Boston trip: some documents are coming with us

We have even more exciting news about our Boston trip – we will be taking some original documents with us.

Two historic wills will be making the trip across the Atlantic for visitors to our events in Boston to come and see, one made by Richard Knight in 1703 and the other by Richard Fitzsymonds in 1663.

Knight was an innkeeper from Rochford. His will (D/AEW 30/7) was made on 3 January 1703 and he died a few days later (he was buried in Rochford churchyard on 15 January).

Burial of Richard Knight, 15 January 1703 in Rochford (D/P 129/1/1 image 27)

Burial of Richard Knight, 15 January 1703 in Rochford (D/P 129/1/1 image 27)

He was a prosperous man, and left his mother Love Wood a hundred pounds and three houses for life.

These houses – and two more in Moulsham, Chelmsford – were to pass after his mother’s death to his brother George Knight of ‘Herford in New England’, the place now known as Hartford, Connecticut.

Extract from Richard Knight's will, leaving his brother George Knight in Connecticut five houses, and his brother John Wood 1 shilling (D/AEW 30/7)

Extract from Richard Knight’s will, leaving his brother George Knight in Connecticut five houses, and his brother John Wood 1 shilling (D/AEW 30/7)

Court records show that the will was contested by Richard’s half-brother John Wood, who had been left just one shilling (5p.). Trouble was brewing even before Richard’s death. On 9 January, under pressure from Wood, the executor gathered together three extra witnesses, led by a local gentleman, Thomas Wheeler. Asked whether he was willing to have the will read over to him, the dying man replied ‘noe it is well enough’. Later he allowed Wheeler to break open the sealed will and to read its contents – but only after John Wood’s wife had left the room. Richard then confirmed his original intentions, ‘putting his forefinger upon the marke by him before made’, and the three new witnesses signed the will as it was re-sealed.

Sadly we do not have the Woods’ side of the story, but the court of probate found for the will as written. Whether George in Connecticut ever got his houses remains to be discovered.

The other will is of Richard Fitzsymonds of Great Yeldham, gentleman (D/AMW 9/1).  He made his will in 1663 but did not die until 1680, which is an unusually long gap between a will being made and the testator’s death. The will has a particularly fulsome religious preamble and includes bequests to the poor of three parishes where he owned property.

Will of Richard Fitzsymonds 1663

The detailed religious preamble to the will of Richard Fitzsymonds and bequests to the local poor (D/AMW 9/1)

He also leaves a bequest to his brother and those of his nephews and nieces who were born in England and went out to New England with their father.  He mentions a number of other brothers, nephews, nieces and kinsmen and leaves money for them all to have a gold ring worth twenty shillings.

Extract from the will of Richard Fitzsymonds, 1663, leaving property to his brother Samuel Symonds and his nieces and nephews in New England

Extract from the will of Richard Fitzsymonds, 1663, leaving property to his brother Samuel Symonds and his nieces and nephews in New England

 

The family was clearly wealthy and had lands in several parishes and two seal rings.  He also asks for a jewel to be purchased for his daughter in law as a token of his love for her.

If you’re in the Boston area next week (3-7 August 2015), do pop in to see ERO staff and these original documents at one of the locations they will be going to – all the details are here.

Both of these wills, along with 70,000 others, are available to view online on our subscription service Essex Ancestors.

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