DEVON WILL ABSTRACTS FROM THE FOTHERGILL COLLECTION AT THE SOCIETY OF GENEALOGISTS, 1547-1834
Transcribed by Richard Grylls
The Source (FOTH)
Webb, C. Devon Will Abstracts from the Fothergill Collection at the Society of Genealogists, 1547-1834. Typescript (1979) [SOG DE/G 23].
This collection of abstracts of wills and administrations relating to Devon, Cornwall and Somerset people, was compiled by Cliff Webb and typed up by Rachel Taylor.
The original abstracts were made probably in the early 1900s by Gerald Fothergill (1870-1926), an eminent genealogist and historian who lived in London. His most celebrated published work was A List of eminent Ministers who went to America (1904). He specialised on emigrants, and was one of the first people to compile lists of them from documents he found in the Public Record Office (now TNA). It is not clear why he compiled abstracts of sundry Devon wills - perhaps as the result of a commission. He clearly went to Exeter and Taunton to study and abstract the wills, since almost all the wills were proved and kept in one or other of those places. His collection in fact only covers about 12 different surnames. Nonetheless, in view of the destruction of the original wills, its value is enormous.
DWP's editing process
Cliff Webb noted that the originals of the will abstracts appearing between pages 41 and 49 were written in a different hand, and that the quality of those abstracts was somewhat lower. Fortunately the wills abstracted on those nine pages were all of Cornish people and definitely proved in Bodmin rather than Exeter. These (original) wills have all survived - they are now kept at the Cornwall Record Office in Truro. In view of these factors it was decided to omit these items from this present index.
By kind permission of the Society of Genealogists, the names and details of the testators and intestates in the Fothergill Collection were extracted from the typescript copy held in their library by Richard Grylls.
Locating the source and acquiring copies
There are bound copies of the Fothergill Abstracts at the Society of Genealogists, the Guildhall Library, both in London, and at the Devon and Cornwall Record Society Library in the Westcountry Studies Library (WSL) at Exeter (now part of the Devon Heritage Centre). Any of these institutions should be able to provide copies for a fee.