London to obtain copies for me and again it is so fascinating to have records relating to an ancestor of so long ago.  The quality of the copies was  not great, but they did confirm the names of the legatees and I am pleased to  add them  to my family archive collection.

My Danson family was related through marriage to the Bryning Family and Internet contacts proved the source of valuable information here.
  • The will of John Bryning was written in 1779 and names four chlldren with some  bequests listed below.  What was unusual here was that the receipts for the legacies had also survived and been passed down through generations. .

    To my daughter Margaret Bradbelt an annuity of £2 of lawful British money.

    £5 each to the children of Margaret Bradbelt at the age of 21.

    To my daughter Margaret and son John  a pair of sheets and the rest of my bedding I give to my daughters Mary Cragg and Aliace Lythm.
  • Another John Bryning died in 1855 at the grand age of 92.  His will notes

    To my grandson Thomas Bryning (the son of my son Richard) one feather bed with the bedsteads and bedding there unto belonging.
  • Descendant Thomas Bryning  died in 1886 at the age of 67, leaving a young wife Margaret 31 years his junior and two daughters aged 9 and 5. His will stipulated:

    To my wife Margaret, my household goods, furniture, plate, linen and china, afterwards to pass to my daughters Agnes and Margaret.
    A sum of two hundred pounds until my stepdaughter Mary Jane  Roskell shall attain the age of 23 years....subject to her (my said wife) providing my said stepdaughter with necessary clothing and wearing apparel.

So if you are lucky to trace a will, you have a unqiue resource which can add so much to your family history story.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely agree about unique and valuable resources. I could really love an ancestor who bequeathed his desk and books...wonderful! Reading about sheets and feather beds and bedding, brings home how much we take for granted the basic possessions in our house these days.


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