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Deciphering Index to Death Duty Registers

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Carole Report 17 Oct 2012 07:20

Why would a will NOT be proved?
I have been investigating Mary Ruth Dawson, born Gill in 1849 in Hart County Durham. She lived in Newport Monmouthshire for most of her life and married a Thomas Dawson, Ships' Chandler.
Mary Ruth appears to have died between 1886 and 1889 but the exact date and location remain open to doubt (There is a thread currently running in Find Ancestors, requesting help in this area but this here is a more precise request )

Whilst researching the above I came upon a document on Find my Past in their Index to Death Duty Registers 1888-1888, and (for anyone with a subscription) it was on page 2, nine entries down.
This may well relate to my Mary Ruth but I am finding it difficult to read, partly the handwriting but mainly because I don't know what it means, or what I am actually looking at.
This is what is written, as far as I can make out. Dots stand for letters or numbers I simply cannot read. Some of the entries go across more than one column.

TESTATOR Dawson - Mary Ruth
RESIDENCE Sla. . . . k ab20. . . .
No of AFFIDAVIT Not Proved
Court/Register/Folio S . . . . 38800 . 88 (I think)

Beyond the names, does this make any sense to anyone?
I can e-mail a copy of the page if anyone thinks there may be any useful information here?
Thank you for your time.


Carole Report 17 Oct 2012 09:32

Is there any further information I might give that would help?


greyghost Report 17 Oct 2012 10:16

Could the residence spelling begin with Ll - whoever has written the page has very similar L's and S's, see Lancaster written lower down the page under Court heading and Salford under residence heading

This could then make some sense as a Welsh place name and maybe followed by
a) ab for abode 20 --------- (? street name or similar) or
b) ab for about 20 --------- (? last date seen maybe)

There is a George Jackson Dawson on page 3, his residence is Durham ab 11 Nov, and his case is also not proved. So could be a date last seen? The court column appears to be written in a similar fashion to Mary's - ? a record number/year


KathleenBell Report 17 Oct 2012 10:32

The death duty register entry you mention is for 1888. This is the only death I can see for that name in that year:-

Name: DAWSON, Mary Ruth
Registration district: Birmingham
County: Warwickshire
Year of registration: 1888
Quarter of registration: Apr-May-Jun
Age at death: 39
Volume no: 6D
Page no: 2

People didn't always die in the place that they lived so it could be a possible. The age at death would be correct.

This looks like her birth (Stockton Registration District covers Hart):-

Name: GILL, Mary Ruth
Registration district: Stockton
County: Durham
Year of registration: 1848
Quarter of registration: Oct-Nov-Dec
Mother's maiden name: Not available before 1911 Q3
Volume no: 24
Page no: 246

and her marriage:-

Name: GILL, Mary Ruth
Registration district: Newport (Monmouthshire)
County: Monmouthshire
Year of registration: 1873
Quarter of registration: Jan-Feb-Mar
Spouse's last name: Not available before 1912
Volume no: 11A
Page no: 231

MarriageFinder: Mary Ruth Gill married one of the following people:

DAWSON, Thomas<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Kath. x


Carole Report 17 Oct 2012 10:58

Yes Kathleen
Despite being unhappy about death in Birmingham I think I am going to have to go with it. It is the only location I found, plus other experienced GR researchers yesterday and now you. Everyone can't be wrong!
I will send for the cert. Although not much is revealed on death certs, the manner of death might tell me something?
She definitely was Mary Ruth Gill, daughter of Robert Gill and Eleanor Gill (born Thompson), of Stranton Hartlepool. Mary Ruth married Thomas Dawson in 1873. I have all the documents to prove that.
Thank you for your input.


Carole Report 17 Oct 2012 11:18

Hi Stuart

Double LL is possible, as Newport, where Mary lived, is in Wales.
ab could be abode - no idea what the final word of that is!!
Wait! Could it be a month? and ab = about? 'About 20 April' perhaps, or even 'about 20 June' look at his 'Js' and 'e' at the end of a word (April, May June was the Quarter of Registration, if I accept Birmingham?.)
But having no legal knowledge I still do not understand the 'not proved' bit. What reasons could there be for a will not to be proved?
I assume that the final two numbers at the end of the line are the year '88? If it is /88 I wonder what the preceding 38800 stands for?
Thank you for that. I'm not sure yet where it has got me but bits are beginning to make possible sense.

Chris in Sussex

Chris in Sussex Report 17 Oct 2012 11:23


I have been looking through my reference books for clues but could find nothing relevant to explain the entry.

You could try asking the question through the NA online help session, if the available time suits you.

and scroll down to 'Live Chat' section.
If the time isn't convenient you could always e.mail them as they suggest in the section for an explanation.

Good luck


Carole Report 17 Oct 2012 11:32

Thanks Chris

I have never dealt with them. Looks a bit official. Will they blind me with science?
But I will investigate. I assume from your post that help is only available at specific times?


