WILLS, ETC., IN THE DEVON HERITAGE CENTRE'S ONLINE CATALOGUE
Transcribed by Brian Randell
The Source (DHC-C)
This source provides information concerning wills, administrations and inventories held at the Devon Heritage Centre, found via the online catalogue that they share with the North Devon Record Office). A number of the items listed concern post-1857 wills, or photocopies of PCC wills, and not all relate to Devon, but all have been included here for the sake of completeness.
The catalogue states that it "contains descriptions of the archival holdings of the Devon Record Office [i.e. the Devon Heritage Centre] and North Devon Record Office including general descriptions of all collections (catalogued and uncatalogued) deposited since 1989 and many before this date. It is in the early stages of development and, although content is being added on a regular basis, it will be some time before complete coverage is achieved."
This online catalogue is in fact just one of several major sources of information about wills at DHC in the process of being incorporated into the Devon Wills Project, the others being DHC-A, DHC-U, MALL. No attempt has been made to identify and remove overlaps between these various sources, though these overlaps are growing as the DHC gradually imports additional information, e.g., from A2A, into its own catalogue.
DWP's editing process
Unfortunately the online catalogue does not provide means of searching for particular categories of record. Thus the items included in this index were found by examining and selecting from the results of doing searches of the DHC section of the catalogue for the words "will", "administration, "probate" and "administration" anywhere in the text of each catalogue entry, discarding all those which were not in fact to do with testamentary material. The set of entries so obtained was believed to be reasonably complete, as of August 2010, and since then an attempt has been made with the assistance of the DHC to keep pace with additions to the catalogue. (However there are some catalogue entries, for files which evidently contain one or more wills, which provide no details about these wills. And a fault with the DHC catalogue's search interface has the effect that the detailed notes for some wills are occasionally truncated, so that information about a will or wills cannot be seen. Such catalogue entries are, of necessity, not covered properly in this index.)
By no means all the catalogue entries found provide any information as to the place or even county of residence of the testator (though in general the county can be presumed to be Devon) and some give a non-Devon residence without providing any indication of any link to Devon - all such items have nevertheless been included here. Catalogue entries typically include a descriptive phrase (included here) which usually makes evident the type of document that is being referred to. However, though the phrase such as 'probate of (the) will' implies just a document confirming that probate had been granted, it is certainly possible that an actual copy of the will may be attached to this document. An enquiry to DHC concerning a particular item might elicit more precise detail of what they hold.
N.B. As implied above, a single document held at DHC may appear in more than one of the three lists, DHC-A, DHC-C and DHC-W. Furthermore, because of different transcription rules employed by the various compilers of A2A, of the DHC Online Catalogue and of the Wills Card Index at DHC, this single document may appear in DHC-A, DHC-C and DHC-W with slightly different reference numbers in each. For example there is little consistency regarding the use of spaces within the number (e.g. "1660 A/406" or "1660A/406"). Moreover, A2A sometimes gives a more detailed number than the DHC uses (e.g. 2984 A-5/PZ/4 rather than 2984/5). Such inconsistencies cause little difficulty to the DHC staff when dealing with requests for copies of wills. However, the inconsistencies should be borne in mind when, for example, using a reference number, rather than a testator's name, etc., to look up an item in A2A or the DHC Online Catalogue.
Locating the source and acquiring copies
To obtain information about the possibility of viewing the documents listed, photographing them or acquiring photocopies of them by post, you should contact the Devon Heritage Centre directly. However it is worth first checking the DHC section of the online catalogue's entries corresponding to any items of interest to see if they contain further information about the wills, etc., concerned, since some provide extensive abstracts.