Wills for research

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How can wills be used for research?

You can see even from these few examples how valuable the wills are - both the quality and the quantity of their information is outstanding.  They can be used to research a wide variety of topics:

  • Literacy Did witnesses and testators sign or make their mark?
  • Occupations Those stated by testators can be analysed.  Anecdotally, there seems to be considerable specialisation of occupations in Salisbury - the city boasts a brandy merchant, bookbinder, cheesemonger, coach trimmer and tripe seller amongst others.
  • Family, kinship and inheritance Through bequests made and the appointment of trustees for children and provision made for the nuclear family, not only are large numbers of relatives often named but their relationship to the testator may be described.  
  • Friends and peers When friends are mentioned and overseers are appointed a picture of the testator's social world also begins to emerge.  A demonstration of this idea is given by the delightfully written will of Sarah Emblen, spinster, of Salisbury, proved in 1753.

Will of Sarah Emblen, 1753.
Will of Sarah Emblen, 1753 (Ref: P4/1753/5)
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Click here for a transcription of this will