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Information the wills contain
As an example of the type of information you might find, Caleb Evans, schoolmaster of the parish of St. James who died in 1790, made his will on 31 August 1787 as follows:
"I Give and Bequeath unto my Stubborn and Disobedient Wife Mary One Shilling and no more...Item I give unto my son Caleb of Pontypool Maltster One Shilling and no more for his disobedient behaviour. Item I Give and Bequeath unto my Grandson Walter Evans All my Watch and Clock Tools and likewise the Nest and Drawers that holds and keeps them. Item I Give and Bequeath unto Anne Bowen Spinster now living with me the Use of my Spring Quarter Clock during her Natural Life And from and after her decease I Give the same to my Grandson Thomas Evans Requesting the same to be and remain in the Family of the Evans's while it lasts."
Sketchley's Directory of Bristol for 1775 lists Caleb Evans as "watchmaker and jeweller, 45, Stokes Croft". He is not to be confused with the Reverend Caleb Evans, minister of Broadmead Baptist Church, who died in 1791.
This is just one example of the detail to which wills and other probate documents often go, often containing information about a person's:
- treasured personal belongings
- trade equipment and stock.
They can, therefore, give a fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary people from Bristol's past.
Each time we update the information on this section of our website we feature a different will as an example. Please also see the page named 'Previously featured wills'.
What you will find in the index
Here you will find a complete name index to all wills proved at Bristol between 1793 and 1858. Also, separate indices for 1781 to 1792. Indices for years preceding these will be published here regularly. These contain wills previously un-indexed and supersede all other indices of Bristol wills for the period.
The indices for 1793 to 1858 are arranged alphabetically by name and tell you in which year a will for that person was proved. The indices earlier than 1793 also include the parish and occupation of the testator; this may help you in identifying the correct will for your ancestor.
Please note that Bristol Record Office holds wills proved at Bristol for years both before and after the period 1781-1858.
Please contact us for further information.
To view the indices to wills proved at Bristol 1781to1858 please select the relevant link in the related documents section.
The index for 1793 to1858 is contained in one composite document and the indices for 1781to1792 are in separate individual documents, listed by year.
Once you have opened the document you require:
- select the binocular icon to begin searching
- enter the surname first, then forename
- the name you require will be highlighted
- if you are looking for all the wills of a particular surname, please note that only the first occurrence of that name in the index will be highlighted.
You can view all the wills listed in these indices on microfiche in our searchroom. You are welcome to visit us to look at them and copy the ones that you are interested in.
However if you are unable to get to us in person, then you can apply for a copy by contacting us by letter or email. Our details are to top right of page.
Please quote the full name and date of the will you wish to have copied.
Do not send any money yet - a detailed quotation and copyright form will be provided. Please note that at present we are unable to accept credit card payments.
Please remember to give us a full postal address when applying for a copy .
Featured will from 1792
From the will of Samuel Smith - gardener, of the parish of St. George in the county of Gloucester :
"I give and bequeath unto my son Daniel Smith late of the parish of St. George in the County of Gloucester aforesaid Mariner who some time since went (and is now on a Voyage) to Sea the Sum of Five Pounds of Lawful Money of Great Britain....One Bed Bedstead and furniture thereto belonging which usually stand in the Garrett Also one Pair of Silver Shoe Buckles marked S.S. One Pair of Silver Sleeve Buttons and one Gold ring."
Samuel's will was dated 10 May 1792 and proved 1 October of the same year.
Featured will from 1791
From the will of George Rogers - gentleman, of the city of Bristol :
"Item I Give and bequeath unto my Son George Rogers my Mahogany Desk and Bookcase with all the Books of the Learned Dr. William Beveridge late Bishop of Asaph which I now have and which I desire my said son George constantly to read mark learn and inwardly digest the content thereof that he may be edifyed thereby."
George Rogers died 25 September and was buried at the cathedral 29 September 1791. The newspaper 'Felix Farley's Bristol Journal' recorded on 1 October that year "Sunday last died, Mr. George Rogers, late clerk to the Dean and Chapter of our Cathedral."