I signed my will early in this month.
I had decided to revise the will I made about 25 years ago to reflect changed circumstances, not least the fact that our children are now grown up.It was a pretty straightforward procedure; the job was done & dusted in a trice, and hopefully the fact that we have done this will make life a little easier than it otherwise may have been for my familywhen I pass into history.
I'm afraid future genealogists won't glean much from my will. The names of my wife and children, my address, a few other nuggets of information. They will probably be disappointed! This thought made me reflect on the great value that wills have been to me in my research, and I'm going to reflect on this in this blog entry.
The first Will I ever saw in my research was the Will of our benefactor - John Bankes, Citizen & Haberdasher (abt 1650-1719). This was found on my behalf at the old PRO, Chancery Lane by Helen Bradley, then Archivist at the Haberdashers' Company, and is still one of the most informative wills I have ever seen. Among the pieces of information I gleaned from this document were the names of many of Bankes'relations, plus details of many of his properties and his many bequests. It also told us other details, such as the burial place of the testator, his first wife and at least one of his children: The fact that he and his first wife - Elizabeth Atherton (abt 1640-bef 1715) had produced eight children, all of whom had predeceased John Bankes, and so on.
Armed with this mountain of information I set out on my research, and I'm still going at it today, about 21 years later! I still have numerous research issues that I need to resolve concerning my Rand forebears (the Rands were John Bankes' half siblings and Mary (Rand) Mitchell (abt 1668-1739) was my direct ancestor), and I very much hope to resolve at least some of these before I'm through.
Interestingly, for all that Bankes'will was so informative, there are things it didn't tell us. For instance, it failed to mention that there had been a marriage settlement between John Bankes and his second wife - Elizabeth Trevers (abt 1670-1733) - which had stated that in the event of one of the partners in the marriage dying, the surviving widow or widower would keep the property that she or he had brought to the marriage, and not be entitled to any of his or her spouse's estate other than that which was given to them in their spouse's will. I found this information in one of the many Court of Chancery records that I have looked at, and it went some way to explain why the bequests John Bankes made in favour of his widow seemed quite small.
Bankes' will also failed to tell us how he earned his living. Yes, it did refer to him as a Citizen and Haberdasher of London, but that merely told us his livery company. It didn't give any hint that in fact he was a carpenter & builder, heavily involved in rebuilding London after the Great Fire in 1666.
Mention of Elizabeth Bankes reminds me that her will opened up a veritable can of worms. In naming her daughters as beneficiaries, Elizabeth mentioned Elizabeth Mitchell, wife of Robert Mitchell. After further investigation I proved that this Elizabeth Mitchell was indeed the wife of "our" Robert Mitchell,Citizen & Skinner of London (abt 1692 - bef 1742). Robert was John Bankes' nephew, being the son of Mary Rand (mentioned above) and Robert Mitchell, Citizen & Feltmaker of London (abt 1658 - bef 1706).
I realise that all this can be a mite confusing, so just to clarify, what I'm saying is that through the wills of Mr & Mrs John Bankes I learned that a nephew of Bankes married his wife's daughter by a previous marriage. Good stuff, don't you think? It would have been hard to find this out without wills. Parish register entries may have led me towards this conclusion, but as the PRs of the period did not ususally contain much information other than the date and the name of the parties involved, it is unlikely that they would have proved these relationships.
I'll just mention one other person who featured in a clutch of very informative Wills. Thomas Hunt (abt 1723-1789) was a London Attorney, and represented some members of his family in the Court of Chancery proceedings relating to the estate of John Bankes. He was the author of the tract Truth Faileth; so that Equity Cannot Enter: Exemplified from a short Abstract of the Proceedings in a Cause in the High Court of Chancery. Well, he was named as an executor in two wills left by members of the Jacobson family who were resident in the Channel Island of Jersey. Not only that, but in his own will he named as relations Samuel Jacobson and James Jacobson, both born London and later of Maidstone, Kent in Kent. His connection to the Jacobsons stems from his marriage to Mary Jacobson (abt 1737-1806), daughter of James Jacobson (abt 1692-1759) & Mary Mitchell (abt 1700-aft 1750).
The Jersey folk who named Thomas as their executor were:
Esther Jacobson (prob 1789)
Magdalen Jacobson (prob 1781)
Without these wills we would probably lack proof of the connection between my ancestor and the Jersey Jacobsons, so the information in these documents is very valuable in our research. In fact, the information we have unearthed over the years leads us to believe that Henry Jacobson (abt 1690-1760), nephew to my ancestor, James Jacobson, made the move to Jersey and married Magdalen Dorey (abt 1690-1764). We have a copy of Henry's will - the only will we possess that was written in French! The above Esther and Magdalen were daughters of Henry J & Magdalen.
The day of our Bankes Reunion is fast approaching. Only three months to go, and preparations are now be gathering pace. Over the past months I have tried to contact as many Bankes descendants as I can, and invite them to what we hope will be a really enjoyable event. I'll continue this effort right up to June, but if you are a descendent of one of the siblings of John Bankes and you would like to come to our Reunion, please do have a look at our web page and consider joining us for the day. The more the merrier!
Quite a number of people have confirmed their booking by paying the £15 charge, and we really do thank you all for that. Quite a few people have said they will come but have not yet paid the £15. As we now need to firm up on the numbers, in order to arrange catering etc, we would be grateful if you would make your payment. If paying via PayPal causes you problems please contact me by email through a link on the Geoffs Genealogy website and I'll be happy to organise an alternative method of payment for you.
We will soon be contacting all the people who have paid, asking them to complete a simple registration form to aid us in our preparations.
See you all next month!