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Saturday, 25 June 2016

Blagdon Wills

For the past week or so I have been transcribing various Blagdon wills.  They vary in length from a single sheet to six sheets of tightly-spaced legal handwriting, from bequests like a silver pocket-watch to a grandson, or a single guinea to a faithful servant, to extensive lands, monies, and premises.

The earlier I went (1635 was the earliest), the more concerned with the afterlife they seemed to be. Apart from beginning the document with IN THE NAME OF GOD AMEN, testators such as John Blagdon seemed highly concerned for his Soule [sic] and 'wayeing the uncertainty of this mortall and transitory life'. Edward, a potential descendant, leaves money for the poor.  But later wills showed a distinct decrease in this religious fervour, and by 1804, when another John Blagdon's Will was proved, it leaves out any mention of souls or God or the poor, but dives straight into the money.

And that was where I also began to see the complexities arise.  Instead of just leaving something to someone, clauses were introduced whereby 'if she shall die within the lifetime of her husband', or 'if my Sonnes do refuse' or 'if he she or they shall not attain twenty one years'.  The Wills increased in complexity until Edward's Will of 1811, written in 1808, was so densely worded that I gave up trying to make sense of it and merely transcribed what I saw on the page.  Even another Edward's (mercifully short) Will was devoted to money.  And he was a Reverend! I fully expected to see some mention of God in there; the closest he got was in the date 'the year of our Lord'.

It is still fascinating to do.  I have learned some new words, too: moiety, coverture, and halfendeale.  But why did the John Blagdon of 1653 have the alias of John Gifford?  He even got married as John Gifford!

© 2016 Ros Haywood

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