|Contains details of over 300, 000 wills, etc., from almost 550 different sources|
The Devon Wills Project (DWP), undertaken by volunteers and now (November 2014) virtually complete, was set up to provide a finding-aid in the form of a consolidated index of all Devon wills, and also administrations and inventories. The index shows where copies, transcripts, abstracts or extracts of such original testamentary documents may be found, and in many cases the whereabouts of the original documents themselves. (Here is an article about the project prepared for the Devon Family Historian.)
Almost all wills and administrations of Devon people were proved or granted in one of two locations, in Devon itself or in London. The originals of those wills proved in London - very nearly all at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) - have survived. However the originals of nearly all wills proved in Devon perished during an air-raid on Exeter in 1942. Printed calendars (lists that are more chronological than alphabetical) covering maybe three quarters of the wills proved in Devon had been compiled before the war. It was decided that DWP's index should include every testamentary item that was listed in these calendars, whether or not a copy/transcript/abstract of the item had been located. Thus, our index includes a huge number of entries generated from these calendars that we term 'list entries' ('le' in the 'Form' Column of the index). Although in such cases the original will or administration is lost, and we may have been unable to locate any copy, transcript or abstract of it, at least its existence prior to 1942 is verifiable because it was listed in a calendar.
DWP's primary task has been to try to track down copies, transcripts and abstracts of these lost wills and administrations. If you are lucky, you will therefore find an additional entry nearby in the index showing 'co', 'tr' or 'ab' in the 'Form' Column, which indicates that we have indeed located a copy, a transcript or an abstract of the original.
DWP's results are provided in the form of a Consolidated Index (a browsable set of web pages listing wills, etc., in alphabetical order of testators' names). This index is complemented by a powerful Online Search Facility, provided by Find My Past. (This is a FREE facility, though registration and signing-in is required in order to use it.)
The Devon Wills Project has not itself transcribed or collected transcripts or abstracts of wills, but merely offers information as to where such items may be found. Though we have tried to make sure our index is as accurate and user-friendly as possible, it may well include some errors and ambiguities over and above those in the sources on which we have drawn. Please inform us of any that you find.
THE SOURCES AND THE COVERAGE
DWP volunteers have scoured well over 500 sources (libraries, museums, record offices, archives, private document collections, catalogues, books, periodicals, indexes, calendars, the internet, etc., etc.) to find items for inclusion in this index. The sources searched are shown directly below in the List of Sources. As can be seen, we have give each source a code name, e.g. ACA, DHC-W, PECU1, these codes always appearing in capital letters.
The index includes only testators (those who made wills) and intestates (those who did not make wills, but whose estates were administered), and not beneficiaries and other people mentioned in those documents. The testators and intestates shown in the index will normally have been born and/or have died in Devon, though some may have had their wills proved or administrations granted outside the county. (However, the index does also include some testators merely because their bequests have been judged as providing sufficient evidence that the testator had a close relationship to Devon.) Also included in the index are some people who definitely lived outside Devon (mostly in Cornwall) but whose wills were proved in Exeter, and were thus lost in 1942.
The period covered is in general up to the end of 1857, at which time ecclesiastical courts were disbanded and the probate of all Devon wills came under the jurisdiction of the Principal Probate Registry (PPR) in London. (A more exact indication of the index's coverage is given in More Detailed Notes.)
NOTE: During the work of the Devon Wills Project, in fact in October 2012, Devon County Council set up Devon Heritage Services. This brought together the newly-created Devon Heritage Centre at Great Moor House, Bittern Road, Sowton, Exeter EX2 7NL (comprising the hitherto separate Devon Record Office, and the Westcountry Studies Library), and the Barnstaple-based North Devon Record Office. In general these pages therefore make reference to the Devon Heritage Centre (DHC), but references to the Centre's constituent former organisations (DRO and WSL) may also be encountered by users, in particular amongst our various sources. (The North Devon Record Office itself continues to use the acronym NDRO.) On 1st November, 2014 the Devon Heritage Services came under the management of the South West Heritage Trust, which decided to rename it the Devon Archives and Local Studies Service.
