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Longworth & District History Society
actively exploring the history of our parishes

Our History Society's Probate Group.

In September 2010, a sub-group was formed of willing history society members to start a project transcribing the wills of our villages of Kingston Bagpuize,  Draycott Moor (Southmoor), Longworth and Hinton Waldrist.

We were most fortunate that we were able to have Dr. Mary Hodges come to give us lessons for ten weeks at the Church Hall.  This was a brilliant start on our road to understanding how to transcribe our wills.  Mary also gave us many useful hints and suggested various places where we were to able to access the wills from. We costed the outlay of this project and decided that we should go ahead. We have been very fortunate in finding sources of local funding who have kindly generously supported our work.

David Vaisey, retired Bodleian Librarian, and a member of our history society was willing and eager to join in and with Mary Hodges helped us over the first set of hurdles.  After our classes of ten weeks Mary returned to work with other Probate groups in Oxfordshire and we began our project in earnest.

Within our group are some members who are unable come to the probate meetings but will type up other's transcriptions and second check that our many alterations are correct.

Here are some of our transcribers at work and in discussion at one of our meetings in a member's home.

Probate Group Photographs

We have now entered the beginning of our third year and the transcribed wills are piling up. All are nobly checked by David, who teaches us so much with his careful and knowledgeable notes on our work.

We now hold morning sessions so that 'newcomers' can be helped by reading aloud, which David attends to help us over many 'brick walls' and to explain the introduction to wills and odd words that we come across. We also have afternoon sessions where as many of us who are free can come along and transcribe.

We have all learnt such a lot in these last years. From the photocopies of the wills we have collected from the Record Offices, we can now read special letter forms, abbreviations and strange words written by hand sometimes with a quill pen on parchment. There is now a potentially useful database from which we can pull out lots of detail about our transcribed wills such as: document dates, parish, occupation and details of the inventory and will, if one survives, for a particular person. From these we can find detailed bequests made to named family members and friends. We record all the people mentioned in the documents, such as family, friends, executors, witnesses, overseers and appraisers.

The database also keeps a record of the total value left by each person.
The values of items are shown in detail in the inventories, so we are gathering a picture of the kind of clothing people had, what furniture and belongings were in the rooms of their houses, what kind of crops they harvested, and the animals they kept, who was rich, who was poor and the size of their families.

So far we have mainly studied the period from the 1540s to the 1700s, mainly at Kingston Bagpuize and Longworth. We have identified about 250 people in the four parishes and so far have completed 70 with several others in the pipeline.

The group is also collating a glossary of words found in these wills.

We believe that our work will be of great interest to local historians now and in the future.