I have been transcribing a number of 18th Century English wills and noticed that there don't seem to be mentions of wives -- at least not in the ones that I'm working on. Given the legal doctrine of Coverture (woman's legal rights becoming those of the husband on marriage), and the fact that the Married Women's Property Act wouldn't be until 1870, would the absence of such mentions be the norm or an indication that they'd already died?

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  • Hardly an answer - my gut feeling without doing an analysis of my copies, is that a typical 19th century will would make it clear that the widow was to have the right to live in her husband's house after his death, even if the title were to pass to their son. But would it have been different in the 18th? I can't even think if I have such a will... – AdrianB38 Dec 19 '18 at 19:15
  • Thanks Adrian. I have recently found several relevant to my Leicestershire ancestors, but the writing is like reading ancient Egyptian. – ACProctor Dec 19 '18 at 20:07
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    Yes - a quick check shows one 1700s will in my collection - no mention of the wife but I do know she's died beforehand. And one 1807 will that requests executors to look after his widow. As for the writing.... PCC documents are distinctive well into the 19th century. A friend of mine was once told that her handwriting was very "O". That seems to describe PCC wills. (Actually, I wonder if they deliberately wrote to fill the page up?) – AdrianB38 Dec 19 '18 at 20:26
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    I've looked through a number of 17th century wills recently, mostly from Gloucestershire, and many mention wives. IIRC while married women had few options for asset ownership then, unmarried women (who might inherit from their fathers) and widows had more ownership rights. I'll see if I can dig up a reference for that later. – AndyW Dec 20 '18 at 10:20

Great information. I love genealogy. I don’t know if my information would be helpful but I will give it anyway. I am a daughter of the American Revolution. I’ve noticed on the information I have the wives and daughters are mentioned, however I have not laid eyes on wills.

In fact, it never occurred to me what the female (The wives or the daughter) received when the male (The husband or the father) passed away . I will go back and investigate; and if I find pertinent information I’ll repost.

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