Tag Archives: national probate calendar

Interesting puzzle in the National Probate Calendar

18 Aug

During my rather haphazard searches of the National Probate Calendar last week I came across an interesting pair of entries that I felt warranted further investigation. Unfortunately the people concerned are pretty distant relations, but at least they are related.

The first entry I discovered was for Dorothy GASSON:

GASSON Dorothy of 3 North-road Haywards Heath Sussex widow who was last seen alive on 13 October 1940 and whose dead body was found on 15 October 1940 Administration (limited) Lewes 31 December to Robert George Richards public assistance officer. Effects £143 1s. 11d.

This seemed rather unusual, but presumably no-one knew the exact date that she had died, and I assumed that the “public assistance officer” was acting as executor in the absence of any other appointed executor or next of kin.

Further down the page was an entry for another GASSON also living at the same address:

GASSON William Edward of 3 North-road Haywards Heath Sussex died 15 October 1940 Probate Lewes 6 January to Percy William Woodland postman and Jessie Mary Woodland (wife of the said Percy William Woodland). Effects £280 16s. 8d.

The mystery deepens, my first thought was “why was the postman acting as executor?” but I guess there is probably some family connection. William died on the same day as Dorothy’s body was discovered, had someone seen William the day before so they knew he had died on the 15th October, but couldn’t be certain about Dorothy.

Several other questions came to mind, what was the relationship between Dorothy and William? How did they both die? Why was the postman not acting as executor for Dorothy as well as William?

The first question is probably the easiest to answer, according to the GRO Marriage Index William Edward GASSON married Dorothy BACKSHALL in Q2 1939 in the Cuckfield Registration District. This has got to be them, so they must be husband and wife, but had only been married for about a year when they died. Given the date, the most likely cause of death is probably as a result of their house being bombed during the Second World War

I checked the GRO Death Indexes for both Dorothy and William, and that just made matters worse, perhaps they weren’t husband and wife after all. Dorothy’s age was given as 41 years and William’s as 71 years. Perhaps Dorothy was a daughter from an earlier marriage or a niece, but for a 40 year old woman to marry a 70 year old man in 1939 seems unusual.

Now I have the question of whether to follow up the story further. Like I said earlier they are pretty distant relations, but I just can’t resist a mystery like this. I need to know what was going on. The problem is that I can’t afford two death certificates, probably a marriage certificate, a copy of a will and a grant of administration. Although it is an interesting puzzle I have more important things to spend my genealogy budget on. Instead I will add another item to my to-do list, to check the local newspapers for the time to see if any mention is made of their deaths.

The National Probate Calendar is certainly proving to be a very rich source of information, every time I find one of my relations it always seems to lead to new information and more research, without even going as far as ordering a copy of the will.

Personal Genealogy Update: Week 33

15 Aug

There was one big distraction this week, fortunately it was a genealogical distraction. I spent much longer than I had anticipated looking at the newly released National Probate Calendars on Ancestry.co.uk.

So far my searching has been very unstructured, just checking out my surnames to see if there was anyone I recognised. You know what it is like when you get your hands on a new database, all pretences of order go out the window as you just dive in. So far I haven’t actually recorded any of the data, but have found some interesting entries, but I now need to start being more methodical and start capturing the data.

As a result of my searches I will probably be ordering a couple of wills this week. More out of curiosity than anything else, as they will probably not actually move my research forward, but should be interesting to read.

The two certificates that ordered last week arrived this weekend, so I will be processing those this week and probably writing about them. As I expected there were no real surprises contained in them, but they help tie down some details about the BATEMAN family and their time in Brighton, Sussex. They also give me more work to do next time I am at the Brighton History Centre and East Sussex Record Office.

I haven’t forgotten the Australian BATEMANs, I need to carry on sorting out their data and seeing what else I can find out. Is there an equivalent to the National Probate Calendars for Australia? Where can I find a copy of William Joseph Henry BATEMANs will?

I have picked up a copy of Tracing Your Naval Ancestors from my local library and will go through that and put together a list of records I need to check next time I am up at The National Archives. The aim being to try and fill in some more details on William Joseph Henry BATEMAN’s naval service.

National Probate Calendar 1861-1941 on Ancestry.co.uk

11 Aug

Ancestry.co.uk have released another exciting record collection on their UK site. The National Probate Calendar serves as an index to wills proved and administrations granted after 1858 and although the database is not complete yet it is still going to be a major boost for UK researchers.

Even though the calendar is only an index it does provide a great deal of information on the deceased. They may not look much, but those few brief lines can tell you a lot about the deceased, take for example the entry for my 3x great-grandfather John FAIRS:

FAIRS John of 6 Park-road Henfield Sussex agricultural labourer died 27 November 1915 Probate Chichester 11 December to George Shepherd private 4th Royal Sussex regiment. Effects £982 19s. 2d.

There is so much information there. Name, address, occupation, date of death, where and when probate was granted and to whom (his son-in-law) and their occupation. Also how much the estate was worth, hopefully dispelling the myth that a humble agricultural labourer would have nothing of value to leave in a will.

Details will vary, but these index entries will often help fill in details or clarify research. In the example above, I had no idea that George SHEPHERD was serving in the 4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, that fact should help me identify him amongst dozens of George SHEPHERDs who also served during WW1.

These records have been available previously in selected locations (I have previously accessed them on microfiche at the West Sussex Record Office), but genealogist have been waiting a long time for them to be available online. I only hope the Probate Registry can cope with the increased demand for copies of wills this release is almost certainly going to create.


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