SOMERSET HERITAGE CENTRE
Transcribed by Brian Randell
Historical background and the Source (SHC)
Unlike Devon's borders with Dorset and Cornwall, the border between Devon and Somerset seems to have remained constant over time. Parishes near the border have stayed steadfastly in one county or the other, and ecclesiastical jurisdictions have observed the same border. Wills proved in the Archdeaconry Courts of Taunton and Wells were, for some reason, kept in Exeter during the 2nd World War, and thus in 1942 suffered the same catastrophic fate as most Devon wills. As a result Somerset historians and genealogists have assiduously collected and indexed any will copies they could find. Fortunately a number of Devon-related will copies were found in document collections at the Somerset Heritage Centre, Taunton, where they can be viewed. They are all included in this present set of SHC source items. As might be expected, several of these copies derive from parishes right on the border, e.g. Burlescombe and Hemyock.
Other Somerset Sources which include Devon Wills
See also the following Miscellaneous Sources:
- [Webb] - a collection of Somerset and Devon inventories, the originals of which have survived and may be inspected at the Somerset Heritage Centre.
- [Medlycott] - an index of Somerset wills that contains information about ten or more stray Devon wills kept at the Somerset Heritage Centre most of which are not yet listed in the SHC Online Catalogue.
- [Hawkings] - two indexes of Somerset Estate Duty Wills which contain just two Devon strays, these two wills are also viewable at the Somerset Heritage Centre.
A few collections of abstracts of now lost Somerset wills have been printed and published. Two sets of these abstracts contain a good number of Devon items, which have been extracted for inclusion in the Devon Wills Project index. These items now appear as Miscellaneous Sources items, with the references '[Crisp]' and '[Siraut]'. These refer to the publications:
- Crisp, Frederick Arthur. Abstracts of Somersetshire Wills, etc., copied from the manuscript collections of the late Rev. Frederick Brown (6 vols.), London, Privately printed (1887-90).
- Siraut, M. (ed). Somerset Wills. Somerset Record Society Vol 89 (2003).
One further potential source, a card index of wills at the Somerset Heritage Centre, has not been systematically checked as yet. It is thought, but not guaranteed, that the vast majority of documents listed in this card index already appear in the SHC's online catalogue and/or in one of the three further indexes mentioned above. (However, by chance, one Devon item not listed elsewhere has already been found in this card index, now listed under [SHC card index] in Miscellaneous Sources.)
DWP's editing process
The set of SHC source items contain information extracted from the online catalogue of the Somerset Heritage Centre, Taunton, (previously known as the Somerset Record Office), concerning pre-1858 Devon-related wills among their holdings (as of 24 Aug 2010), and from the Access to Archives (A2A) coverage of their holdings. The year given is that in which a will was proved, where this information is available - otherwise it is the year in which the will was written.
Locating the source and acquiring copies
To obtain information about the possibility of viewing the documents listed here, photographing them or acquiring photocopies of them by post, you should contact the Somerset Archives directly.
Copies of the publications and printed indexes listed above can be found at the Somerset Heritage Centre, the Society of Genealogists and at various other major libraries. Siraut in particular should if possible be consulted rather than the SHC's original copies of the abstracts that it contains, since these originals are rather fragile.