Wills and other probate records can be invaluable to genealogists, particularly when family members from across a county, or even country, are named. This can allow the family history trail to diverge in previously unknown directions, perhaps finding the marriages and burials of family members some distance from where the rest of the family lived.
One of our researchers this week was completing research on a Ridley family of Surrey, when she came across a will in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury naming some thirty-two family members. Elvy Ridley died in the 1840s, and clearly did not have any surviving children, and had outlived his wife.
However, he was keen to divide his estate fairly between his wider family, which was extremely useful from a genealogical point of view. He recorded his family in an ordered fashion, dividing them into his nieces and nephews from his different siblings, including recording who was still living. Married surnames were given for the women, as well as where each nephew and niece was then living. Thus an extensive family tree could be drawn up, and then research could follow each niece and nephew to further extend the family tree. Without the evidence from the will, further research would have been much more time consuming, and family relationships may have remained probable only. A good find during this research!