I have been reading a will (Ancestry UK link), written by Giles Fox of Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire, in 1780. It was proved after his death in 1789. In it, he leaves his property to his three daughters: Martha, Mary and Elizabeth.

I have good candidates for these three daughters, but there are some similar records to filter through, and an idea of birth dates would be very helpful.

Giles leaves his estate directly to his daughters, who were also executors. Nothing is "left in trust until they reach 21", or any similar language that I have seen in other wills where children inherited. So can I assume from this that the three daughters were all adults at the time the will was written? Or is that not certain?

It's certainly likely that they were adults - the inventory (on the page following the will) in 1789 shows that all had married by that point, and one was already widowed. But I'd like to know if the wording of the will is something I can rely on.


I'm sorry to say that the wording in the will certainly isn't something you can rely on to tell you the age of children mentioned in wills in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

I have a couple of ancestors that left wills in the late 18th and early 19th centuries where they mention children who were adults and also children who were minors. In neither case did the will explicitly state that some of the children were minors.

With the exception of the ones that were married, and whose husbands were also mentioned in the wills, there was no way to distinguish between those who were minors, and those who weren't from the wording in the wills.

Fortunately, I already had the details of the children from other sources, and could also identify them from the baptismal records relatively easily.

  • Thanks. I thought that might be the case but it's nice to have a clear example.
    – AndyW
    Nov 16 '17 at 9:19

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