According to the censuses, my great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Taylor (married Ellen Whittle 22 December 1823 at Penwortham, Lancashire) was born somewhere between 1797 and 1799 at Hutton in the parish of Penwortham. When I look for his baptism, there are three possibilities in Penwortham’s registers. Not surprising, really, as “Taylor” is the fifth most common surname in the UK (see “Great Britain Family Names“). Fortunately, there’s a will that helps me to exclude one of the three.
One of the candidates for my great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Taylor, was baptised at Penwortham on 17 March 1793 to Richard and Mary Taylor. Could I find out his fate and so show that he was – or wasn’t – my ancestor? One problem with Penwortham is that the parish registers were all destroyed in a fire in 1856, so we are reliant on the Bishop’s Transcripts. Like all such Transcripts, Penwortham’s BTs have gaps in them but they have been filmed and are also transcribed on the Lancashire OnLine Parish Clerk Project web-site (LOPC). I’d noted some of the Taylor entries on the microfilms on a visit to Lancashire Record Office at Preston, and cross-checked them with FamilySearch and LOPC. As a result, I was able to put together the baptisms for Richard and Mary’s children:
- 16 Nov 1783, William, abode Penwortham at time of baptism – I can’t see him in any later census;
- 2 Apr 1786, James, abode Penwortham – possibly at Charnock Moss in the Penwortham / Farington area in 1851;
- 13 May 1788, Richard, abode Penwortham – I can’t see him in any census – could he be buried 1820 at Penwortham?;
- 6 June 1790, Ann (only visible in FamilySearch);
- 17 Mar 1793, Thomas, abode Penwortham (the one who might be my 3G GF);
- 14 June 1795, Elizabeth;
- 1798, Mary, abode Penwortham;
- 21 Feb 1802, Ellen, abode Penwortham;
All these baptisms are at St. Mary’s, Penwortham, and no others are found in the vicinity to this couple.
Widening the search
What else can be found about this family? There is a reference to a will of a Richard Taylor of Penwortham in the Cheshire Collection on FindMyPast:
“Taylor, under £200
“7th November 1814, before Thomas Rebanks, Surrogate
“Will of Richard Taylor, late of Penwortham, yeoman, dec’d, was Proved and Admon Granted unto James Taylor and James Pickering the Executors, power being reserved to Mary Taylor the Executrix.”
This looked a promising match as the names James and Mary appear in the family of this Richard Taylor of Penwortham. While there is no 1814 burial for a Richard Taylor in Penwortham – any even vaguely in the area are for children only – the LOPC notes say (for burials) “No entries for 1814 in the Bishop’s Transcripts”! LOPC has a Thomas Rebanks in Brindle in 1815, also a curate of that name at Heapey in the adjacent parish of Leyland – probably the same clergyman.
But, you may ask – why was this in the Cheshire Collection? Simply because in 1814, the included a massive amount (all?) of Lancashire, a situation that didn’t change until the creation of the Diocese of Manchester in 1847. (All references here are to the Church of England, unless otherwise stated). Up to 1858, the proving of wills and granting of probate was a responsibility of the church courts, so for Richard Taylor, who had lived in Penwortham in 1814, the court in charge of granting probate for his will was that of the Archdeaconry of Chester. The FMP document that I quote above is not the will itself, but the entry in what is called the Probate Act Book – which is a record of the probate work done by the Archdeaconry of Chester. As this covers Cheshire as much as Lancashire, it’s in the Cheshire Collection on FMP. But where was the will itself?
The Diocese of Chester held all its wills at Chester and Richard Taylor’s would have gone there originally, before moving down the road to Chester Record Office. But, later on, those wills from Lancashire that were held by Chester RO, were taken up to Lancashire RO at Preston. So probably, unless the weather or rodents had got to this will, it was up at Preston. However, Preston’s on-line catalogue, LANCAT, does not appear to list any of the ex-Chester wills, so I had to mail them. Fortunately, the will had got there and shortly after, I had a copy (LRO reference “WCW Richard Taylor 1814”). Remember – the idea is to see what happened to Richard’s son, Thomas.
The cover is labelled “Taylor, Will of Richard, late of Penwortham, Yeoman, dec’d, Proved 7th Nov’r 1814”.
This is the will for “Richard Taylor of Penwortham … Yeoman”. After the usual preamble it says “I give to each of my children James, Richard, Betty, and Mary, the Looms on which they weave, and to my daughter Ellen, the Looms on which I have been accustomed to weave.” His wife, Mary, is to have during her life, his messuage, cottage and tenement, with the lands and appurtenances, where he resides in Penwortham. His cottage with garden and appurtenances in Bamber Bridge also goes to his wife (I think). After his wife’s death, the Penwortham cottage etc., are to go to his son, James. Also there are cash legacies thus:
- His daughter Jennet, wife of Alexander Hodson, to have £5;
- His daughter Nanny, wife of James [Beardsworth], to have £5;
- His daughter Betty to have £5;
- His daughter Mary to have £5;
- His daughter Ellen to have £5;
The sums of money are to be paid by James after he comes into possession of the cottage, etc. His son, Richard, is to receive the Bamber Bridge cottage after the death of the testator’s wife. Out of the personal estate, these further cash legacies are to be paid after his wife’s death:
- His daughter Nanny to have £20;
- His daughter Betty to have £50;
- His daughter Mary to have £50;
- His daughter Ellen to have £50;
The rest is to be equally divided between Jennet, Nanny, Betty, Mary and Ellen.
The executors are to be his wife, his son, James, and one James Pickering the younger of Penwortham, weaver. The will is signed 15 June 1814 – note the signatures are present on this copy. Witnesses are John [Snalam], William Livseys, Robert Bickerstaff.
What can we tell from this will?
Firstly, is this really the will of the Richard who had those children baptised at Penwortham? The will matches the baptisms (a) by the names of the parents (Richard and Mary) and (b) by the names of the children James, Richard, Nanny (equating her with Ann in the baptisms), Betty (matching her to Elizabeth), Mary and Ellen. This is a very good match. Jennet of the will is not mentioned in the baptisms. Secondly, note that William and Thomas of the baptisms are not mentioned in the will, but everyone else is.
We conclude that:
- Because of the matching, the will is that of the Richard Taylor of Penwortham, who has children baptised there 1783-1802, and is married to Mary;
- Because of their omission, Richard and Mary’s children, William and Thomas, have died by 1814, the time of the will;
- Richard and Mary’s son, Thomas, therefore cannot be my ancestor, who married in 1823, nine years after the will.
It is possible that Richard and Thomas had fallen out so much that Thomas was disinherited but my experience is that some sort of reference is made if only to make it clear that the omission is not accidental.