USING THE INDEX
- Check in the 'Form' Column - if it doesn't say 'le', you're in luck! Somewhere there is the original, a copy, a transcript or an abstract of that person's will. If it does say 'le', check nearby entries to see if there is a similar entry that says 'or', 'co', 'tr' or 'ab'. If there is only an 'le' entry, then, sadly, we have found no original, copy, transcript or abstract. BUT, see also 5 below.
- If you were 'in luck', make a note of the information shown, particularly noting the code given in the 'Source' column. If that source code is MISC, note also the code or name before the hyphen in the next ("Reference") Column, (e.g. "Hooper2")
- Return to the homepage, look in the List of Sources, locate the relevant source code (e.g. DHC-C) and note the actual source name (e.g. "Devon Heritage Centre Online Catalogue"). Then click on that source name (or on the relevant source section). The webpage you thus reach describes the source in detail, and also indicates where you should go, or who you should contact, to see (or perhaps obtain your own copy of) that particular will, administration or inventory.
- If the source of your will was shown as MISC, click on the link Miscellaneous Minor Sources in the MISC row in the List of Sources. (These sources are "minor" in the sense of containing only a relatively few items.) On the Miscellaneous Minor Sources webpage look for the code or name you recorded from the 'Reference' column. Note the precise details given of the relevant minor source (e.g. Hooper2: Hooper, Hilda J. Pedigrees to the name Hooper, Howper, Hoper etc. Manuscript volume (c.1950) [LMA]). The minor source will often be a book or periodical, which could be sought at a good reference library. If the minor source is not a published one, then the details given will indicate its location - the London Metropolitan Archives in this example.
- If at first you cannot locate the will you hope to find in our index, consider the ways in which that person's surname might have been spoken, and thus possible phonetically-based spelling variations of the name. It is often the first vowel in a surname which proved flexible, e.g. Hallman/Helman/Hillman/Holman, Peeke/Pick/Pyke, Harrell/Hearle, Toker/Tucker, Berry/Burie, Diamond/Deyman, Lang/Long, Butler/Boteler.
- There will be cases where there are several entries (from different Sources) relating to the same original will or administration, e.g. identifying where an official copy of a will is held, and the locations of transcripts and/or abstracts of this will. You should be able to work out which source would be most convenient for you to inspect. Note also that index entries referring to the same will or administration may differ minutely, due to inconsistencies among the various Sources, transcription errors, etc.
- Note that the consolidated index, which will probably have been your first "port of call", is only updated at intervals. You should also check the listing of Latest Additions for items that have not yet been incorporated into the consolidated index.
ADDITIONS and CORRECTIONS
Additions and corrections to the Project database are welcome. They should be sent to the Project Co-ordinators: Richard Grylls and Brian Randell. A set of Guidelines is available describing the transcription rules.
|CODE||SOURCE||No. of Entries||TRANSCRIBER|
|ACA||Anthony Camp's Index of Prerogative Court of Canterbury Administrations 1750-1800||2742||Brian Randell|
|ARCH||The Court of Arches||118||Brian Randell|
|BANK||Bank of England Wills Extracts Index - 1717-1845||1351||Anne Hawkins and Marjorie King|
|BARN-R||Registration Court of the Archdeaconry of Barnstaple||2355||Lindsey Withers|
|BASK||Moger - Basket A||1417||Alan Brooke and Brian Lake|
