In her 1736 Staffordshire will, a woman named Mary Simpson named her grandson (John Bourne) executor. Bourne requested a proxy (George Hand), and in the proxy request, officials referred to Simpson as a spinster. See image below, in which "spinster" was inserted after another word (possibly "widow") was erased. Nowhere in the will does Simpson refer to her daughter (Bourne's mother) as a "natural" daughter, which was the standard form for referring to children born out of wedlock. Nor does she refer to a husband. I am curious to hear how others might interpret this.enter image description here

  • Do you have baptism records for Mary Simpson, John Bourne and his mother, that you can include details of in your question? I think they may help to put this letter in context. – PolyGeo Mar 4 '17 at 7:22
  • Unfortunately, this will is the only document I have that shines light on these relationships. – tepary66 Mar 4 '17 at 18:36
  • Perhaps "natural daughter" was not used (so consistently, at least) for the relationship to the mother (rather than to the father); parenthood and inheritance was more at issue with the father. Another possibility is that Mary was divorced from the father, and thereby had regained the status of spinster. – RobertShaw Mar 5 '17 at 23:13
  • Thank you, RobertShaw. Those in fact were the two options that came to my mind, and I had wondered in particular about the second option because I have not yet come across a clear case of divorce, in this part of the world at least. – tepary66 Mar 6 '17 at 18:58
  • The OED (physical edition) has an exampe of the use of spinster from 1564: "Joan Lambe, widow of London, spynster" so perhaps it was still being used in some circels for an unmarried widow in 1736? – user104 Apr 10 '17 at 14:56

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