Introduction to Abstracts of Probate Documents


This is a collection of about 1000 abstracts of probate documents relating to people residing in the neighbourhood of the towns of Hungerford and Wantage in Berkshire. Since Hungerford is on the County boundary there is some spread into Wiltshire and to a lesser extent into Hampshire and Oxfordshire.
The historical period which is covered is from about 1500 up to the establishment of the Probate Registry for England & Wales in 1858.
Names of all persons mentioned in the abstracts have been indexed and amount to over 6000 references.
These pages are maintained by Nick Hidden (email: hidden[at]one-name[dot]org) who would pleased to hear from anyone with a specific interest in the HIDDEN family of Hungerford, England. Further information about Hiddens in Berkshire and the manor of Hidden is available at the web site of the (Hidden One-name Study).

The heading for each record gives the year of probate, the name of the testator, and his abode [comprising the hamlet or tithing (if known), the parish, and a three letter abbreviation for the County (Chapman code)], the Court in which the will was proved, the type of document (will, administration, inventory, bond, commission, account, renunciation, etc), and the record number.

The record number has been created to provide a unique identifier for the record. Usually documents associated with the same probate appear under a single record number. This will not be the case however if the documents have been found in different categories of the filing system adopted originally by the probate court or by the record office where they have been deposited.

The body of the record gives (usually) the name of the deceased and then in a condensed form the text of the various probate documents associated with that person's estate. This may range from a full transcript of a will to the briefest details, but the norm is an abstract which gives mainly details of genealogical interest, such as personal names, occupations, relationships, and places of residence. Tools listed in inventories which are indicative of a trade or calling have usually been noted.

Comments interpolated in the text by the abstractor and not part of the original record are enclosed in brackets (usually square brackets) and occasionally there may be a longer comment added at the end of the record (always within square brackets).

As spelling was not consistent in earlier times names may appear in a variety of forms. This is particularly likely when the documents for a particular probate were written (as were most were) by different persons.
The general policy which has been adopted is to give names within a document in their original spelling, but to modernise the spelling of given names and family names (when easily recognisable) for the indexes. The names which appear in the record heading have been modernised.

The existence of signatures, marks or seals has been noted. If the document is a copy (as with all register wills) this is not of much interest. However for original documents these may help to identify people or distinguish between them if the actual documents can be inspected. Marks should not be disregarded in this respect as many were highly distinctive.

The names of the ecclesiastical courts of probate have been abbreviated (the abbreviations used are mostly self evident). More complete names are as follows:- Prerogative court of the archbishop of Canterbury (PCC), consistory court of the bishop of Salisbury, the court of the archdeacon of Berkshire, the court of the archdeacon of Wiltshire, the court of the archdeacon of Salisbury, the peculiar court of the dean of Salisbury, the peculiar court of the dean and cannons of Windsor in Wantage, the peculiar court of the dean and canons of Westminster, the peculiar court of the treasurer of Salisbury in the prebend of Calne, the consistory court of the bishop of Oxford, the court of the archdeacon of Oxford.

Either Sarum or Salisbury was used for the name of the town, cathedral, diocese, etc.
It should be noted that historically some parts of the parishes of Hungerford and Shalbourne were in Berkshire and other parts were in Wiltshire.

Acknowledgements I would like to thank my brother Norman F. Hidden for providing transcripts for some of the PCC wills, and my wife Heather G. Hidden for assisting me in making the abstracts from the original documents. Also I would like to thank the staff of the Wiltshire County Record Office at Trowbridge, and the staff of the Bodleian Library at Oxford for their unfailing courtesy and assistance when the abstracts were made, in the 1970s. Finally I would like to thank Jennifer Thompson for patiently undertaking the arduous task of entering the data into a computer.

The abstracts may be accessed through the following indexes

The following documents are of particular interest in that they contain early references to persons who are overseas (or probably so in one instance)
The will of Ursula Curtis, 1645 mentions a connection with New England, Francis Slade (1666) has a daughter in Virginia, Alice Parker (1658) has children abroad, Francis Rowland (1673) has a daughter far from home.

[Last revised 3 April 1998]

Copyright © 1998, Nick Hidden