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Kent Wills 1750-1859 - An Introduction

Probate records – wills and inventories – are a very useful source for the local historian. They tell us much about the lives of individuals in the past, and can help us to understand family and business relationships. For the ‘People and work’ project we have looked at all wills for the study parishes dated from 1750-1857 and all post-1720 inventories. Until 1857 wills had to be proved in the ecclesiastical courts. West Kent wills were generally proved in the diocesan court of Rochester. These documents are now kept at the Centre for Kentish Studies. When a person held land in more than one diocese their will had to be proved in the court of the Archdiocese. For Kent, this meant the Archdiocese of Canterbury. These wills are now kept at the National Archives. When a person died the value of their personal goods had often to be assessed as part of the probate procedure. This list of items formed the probate inventory. Inventories usually record the contents of the house as well as the stock in trade of craftsmen and animals and crops belonging to farmers. Many of these items are no longer in current use and those appearing in the Medway valley inventories are listed in a glossary of Inventory Terms compiled by one of the Kent EPE volunteers. Work was carried out by a small team of volunteers: Margaret Crowhurst, Pauline Weeds and Gina Beswarick. The material presented here consists of extended extracts from selected wills, plus full transcriptions of the few surviving eighteenth century inventories. There is also a spreadsheet containing basic information relating to all the wills and inventories. You will find details of residence and occupation, and the names and addresses of executors here. The transcriptions of the wills and, where this applies, the associated inventories are presented in groups each covering a twenty year period as follows.


Content generated during research for the paperback book 'The Medway Valley: A Kent Landscape Transformed' (ISBN 13 : 978-1-86077-600-7) for the England's Past for Everyone series