MOGER'S TESTAMENTARY CAUSES
Transcribed by Alan Brooke, Jane Cook, Malcolm Diggines, Anne Hawkins, Marjorie King, Brian Lake, Ann Roberts and Lindsey Withers
The Source (MOGT) and DWP's editing process
Miss Moger's Abstracts of Testamentary Causes, held at the Devon Heritage Centre (DHC), Exeter, are notes about court cases that arose concerning either the making or wording of a will, or the accuracy of an inventory, or the way in which the will had or had not been executed by the executor, etc. Among the more brief of Miss Moger's notes are a great many citations, i.e. summons to appear in court in a case concerning a will or administration. We have included these, merely showing that certain people (witnesses) were cited. Towards the end of Series 2 of Abstracts of Testamentary Causes Miss Moger did in fact include a fair number of actual abstracts of wills, administrations and inventories. Whatever the exact nature of the legal documents (mostly not actual wills, etc.) she was making notes upon, Miss Moger's notes often reveal enough details about the people, places and properties concerned to be a more than partial substitute for an actual will, administration or inventory. (The original case papers, from which Miss Moger made her abstracts, do in general survive, though in very frail condition. They often show more detail still.) Very nearly all the court cases were heard in the Consistory Court of the Bishop of Exeter.
The volumes of abstracts held at the Devon Heritage Centre consist of photocopies of Miss Moger's hand-written notes. Her original notes do not seem to have survived. A few pages in the original notes appear to have been accidentally omitted when the photocopies were made. All this material was kindly photographed for us at the Devon Heritage Centre by Mr Ken Ozanne. The information that has been extracted from this source is included in our index by kind permission of Mr Derwent Campbell, great-nephew of Miss Moger, on behalf of Miss Moger's heirs.
In compiling a list of these abstracts for the Devon Wills Project we have omitted two kinds of cases that Miss Moger occasionally noted. Firstly, in a few cases the surviving case papers offer no clues at all as to whose will was the cause of the dispute, i.e. no name of the testator. Then, some of the court cases were not about wills at all, but about attendance at communion or the right to appoint a vicar. All the personal names that appear in Miss Moger's abstracts are completely indexed at DHC, so the items we have omitted are still relatively easily findable.
When Miss Moger was compiling her abstracts it appears that she sometimes failed to find a precise year or any mention of a place. This is understandable, because only some of the case papers have survived. So, in our index there are some spaces where the place or year should be.
It seems safe to assume that a very large proportion of the testators listed in the 'Surname' and 'First Name' columns did actually leave a will, and that this will was proved in a Devon court somewhere between six months and five years before the court case arose. Because so many original Devon wills were lost in the Blitz, and because copies or abstracts of only some of them have survived, MOGT is yet another source of huge potential for revealing at least some of what appeared in some of those lost wills. Thus a MOGT entry that you find should in most cases be almost "duplicated" by an entry found in another source included elsewhere in our index, namely FRYA, FRYB, BECK, PECU1 or PECU2 - such "duplicate" entries will normally show the probate year of a will that was later the subject of litigation.
For Series 1 of MOGT (the first ten volumes, covering up to 1699), where the nature of the case is relatively clear, details about it have been included in Col L. Where the parties in that case included someone with a surname different from that of the testator, this other surname has been shown too. If no other surname is mentioned in Col L, the chances are that the dispute was between members of the testator's immediate family. For Series 2 of MOGT (the remaining seventeen volumes, covering 1700-c.1845), in order to make matters simpler for our volunteers and to speed up transcription, a simple standard phrase has been employed in Col L. However, the lack of detail recorded in our index in no way reflects the amount of detail in each of Miss Moger's abstracts, which is often considerable and may prove well worth investigating.
Locating the source and acquiring copies
If you find a MOGT item relating to a testamentary cause which interests you, you will need to contact the Devon Heritage Centre in order to obtain further information about this cause. The abstracts of testamentary causes are held in two series of bound volumes, twenty-seven in total, each containing about two hundred handwritten pages. These volumes are not numbered, but each volume is marked either 'Series 1' or 'Series 2' followed by the range of page numbers contained in it. So, a given testamentary cause can be located from the the series number and its page number, as given in our index. With this information, DHC staff should be able to supply you with a photocopy of the relevant abstract.
Since the original case papers (though not Miss Moger's abstracts of them) are so fragile - some suffered in a fire - it is unlikely that DHC will supply photocopies of them. It should however be possible to visit the DHC and photograph the original documents. The original documents are collected together in large 'bundles' in no discernable order, so it may take some time finding the document you seek.