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In my will I bequeath you... a brown cow and a chamber pot

Posted on 6 December 2016

More than 700 wills and other documents dating from 1576 – 1650 have been digitised, indexed and made freely available by the University of York.


One of the documents to be digitised

The documents are the latest to be made available online as part of York’s Archbishops’ Registers Revealed project.

The Registers are a valuable, and in many cases, unexploited source for political, ecclesiastical, social, local and family history – covering periods of war, famine, political strife and religious reformation in the Archdiocese of York and the wider Northern Province.

The newly indexed records, held at the University’s Borthwick Institute for Archives, cover the period after the Reformation and include 487 wills and 231 administrations.

The wills document:

  • A rector who left his friend’s son a chamber pot in his will
  • A son written out of his father’s will for stealing a horse, silver and money from him
  • A “hoard” of £100  left under the floorboards of a vicarage in 1623
  • A will made by a bishop who was worried he may be “wounded to death or slain by a gun”
  • One brown cow called “Lucky” left by clothier Richard Ellis

Gary Brannan, Access Archivist at the Borthwick Institute, said: “It is a fascinating glimpse into the past and gives us a real insight into life in northern England post Reformation.

“There is a tremendous amount of colour and humour in the wills, which will be of interest from the academic to the genealogist trying to find out more about their family history.

“Importantly, they have all been indexed which means people can search the site  by name, place and subject to pull out information in an accessible form.”

The indexing of the registers 1570-1650 would not have been possible without funding from the Marc Fitch Fund.

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