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My 4th great grandparents Robert Chichester (1767-1830) and Martha Noake (1762-1836) married on 13 Apr 1797 at Branscombe, Devon and had five children:

  • Priscilla (my 3rd great grandmother) was born illegitimate on 22 Sep 1796 and baptised on 16 Oct 1796 at Branscombe. She was given her father's surname at the outset so paternity is established.
  • Jane was born about 1798-99 (I base this estimate on her age being given as 40 in the 1841 Census, 55 in the 1851 Census, 63 in the 1861 Census, 72 in the 1871 Census and 82 in the 1881 Census) at Old Cleeve, Somerset (1851-1881 Censuses all agree).
  • Giles was baptised on 21 Jun 1801 at Broadwey, Dorset
  • Jared was baptised on 20 Mar 1803 at Broadwey, Dorset
  • Thomas was perhaps born in about 1805 and probably in Dorset, Devon or Somerset but all I know is that he died a bachelor on 25 Dec 1838, as a Planter in British Guiana (now Guyana), and his 1872 probate of 450 pounds was awarded to his sister Jane. I am unclear why that took 34 years to happen but I will leave that to another question. I have not found a Will for Thomas.

Thomas living in Guyana is confirmed by his mother Martha's Will (see What Island is likely to be mentioned on 19th Century Somerset Will?) which says that both Jared and Thomas are Gentlemen on the "Island" of Demerara. She mentions Jared first which makes me think he is older than Thomas. Her will also mentions that:

my property principally consists of what was left to my late husband and myself by our son Giles Chichester and that it remains due to me from my said sons Executors from whom neither my husband nor myself received any part of the principal moneys but always received the annual sum of thirty two pounds from William Chichester Esquire one of such Executors by quarterly payments

Her husband Robert was buried on 27 Feb 1830 so I can deduce that Giles died some time before then. I also know that the William Chichester mentioned is Robert's brother and uncle to Giles, Jared and Thomas, and that he too was living in Demarara where he was also an executor of Jared's Will when he died at sea on 23 Jul 1837 on the way back to England.

Jared's Will mentions that:

I give and bequeath to my late brother's son John Chichester my silver watch formerly worn by his father as a small token of remembrance

Unless there is another brother that I do not know about, and which would appear to contradict Martha's Will listing her five children, this means that Giles had a son and presumably a wife.

The above is a long story, but my question is whether anyone has any ideas about how I could locate the Will of Giles Chichester?

For me this is a key document because I think it should establish whether he was living in Demerara (Guyana) like his two brothers and uncle, and more details. My suspicion is that he married, had a child and died in Guyana because I can find no trace of him, wife or child in England.

  • Have you been able to search the National Probate Index (e.g. at Ancestry)? – Jan Murphy Nov 21 '14 at 16:29
  • I recently found my dad's family are the chichesters and DNA test has linked me to them from ancestry DNA. I was born in Georgetown but I live in the USA now. – Nandi Sep 24 '17 at 0:19
  • @Nandi it would be great if you can contact me using the email address that I provide in my profile (click my username link). I have recently had my AncestryDNA done too so we can compare that as well as paper records. We probably both descend from Robert Chichester and Martha Noake. – PolyGeo Sep 24 '17 at 2:15
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Using Adrian's answer as a springboard, I searched for possible resources.

The Devon Wills index formerly at British Origins has now been released at Find My Past. A list of the courts (including the PCC) whose records were used in compiling the index references courts in Dorset and Wiltshire but I don't see anything in the list specifically related to Somerset. So I wondered: has anyone made an index for Somerset Wills, comparable to the one for Devon? and then went looking to see what resources I could find.

GENUKI has one entry under Somerset Probate records:

Printed indexes of Somerset Probate Inventories and of Somerset Estate Duty Office Wills and Letters of Administration (1805-1811 and 1812-1857) are available from Harry Galloway Publishing.

FamilySearch Catalog lists:

  • England, Somerset - Probate records ( 19 )
  • England, Somerset - Probate records - Handbooks, manuals, etc. ( 1 )
  • England, Somerset - Probate records - Indexes ( 8 )

Some of these are microfilm, some printed materials, and some are digital resources which you can view directly. Many are outside your time period of interest, but I do see some which cover the 1820s. These include guidebooks from the Somerset Record Society.

One items which might be of particular interest is this microfilm from the Family History Library:

Somerset probate inventories places index, A - Z

Contains a listing of probate inventories arranged alphabetically by locality, that is, each locality card contains a listing of those deceased people who had an inventory of their estates. Use of this index enables one to identify personal estate inventories by locality.

Find My Past also has the London Probate Index

This index covers the administration of estates at nine courts not covered by the index for London and Middlesex probate entries 1750-1858 in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury series held at The National Archives. ... There are entries from all over England (and particularly Essex and Hertfordshire as the jurisdiction of the Consistory Court of London stretched into those two counties), plus Ireland, Scotland and Wales; but great strength also lies in prodigious numbers of people domiciled or dying abroad, and of soldiers and sailors on active service - in virtually every case, the regiment or ship's name is given.

The FamilySearch Wiki has a page on Online Resources for Guyana

World Vital Records has two hits for Guyana in the book English Estates of American Settlers: American Wills and Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1800 - 1858. This won't be of direct interest to you, but perhaps other books of this kind which cover English Estates in Guyana might be found via a search of Google Books, the Internet Archive, or Hathi Library.

Another possible source of information is the British Newspaper Archive. To date, I haven't found as many items about probate matters as I was hoping, but in the US papers, I found several printed notices of the upcoming court calendars for the local probate court, which provide a framework for searching for the records themselves. If abstracts of wills or letters of administration exist, it is far easier to find them if you can narrow down the date, so working on narrowing down a possible date of death might be one way to approach the problem.

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Somerset wills were sadly kept with Devon wills. See the page on the Somerset archives site where it says "The story of Somerset's wills is a sad one. Having been centralised at Exeter, most of the county's original probate records before 1858 were destroyed by German bombing in 1942, as were those for Devon."

The link goes on to list options for finding the surviving wills.

My belief is that if Giles Chichester did live outside the UK then the will would have been proven through the PCC of Canterbury. However, although the PCC wills are on Ancestry now, a quick search there doesn't suggest anything useful.

Having said that, it now occurs to me that I have just recently been dealing with a will made in India by a British citizen for which probate was not obtained in the UK, so it could be that any will and probate processing was indeed handled solely in Guyana - as I think you suspect, judging by the title of this question.

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I have just been contacted by a descendant of Giles Chichester from Demerara in Guyana, and for the first time I expect to be able to assemble evidence that he was living in Demerara like his two brothers (Jared and Thomas) and uncle (William). My distant cousin from Demerara has not been able to locate the Will of Giles either but I am hoping she/he will be able to shed light on his life and presumably death there, even if it does not lead to eventual discovery of his Will.

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Given that he was English and had lived in Somerset and died in Guyana. His Will, if he left one would have been proved in the PCC of Canterbury. It might also be worthwhile to check, if there are any details of him, his family or of his death recorded by the British Consul in Guyana.

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