01935 429609
Somerset & Dorset
Family History Society

The Greenwood Tree – June 2021

The front cover of the June edition of The Greenwood Tree shows a 19th century painting of a lawyer’s office to illustrate the theme of Wills. The caption “Where There’s a Will … There’s a Won’t”, suggests that some of the most revealing information we extract from ancestral wills may involve those who are deliberately omitted from an inheritance or left something derisory. Distant family feuds are hard to find in other ways. Editor Paul Radford previews the edition which will be mailed to members at the end of May and which SDFHS members can already view or download from the Members’ Area of the Society’s website.

Greenwood Tree 46-2 June 2021

We were lucky to have two contributors in particular who have acquired great expertise on the topic. Diane Brook has done copious work in discovering alternative sources to compensate for the huge loss caused by World War Two bombing of Exeter Cathedral where most Somerset wills were stored. She also provides a helpful list of around 100 surnames of those whose wills and their locations have been discovered. Miriam Scott has spent many years researching disputed wills in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, held in the National Archives. The files reveal much biographical detail on the protagonists and witnesses and Miriam tells us something of some of the more interesting Dorset cases. She has also kindly donated her files to our Family History Centre in Yeovil.

     Gerald Martyn offers a sad tale of involving three Margarets, one of whom dictated her will on her deathbed after giving birth to an illegitimate daughter. Our assistant editor Margery Hookings has unearthed the will of her 9xgreat-grandfather John Crabb, a tanner, written as long ago as 1652 while Anne-Marie Nash goes back even further to her ancestor Humfrey Lear’s will, made in 1604.

Nash Will Extract
Extract from Humfrey Lear’s will

     Brenda Pickett tells the story of how illegitimacy affected the children of a successful 19th century brewer and Jenny Jones comes across an unusual all-female will – made by a woman with female executors and solely female beneficiaries – which throws light on to 18th century life on Portland.

     Jane Ferentzi-Sheppard finds her ancestor John Chutter, a gardener, was handsomely rewarded for long service to siblings of the author Thomas Hardy. There are other tales on wills provided by Lara Webster, John Priddle, Barbara Wallace, Margaret Ware, and Derek Allen.

Ferentzi John Chutter 1930s
John Chutter and family

       The issue contains several other topics too, of course. In one of them, Kay Kearsey gives us excerpts from the notebooks of William Symonds who joined the navy in the 19th century and saw the world despite encountering a setback when Krakatoa exploded in 1883.

Kearsey HMS Benbow
HMS Benbow, one of the ships on which William Symonds served

      Regular features include Mike Whitaker’s Dorset Spotlight, this time on Tyneham, the SDFHS Photo Project with old pictures of people in Cheddar, What the Papers Said and Letters to the Editor.

Tyneham Church
Tyneham Church

      The September issue will also have a theme. This time members will be invited to send in stories and pictures on the topic of Grandfathers.

Paul Radford 

Member and Guest Blogs Welcome

We welcome guest and member blog posts on any topic with a family history connection and invite you to send your contributions, which should include photo/photos, to the editor Barbara Elsmore