Where there's a Will there's usually a way - but not in this case!

Did you know the majority of wills that were proved in Devon were destroyed during an air-raid on Exeter in 1942? Some Devon wills, however, were originally proved in London at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and these have survived.

Somewhat tantalizing is the fact that calendars (lists) of many of the lost wills had been compiled before the war and so we know about the previous existence of a will that our Devon ancestor left but, in many cases, the contents have been lost forever.

Over a number of years, the Devon Wills Project tracked down a proportion of copies, transcripts and abstracts of the lost wills and administrations from a variety of sources and created a central index of where these documents can be found. The index can be viewed at http://genuki.cs.ncl.ac.uk/DEV/DevonWillsProject/ and is also available to FindMyPast subscribers at http://search.findmypast.co.uk/search-world-Records/devon-wills-index-1163-1999

I'm currently researching some of my North Devon ancestors and have learnt that my 7 x great-grandfather, Nathaniel Randal from Hatherleigh, left a will after he died in 1731. You've guessed it, all we have now is a list entry. I wonder what his will would have told us about his family, his occupation and his wealth and status in those times. Sadly, we shall never know!

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