This collection contains indexed abstracts (summaries) to wills proved in the Archdeaconry & Consistory Courts of Canterbury for people living in or near Faversham 1450-1642 & Thanet 1328-1691. The collection also includes abstracts to a small number of wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.
Images of the abstracts are available online. These abstracts contain a detailed summary of the information found within each will including all names and places appearing in the will (testators, executors, witnesses and beneficiaries) plus incidental information such as relationships, occupations, date of death / burial place and value of estate where found in the original document.
The abstracts are in an easy to read format, eliminating the problems incurred in deciphering old handwriting and negotiating your way through the legalise found in what were very important legal documents. The original documents are unlikely to give any additional information.
The Consistory and Archdeaconry courts, in the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Canterbury, intermingled and overlapped but basically covered Eastern Kent.
The value of wills to the family history researcher
Quite apart from the intrinsic interest of seeing what land or personal possessions belonged to an ancestor, wills are valuable documents because of the genealogical information they provide. And they are exceptional in the first-hand nature of their evidence.
At the most basic level, a will provides evidence of the death of an ancestor; the date on which the will is proved gives an approximate date of death. Where you have been unable to trace a death or burial record, the will may be the only evidence of death; or, in the case of a common name, it may confirm which of several burial entries in a parish register refers to a particular ancestor.
Unlike census records, which describe only an ancestor’s household, a will often provides evidence of the wider family, including nephews, nieces and grandchildren, and can be used to confirm family relationships deduced from records of birth or baptism. One of the great virtues of wills is they spell out the relationship to the testator of everyone mentioned. For example, bequests to a married daughter or her children should make it possible to identify the record of daughter's marriage and the baptisms of the ancestor’s grandchildren.
Outside the gentry, who have sometimes left complete pedigrees, wills are almost the only independent source of confirmation for family relationships suggested by baptismal and marriage records. And if you are researching the period before parish registers, a will may be the only evidence for a lineage.
But the value of wills goes beyond the pedigree — they also provide information on the occupation and social status of an ancestor, indicate the closeness or otherwise of the relationship to a spouse and children, and may allow you to identify in the present day a house or land owned by the family.
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