Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Bachelor Uncle’s Will

Although it has over a decade since I first read this will, I remember it clearly.  It was nearly closing time at Worcestershire County Record Office, so I ordered just one more document.  I had to go back for a second reading and complete copy.  If you are not descended from one of the beneficiaries, I give you permission to go green with envy. 


The Transcript

Page 1
1.    I William Wilson the Elder of Walton in the parish of
2.    Clent in the County of Stafford Yeoman being of sensible and disposing mind and
3.    memory (thanks be to Almighty God) do make this my last Will and Testament in
4.    manner following (that is to say) I give to my Nephew Thomas Wilson and my
5.    Niece Sarah (Wife of John Price) two of the children of my late Brother Richard Wilson
6.    deceased the Sum of twenty pounds each, I also give to the eldest Son of my late
7.    deceased Nephew Richard Wilson, who was another Son of my said late Brother
8.    Richard the sum of twenty pounds, I give to my Brother John Wilson the Sum of
9.    forty pounds, and to his Daughter Mary Wife of Mr Richard Collett twenty pounds,
10.    I give to my Nephews John Matthew William Thomas and Joseph Wilson (Sons
11.    of my late Brother Matthew Wilson deceased) the Sum of twenty pounds each, And
12.    to my Nieces Sarah (Wife of       Crowder), Mary (Wife of Edward Pratt) and
13.    Nancy (Wife of          Boraston) who are the Daughters of my late Brother
14.    Matthew Wilson the Sum of twenty pounds each, I give to my Nephew Thomas
15.    Wilson, Son of my late brother Thomas Wilson deceased, one Annuity or yearly
16.    Sum of seven pounds and sixteen shillings to be paid to him at three
17.    shillings a week, on every Monday morning during his natural Life, by my
18.    Executor herein after named into his own hands for his own sole and separate use
19.    the first of which payments to become payable on the Monday first happening
20.    after the day of my decease Provided always that in case he shall happen to sell
21.    assign or alienate such weekly payments as not to be capable of receiving the
22.    same in his own right, that the payment to any such purchasor Assignee shall
23.    not be valid, but from thenceforth the said Annuity and all further weekly
24.    payments thereof shall cease for the benefit of my Executor, I also give to the
25.    eldest son of my late nephew Richard Wilson (Son of my said late Brother
26.    Thomas Wilson deceased) the Sum of twenty pounds, I give to my Niece Susanna
27.    (Wife of Richard Wight Daughter of my late Brother Thomas) the Sum of twenty
28.    pounds to be paid into her own hands to her sole and separate use
29.    independent of her Husband his debts or Engagements and for which her
30.    receipt alone to be a good discharge, I give to my Great Nephew and Niece
31.    William and Mary (Children of my late Nephew John Wilson who was another

Page 2
1.    Son of my said late Brother Thomas) the Sum of ten pounds each, I give to the three
2.    children of my late Sister Sarah the late Wife of Edward Jinks both deceased (viz)
3.    Edward Jinks (the Son) Sarah (Wife of William Barnett) and Mary (Wife of Joseph Edwards)
4.    the Sum of twenty pounds each, And I give to my Nephew Matthew Hanbury (Son of
5.    my late Sister Mary) and my Grand Niece Catherine Hanbury (Daughter of my late
6.    Nephew John Hanbury) the Sum of twenty pounds each,  All which Legacies to be
7.    payable within twelve months next after my decease, And I direct my executor
8.    with the concurrence of the Church wardens of the said parish of Clent for the time
9.    being to pay out of my personal Estate the Sum of five pounds within one month
10.    after my decease to such poor persons resident in the said Parish, whom they
11.    shall think the greatest objects of Charity and in such proportions as they shall
12.    think proper, only that the Widows shall have double to other poor persons, And
13.    subject to the payment of my just debts funeral Expenses and the several
14.    Legacies mentioned in this my Will, which I direct shall in the first place be
15.    paid out of my personal Estate, or so far as the same will extend, and subject thereto
16.    (except the said Charity Legacy) out of my real Estate and which real Estate I
17.    hereby charge with the payment thereof accordingly, I give devise and bequeath
18.    all my Messuages lands Tenements and Heredittaments and all other my real
19.    and personal Estate whatsoever and wheresover with all and every the appurtenances
20.    unto my Nephew William Wilson of Walton aforesaid who now lives with me
21.    (another of the Sons of my late Brother Richard Wilson deceased) and to his Heirs
22.    Executors Administrators and Assigns to his and their own use and behoof
23.    forever, And I do hereby appoint the said last mentioned William Wilson sole
24.    Executor of this my Will, and I hereby revoke all former Will and Wills by me
25.    made and publish and declare this to be only true last Will and Testament. 
26.    In witness whereof I have to this my Will contained in two sheets of paper, to
27.    the first sheet put my hand, and this second and last my hand and seal
28.    and published the same the Fifteenth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand and seven hundred and eighty eight

In addition to the main text three witnesses signed both pages:
William Waldron junior
Samuel Tonks
Thomas Burrell

William Wilson made his mark, and indication that he could not write, and the second page also carries his seal.

