For centuries, men and women with any significant worldly goods have specified what should happen to their property after their death. This is done through a will, usually written and signed with witnesses, and with named executors who carry out the deceased wishes as stated in the will. After death, the will has to be proved and a grant of probate must be obtained to allow the executors to get to work. At this stage an inventory of all the deceased person’s belongings is drawn up.
Wills and inventories can tell us a great deal about contemporary life and, fortunately, many survive. You can find out a bit more about what we can learn from wills in the Summary of Wills. In this section you can refer to a List of Ayton wills, and transcribed copies of some of them:
Wills and inventories can use terms which have gone out of use, for example words to describe livestock, and so a Glossary of terms in wills is available.
There are a great many more wills that could usefully be transcribed, and volunteers to do this would be most welcome!
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