Author Topic: A question on wills  (Read 2733 times)

Offline Jane Masri

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A question on wills
« on: Wednesday 14 April 04 06:57 BST (UK) »
The wills that we can download from the National Archives, I presume are not originals.  In that case, can someone explain why they bear a signature of the testator?  Is it a true signature or a facsimilie done by the clerk who copied all these wills out?

Jane
Census information is Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Researching BRABY/BRAVERY in SURREY and SUSSEX

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Offline Ruth

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Re:A question on wills
« Reply #1 on: Wednesday 14 April 04 07:49 BST (UK) »
Jane

You're right that the vast majority of wills on the www.documentsonline.pro.gov.uk site are clerks' copies.  All the wills which fall into the series PROB 11 were the official court record of the grant of probate.  There are a few original wills on the web site, from the series PROB 1 - but these all relate to famous people.  The National Archives does hold some original wills (from which court copies were made), in series PROB 10 (see http://catalogue.pro.gov.uk for more information) - but PROB 11 was put on line because it is the most comprehensive collection.

Ruth
Interests include:
LANSDELL in Kent & Sussex; WELLER in Kent; SELMAN/SOLOMON in Yorkshire and Staffordshire; BROYD in Essex/Cambridgeshire; KETTERIDGE in Essex/Cambridgeshire

Offline Jane Masri

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Re:A question on wills
« Reply #2 on: Wednesday 14 April 04 18:05 BST (UK) »
Thanks Ruth, but the signature on the clerks copy, is that the testator or the clerks?  The one's I've downloaded are obviously copies as they follow on, one after another.
Just to sort things out.  The will is drawn up with the aid of a solicitor.  A copy is given to the testator and the original is lodged with the solicitor?  When the testator dies, the will is sent to the relevant court to be proved?  Once this is done, the requirements of the will are carried out by the executors?  OK, so what happens to the original will, with the original signature?  And why copy it all out when they could have just kept the original?
Sorry for all the questions, but if you don't ask, you don't find out ;)

Jane
Census information is Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Researching BRABY/BRAVERY in SURREY and SUSSEX

PLEASE use the look-up requests page not a personal message.


Offline Ruth

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Re:A question on wills
« Reply #3 on: Wednesday 14 April 04 22:11 BST (UK) »
The one person who cannot sign the PROB 11 registered copies is the testator as he or she should be 6 feet under at the time!  It does appear that the handwriting in PROB 11 sometimes differs for the signature - I don't know the reason but wonder if it is because the wills are copied in a very stylised handwriting and perhaps they altered it to indicate a signature.  

A will could be drawn up without a solicitor - especially with the earlier wills.  I've come across many where the parish clerk was an obvious support in the production of wills instead.  Also, I don't think there were any rules about who held copies.  What is still the case is that executors have to turn up and swear to carry out the instructions in the will - the act of probate.  

I don't know what happened to the original will.  I do know that in the 17th century, executors were required to present probate accounts to the court, to demonstrate how they had distributed the estate of the deceased - so perhaps the executors held onto the original while they were administering the estate.  Copies were presumably made because they were required for different purposes.

I'm no expert in this field, but there are books available which can give you further information if you want to find out more.

The National Archives' catalogue entry for original wills in PROB 10 states:

"The majority of the documents in this series are original wills signed and sealed by testators and attested by witnesses.

Includes original promulgated sentences which were bundled with original wills until the mid seventeenth century.

The rate of survival of original wills is uncertain before the early seventeenth century and particularly poor before the mid sixteenth century.

Many of the pre 1600 documents are copies, the original wills having been returned to the executors.

Late eighteenth and nineteenth century wills are often endorsed with the date of the testator's death.

Some original wills are written on printed forms which testators filled in with simple instructions as to the disposal of their estates.

Includes a few items which may once have been kept in the bundles in PROB 31 and PROB 33.
 
Arrangement The vast majority of the wills and sentences in PROB 10 were registered in the will registers in PROB 11 , and for most purposes there is no advantage in examining an original will or sentence in this series, in addition to a registered copy in PROB 11 . However in a very few cases, wills were written in other documents such as diaries and account books, and some of these documents survive in the series.

Furthermore original wills may contain more personal information such as signatures. Many of them also contain seals.

Arranged in chronological bundles order"
 

Interests include:
LANSDELL in Kent & Sussex; WELLER in Kent; SELMAN/SOLOMON in Yorkshire and Staffordshire; BROYD in Essex/Cambridgeshire; KETTERIDGE in Essex/Cambridgeshire

Offline Jane Masri

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Re:A question on wills
« Reply #4 on: Thursday 15 April 04 06:39 BST (UK) »
Thanks Ruth,
You really worked hard with all that information, I really appreciate it.  It's a question that's been 'bugging' me for ages and as I had wanted to include an ancestors signature on a small book I'm writing, I began to wonder if it was really his on the will!  I know now that it's NOT.  Seems odd that that the clerks could "forge' a signature on their copies and it causes me to ponder whether my ancestor was literate or not, something I shall probably never know :(
Jane
Census information is Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Researching BRABY/BRAVERY in SURREY and SUSSEX

PLEASE use the look-up requests page not a personal message.