|BECK||Beckerlegge, J.J. (Ed.) Index of the Wills and Administrations relating to the County of Devon proved in the Court of the Archdeaconry of Barnstaple, 1563-1858||50014||Pat Gillard, Paul Hockie, Marilyn and Pieter Koops, Pat Norton, Susan Page, John Pitts and Brian Randell|
|BES||Besley, T. The Report of the Commissioners Concerning Charities, containing that part which relates to the County of Devon, (3 vols) (1826-30)||754||Brian Randell|
|CA||College of Arms||1613||Patrick Dickinson, Sylvie Matthews and Lindsey Withers|
|CASH||Cash, M. Devon Inventories of the 16th and 17th centuries||277||Lindsey Withers|
|CATH||Exeter Cathedral||150||Richard Grylls|
|CRO||Cornwall RO Catalogue||927||Brian Randell|
|DDR1||Death Duty (Estate Duty) Will and Administration Abstracts (TNA IR 26), for the period 1796-1811||4595||Brian Randell|
|DDR2||Death Duty (Estate Duty) Administration Abstracts (TNA IR 26), for the period 1812-1857||6086||Brian Arthur, Alan Brooke, Jane Cook, Richard Grylls, Carole Harrison, Brian Lake and Lindsey Withers|
|DHC-A||Devon Heritage Centre - Wills found via A2A||2852||Brian Randell and Lindsey Withers|
|DHC-C||Devon Heritage Centre - Online Catalogue||1018||Brian Randell|
|DHC-I||Inventories at the Devon Heritage Centre (DHC).||664||Lindsey Withers|
|DHC-U||Uncatalogued Collections (DHC)||2628||Richard Grylls, Liz Holliday and Kim Tomlinson|
|DHC-W||Wills Card Index (DHC).||13374||Richard Grylls, Diana Stevens and Lindsey Withers|
|DRAKE||Drake Genealogy (2 vols.) MSS [SOG]||465||Richard Grylls|
|DWAAC||Devon Wills and Administrations: Additions and Corrections 1595-1799||3000||Jane Cook|
|FOTH||Devon Names in the Fothergill Collection||260||Richard Grylls|
|FRYA||Fry, E.A. (ed.) Calendar of Wills and Administrations relating to the counties of Devon and Cornwall, proved in the court of the Principal Registry of the Bishop of Exeter, 1559-1799, and of Devon only, proved in the Court of the Archdeaconry of Exeter, 1540-1799. British Record Society Index Library Vol 35 (1908)||66844||Provided by Ian Galbraith, of the National Wills Index, and edited by Richard Grylls and Brian Randell|
|FRYB||Fry, E.A. (ed.) Calendar of Wills and Administrations relating to the counties of Devon and Cornwall, proved in the Consistory Court of the Bishop of Exeter, 1532-1800. British Record Society Index Library Vol 46 (1914)||21844||Provided by Ian Galbraith, of the National Wills Index, and edited by Richard Grylls and Brian Randell|
|FTNAA||Devon PCC Admons 1700-49||682||Provided by the Friends of The National Archives|
|FURG||Fursdon, C.A.T. Genealogical contents of Devon and Cornish wills and inventories [ca.1558-1810] - Vol. I||644||Jo Dyer and Richard Grylls|
|FURW||Fursdon, C.A.T. Genealogical contents of Devon and Cornish wills and inventories [ca.1558-1810] - Vol. II||623||Kerrie Johnson and Lindsey Withers|
|GD||Devon section of GENUKI||513||Brian Randell|
|GLEN||Extracts from Glencross, R. M. Calendar of Wills, Administrations and Accounts Relating to the Counties of Cornwall and Devon in the Connotorial Archdiaconal Court of Cornwall (1569-1699)||163||Richard Grylls|
|IRW||DHC copies of Inland Revenue Wills retained by the Estate Duty Office (1812-1857).||18084||Brian Randell|
|IZAC||Izacke, Richard An alphabetical register of divers persons, who by their last wills & grants have given towards the relief of the poor of the county of Devon.||133||Brian Randell|
|JHA||Devon Names in the Calendars of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Administrations (1581-1660), by Jean Harris||4262||Brian Randell|
|JHW||Devon Names in the Calendars of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills (1383-1700), by Jean Harris||11662||Brian Randell|
