Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The BORDER family Wills

My BORDER family was from Devon, specifically Buckfastleigh in the 1700's and 1800's. James, Richard and Thomas were very common family names, but I'm very lucky that a person named Robin Border is dedicated to a 'one-name' study of the BORDER family. It appears (though I may be wrong) that all the Devon BORDERs are descended from one family.

A great way to learn about family connections are Wills. See for example the Will of m ancestor George STANILAND who forced a daughter to return from Australia to England before she could claim her inheritance (

In England it sometimes seems they are trying to make family history research difficult. They are immensely slow compared to other countries at digitizing and indexing records, and some that are indexed (like their civil BDMs) are almost useless. But the problem with Devon Wills cannot be blamed on England. Most Wills from Devonshire were gathered from across Cathedrals in Devon (the church had responsibility prior to 1858) and stored in Exeter. As the Devon County Council puts it: "in 1942 the Probate Registry was destroyed in the bombing during the Exeter Blitz of the Second World War, and all the wills were burnt.  This means that all the original wills kept in the various church courts and in the Probate Registry in Exeter, no longer exist". Wills after 1858 were copied centrally from across England and as such copies are available.

All original wills. Copies of some remain - those who were particularly wealthy had their probate settled at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) so theirs remain, but those of the average person do not. There is an index being prepared of Will records that are known of, but in most cases the Wills are not available:

This is incredibly frustrating. The indexes reveal a Will for Susan HODGE of Burrington in Devon. Susan (nee MOYSE) married John Hodge in 1697, and they had give children - I'm descended from the youngest, Sebastian HODGE. The index entry reveals only the above, and that the will was settled in 1717, telling me that John died first (only widows could own property) and that she died around 1717. It also notes "original destroyed". Imagine what that will revealed about her family!

So back to the BORDER family. There are three Wills surviving from immediate family of my family - their siblings - but not my ancestors directly. I'll post them shortly. The PCC also reveals ONE Border Will related to my family... I mentioned my earliest known BORDER ancestor, James BORDER, was born before 1690 in the Woolborough/Newton Abbot area of Devon, just a few miles from Buckfastleigh. Records farther back are not known, however thereis a Richard BORDER in the PCC index, a clothier of East Ogwell who died around 1650. The name itself is a BORDER name, and Ogwell is clutered with Newton Abbot and Woolborough - while I won't be able to draw a correct line I'm going to source this Will (which is hopefully not in Latin) to learn something of the early BORDER people.

Wills to follow.

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