Carole Report 17 Oct 2012 11:37

Does anyone know:-

If a will is mentioned in the Registers, even if it wasn't proved, will there be a copy of it retained somewhere? If so, and I can order it, it might explain a lot? But I may need to decipher that place name?
Anyone else with suggestions about that?


KathleenBell Report 17 Oct 2012 12:17

Could the word under residence be......slain nk (not known) about 20th June?

Just thinking out loud really.

Kath. x


Carole Report 17 Oct 2012 12:28

I've cracked the residence location.
It says STOW PARK (Pk actually)
Stow Park is an area of Newport, Monmouthshire: part of the district of St Woolos.
My Mary Ruth was definitely living in St Woolos at the time of the 1871 and 1881 censuses and in 1891 Thomas Dawson, plus his NEW wife (Mary Ann this time), plus his children and several servants, are to be found in Stow Park Avenue and Mary Ruth's mother is also living there.
So I am confident that it is the right person and 1888 is the year of her death.
Now to find out why the will was never proved? What could that have been about?


Andysmum Report 17 Oct 2012 14:57

The above is what happens now, but I don't suppose it has changed much. There are a couple of reasons for not proving a will, but not mentioned is the fact that the executors might simply have not bothered.

I have done a couple of wills, neither very complicated, but it involves quite a lot of work and the executors have to go personally to the probate office and swear an affidavit in order to get probate. If there were very few assets they might have felt it wasn't worth the trouble.

Another thought - her husband out-lived her. Back then, I think, everything a married woman "owned" belonged to her husband!! So perhaps the will was in case he died first.

Chris in Sussex

Chris in Sussex Report 17 Oct 2012 15:24

A good point Andysmum about 'ownership' but in fact the Married Woman's Property Act was put into place in 1882.

I agree also about the not bothering.....I have one where the nephew who was named as Executor didn't prove the will. A creditor of the deceased got a bit cross over it and took it to Chancery. To cut a long story short the creditor got Administration and must have been somewhat disappointed that the value of the estate didn't cover the amount owed to him let alone all the others queuing behind :-D



Carole Report 17 Oct 2012 16:22

Thanks Chris and Andysmum

Is it difficult to get a copy of a will? We can go on surmising for ever.

As the date is later than 'the married woman's property act' we can discount that anything Mary Ruth had went automatically to husband/executor Thomas Dawson.
However she might have LEFT everything to him?
He was a successful business man and knew his way around banks and money and probably had a 'tame' solicitor? He probably simply reabsorbed anything his wife had, back into the family? There is no reason to believe Mary Ruth had much money. Her parents had been comfortably off but her mother was widowed early and was still alive when Mary Ruth died.
There is an interesting precedent in the family though. Mary Ruth's great aunt, in the 1840s, had left all her properties ONLY to her nieces, with the proviso that they were for them alone and their husbands were in no way to benefit from the bequests. Mary Ruth's mother Eleanor Gill would have been one such beneficiary. I think they were a breed of women who knew their own minds.


Carole Report 17 Oct 2012 16:43

The burning question!!
Can I get a copy? If so how please?

Chris in Sussex

Chris in Sussex Report 17 Oct 2012 17:08

It would appear not I am sad to say....

A search on Ancestry in the collecton 'England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966' shows no entry for a Mary Ruth Dawson in any time frame.

That was on a straight name search....Will try a few wildcards.



Carole Report 17 Oct 2012 17:24

Thanks Chris

Is that a definitive collection?

Fingers crossed for wild cards!

Chris in Sussex

Chris in Sussex Report 17 Oct 2012 17:32

Sorry even trying wildcard combinations hasn't given a result so it looks as if there was no will proved or administration granted.

If I was you, I think I would be concentrating on the last three columns, Court, Register and Folio. It is, in my opinion, a reference to a register (or maybe correspondance?) but I haven't, in my limited experience, seen it written that way.

I think you need a Death Duty Records expert and maybe contacting the NA would be the way to go.
I have never used their live talk facility but have visited the NA and If the live talk operators are anything like the staff I have met they will be more than helpful. Having said that it might be easier to send the query through their contact form.

If you do get a result then please post back here and let us all know what it actually meant.

Good luck


Carole Report 17 Oct 2012 17:55

Thank you so much for your help and suggestions.
Maybe not the full answer yet - but forward progress has been made.
I will certainly report if I find more.
I will leave this thread open for a bit. You never know a "Death Duty Records Expert" might just happen my way. The eternal optimist me.

Bye for now

Chris in Sussex

Chris in Sussex Report 17 Oct 2012 18:29


I think we must all be eternal optimists otherwise we wouldn't keeping chipping away at those 'brickwalls'..... Always a difficult task with fingers permanently crossed :-D