|LEP||Lepine, David and Nicholas Orme, (Eds.) Death and Memory in Medieval Exeter (Devon and Cornwall Record Society, 2003)||212||Brian Randell|
|MALL||Mallock of Cockington Collection (DRO)||150||Brian Randell|
|MANN||Mann, J.H. Mann Family History (SOG, BL and DCRS)||239||Richard Grylls|
|MED||Medlycott and Hawkings Index to the Lost Probate Records of the Diocese of Exeter||2423||Ann Roberts|
|MICH||Rev. Arthur Tompson Michell's Notebook||310||Lindsey Withers and Richard Grylls|
|MISC||Wills, Administrations and Inventories in Miscellaneous Sources - for a list of these sources (to date) see Miscellaneous Minor Sources||5707||Christine Abram, Peter Cowell, Liz & Peter Davidson, Jo Dyer, Bev Edmonds, Richard Grylls, Jean Harris, Stephen Hobbs, Graham King, Richard Lawton, Pauline Lyons, Justin H. Martin, Daniel Morgan, Brian Randell, Sarah Reed, John Ritchings, Ann Roberts, Fay Sampson, Jen Walton and Gerald Wyatt|
|MOGA||Moger, Olive M. Transcript of Devonshire wills, 1600-1800, Ms.||11578||Nigel Bond, Lesley Crocombe, Pauline Ferris, Liz Holliday, Lynne Moses, Pearl Savage, and Madeleine Robertson Squire|
|MOGC||Moger, Olive M. Cornish Wills Proved In Exeter||170||Lindsey Withers|
|MOGT||Moger, Olive M. Abstracts of Testamentary Causes||5641||Alan Brooke, Jane Cook, Malcolm Diggines, Anne Hawkins, Marjorie King, Brian Lake, Ann Roberts and Lindsey Withers|
|MUR1||Murray, Oswyn (comp.) Oswyn Murray collection of wills, abt. 1600-1800||12059||Brian Arthur, Alan Brooke, Jane Cook, Lesley Crocombe, Pauline Ferris, Carole Harrison, Brian Lake, Richard Lawton, Sylvie Matthews, Ann Roberts, Diana Stevens and Lindsey Withers|
|MUR2||Murray, Oswyn (comp.) More Oswyn Murray will abstracts||1426||Nigel Bond, Alan Brooke, Malcolm Diggines, Brian Lake, Ann Roberts and Lindsey Withers|
|NAVY||Registers of Seamen's Wills||4606||Lindsey Withers|
|NDA||North Devon Athenaeum||452||Stephen Hobbs and Brian Randell|
|NDRO-A||North Devon Record Office - wills found via A2A||1332||Brian Randell and Lindsey Withers|
|NDRO-C||North Devon Record Office Online Catalogue||143||Brian Randell|
|PECU1||A calendar of wills proved in the Peculiar Court of the Vicars Choral at Exeter (SOG)||818||Richard Grylls|
|PECU2||A calendar of wills proved in the Peculiar Court of the Dean of Exeter (SOG)||1081||Richard Grylls|
|PROB 11||Wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (TNA)||28,259||Brian Randell|
|PWDRO-A||Plymouth and West Devon Record Office - wills found via A2A||1882||Brian Randell|
|PWDRO-C||Plymouth and West Devon Record Office Online Catalogue||2236||Brian Randell|
|PWDRO-W||Plymouth and West Devon Record Office wills card index||1219||Brian Randell|
|SHC||Somerset Heritage Centre Online Catalogue||371||Brian Randell|
|SOG||Society of Genealogists||1479||Richard Grylls|
|TAPS||The Tapley-Soper collection of Inquisitions Post Mortem (Westcountry Studies Library)||2249||Jane Cook, John Gunton, Lindsey Withers|
|TNA||Miscellaneous Record Classes at The National Archives||1245||Brian Randell|
|UFWI||The Uffculme Wills & Inventories (DCRS Vol. 40, 1997)||619||Mary Fraser|
|UPP||Uffculme: a Peculiar Parish (Uffculme Archive Group, 1997)||243||Mary Fraser|
|VIV||Vivian, Col. J.L. Abstracts of 16th-18th cent. Wills, etc., chiefly relating to Devon and Cornwall||961||Teresa Grafton, Richard Grylls and Brian Randell|
|WOR||Worthy, C. Devonshire Wills, London: Bemrose, 1896.||944||Lindsey Withers|
|WSA||Wiltshire and Swindon Archives||1451||Brian Randell|
|WWW||Will transcripts and abstracts discovered in the WWW, mainly in personal web pages||802||Brian Randell, Gerald Wyatt|
This page last updated: 15 Dec 2014 - Brian Randell
Consolidated index last updated: 29 Sep 2013
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