This is the title of a new publication by this Society. In the five years from 1787 to 1791, there were 834 Wills proved at the Consistory Court in Durham and this 170 page book lists them all, and then lists all the individuals who are named in each of them, giving occupations, addresses and relationships to the testator when known. - "my sister Margaret, wife to John Todd, glazier, South Shields."
Over 6000 names of men, women and children are listed - those who were to benefit under the Will, all persons named as executors or trustees, the witnesses to the deceased's signature, perhaps a debtor or a creditor, a friend or a business partner and maybe a servant receiving a reward for long and faithful service. Sometimes, a quite unrelated person might be mentioned, simply as a means of identifying a particular property - "the house in Bishop Auckland which I purchased from William Smith" or "a house in Gateshead now in the occupation of James Wilson."
As an example, Edward Brown, a carpenter of Barnard Castle made a will on 8th October 1790, proved at Durham in the same year. Mentioned in it are "wife Margaret Brown, friends Swainston Harrison, grocer, Barnard Castle, James Benning, surgeon, Barnard Castle, John Wilkinson, blacksmith, Barnard Castle, Richard Appleby, common carrier, Barnard Castle and Lancelot Bowser, woolcomber, Barnard Castle; William Gibson and John Streaker, occupiers of house in the Market Place, Barnard Castle; niece Mary Robinson and her brother John Robinson; friend Williarn Wilkinson, Barnard Castle; Witnesses Anthony Glover, Thomas Appleby, John Clarkson".
In addition to the 834 Wills and the names in them, there is an alphabetical index, enabling you to find quickly which Wills mention a particular person and many people feature in several different Wills. The book covers Wills only and Admons are not included. Dates of death are not normally given as they do not appear in the Probate documents, and there are not usually details of the form or amount of bequests to individuals.
The genealogical value of this work should be readily apparent. It has been published both in book form and as a set of three microfiche. [Editor's note: Since this article was produced in 1994, a further four volumes in the series have been published covering the periods 1792-1794, 1795-1797, 1798-1800 and 1801-1803. Details regarding the ordering of these volumes are given on the NDFHS Sales Page.]
This article was first published in the NDFHS Journal, Volume 19, Number 2, Summer 1994.
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