Finally, the will was proved and annotated by the consistory court:
7 Feb 1789
The sole executor of this Will
app[eare]d personally and was then
sworn in common form of Law
and that the personal Estate don’t   
amount to 1000 £ before me
John Griffon


Relationships feature heavily and most are explicitly stated.  Relationships with the Hanburys are not as explicit, so my interpretation needs confirmation from other sources.  The following chart summarises the relationships:

Relationships documented in William Wilson the elder's will, 1788
Relationships documented in William Wilson the elder's will, 1788
William Wilson the elder, and his nephew, executor, principal beneficiary and namesake, William Wilson the younger are marked in red; other beneficiaries are marked in yellow; and people who had died before the will was made are marked in grey.

I am descended from William the elder’s nephew Thomas Wilson, son of brother Matthew.  This will, combined with other documents, provides firm evidence for this claim.  Nieces of William the elder, and daughters of Matthew have featured in blog posts: Vanishing Artifacts – the Gravestone and Silver Spoon and Wills and Location – Further Evidence supporting the Inherited Family History.

The will tells us that executor William the younger already lived at Walton in May 1788.  The gravestone shared by both Williams, discussed in Keeping it in the Family?, tells me that William the elder died on 28 January 1789.  It is very likely that William the younger married his first cousin once removed, Catherine Hanbury, 5 months later.

Other people and wider family connections documented in this will await investigation.

Money and property

Note that the £10 (2), £20 (19), £40 (1) and annuity bequests are all charged on the real estate that was devised to William the younger.  What does this mean? 

The real estate consisted of the immovable property that William the elder owned: land; buildings such as the messuages or houses; things that belong to such land and buildings, known as appurtenances; land held by tenure or tenements; and the right to inherit such property or hereditaments.

So, William the elder clearly owned property, but the will does not tell us its location, extent, or the type of tenure.  The residence at Walton in Clent is candidate, but needs confirmation from property records.

The probate annotation indicates the total value of William the elder’s estate at a maximum of £1,000 for the purpose of any taxes due.  The lump sum bequests amount to £440, a large proportion of the total estate value.  The monetary bequests were charged on the property, so William the elder’s estate did not necessarily have cash readily available to make the payments.  That is why a period of a year is specified to allow the executor to make arrangements or liquidate assets as necessary.

Comparison of monetary values from the past is confounded by economic factors, but the Measuring Worth website gives a range of indications in context.  The 2013 value of the maximum quotation of £1,000 ranges between £110 thousand and £8.37 million. 

Perhaps the easiest to understand is the 3 shilling weekly payments to the probably vulnerable nephew Thomas Wilson (son of brother Thomas).  In this context, the weekly 3 shillings annuity payments equate to £208 using the labour value (based on a wage index) or £270 using the income value (based on relative average income).  That level of income would certainly have provided for the basic needs of a single person, but not an extravagant lifestyle or a family with children. 

Other beneficiaries seem to have been trusted to manage their own affairs.  The lump sums of £20 are more appropriately thought of as an investment, so compared using the economic power value based on the share of GDP might be worth as much as £167 thousand; or compared using the economic status value, a smaller but still tidy £36 thousand.

Further Interpretation

There is a lot of information in this will.  It deserves a detailed extraction of information items similar to the example I demonstrated in the 5 part series Claverley Property Document Analysis.


  1. What an amazung find, Sue. Sadly I don't think I'll ever find such a resource for my army of Ag Labs.

  2. Gold mine! I have one similar, not the will, but, the estate settlement.

    6 siblings. 28 nieces and nephews and 1 grand niece. Many of these I had NO idea where they were, or who they were.

    I had SOOOOOOOOOO much fun with it. Years later it still provides research fodder.

    Congrats, you are in for a fine fun time!

  3. This will leads to property, which eventually lead me to a master's degree! The fun is endless.

  4. I have suddenly turned green.. ;-)

  5. You discovered such a wonderful resource -and yes, I am green with envy!


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