The Importance of Childless Relatives’ Wills: Martha Whitworth (1794-1829) of Ossett, Yorkshire, England

If I were to give ancestors awards for their wills, Most Boring would go to Samuel Linley (1752-1808) of the parish of Wakefield in Yorkshire, who mentions 15 times that he intends to make his children’s shares as equal as possible.  (The person who drew up the will may have been paid by the word in this time period.)  Most Interesting Items Conveyed would have to go to David Hamlin of Dutchess County, New York, who mentioned two portraits attributed to Ammi Phillips that came up for auction in 2009.

I am not sure who would get Most Useful and Informative, but it would definitely go to an unmarried sibling of an ancestor rather than a direct one.  This is because childless people tend to name other relatives, usually siblings and/or nieces and nephews.  This can sometimes provide a “snapshot” of a complete extended family at the time the will was made, confirming formerly uncertain relationships or pointing to previously undiscovered ones.  It may also provide the dwelling places of these family members.  People who seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth are sometimes found in an unexpected place or under a new married name.

For sheer number of relatives mentioned, the award would go to a 5th great uncle, successful London leather merchant Isaac Hemsworth (1787-1853).  His five sisters provided him with 40 nieces and nephews, and all who were living when he drew up his lengthy will were both named and placed.

Blossom at Dewsbury Minster where Martha is buried.  Photo by stuart Hartley via Wikimedia Commons.

The very useful will of Martha Whitworth of Ossett in the parish of Dewsbury, Yorkshire is much shorter, and a quarter of it is taken up with a run-on sentence expressing her relatively confident religious thoughts:  “I Martha Whitworth feeling myself of late much indisposed through bodily affliction & not knowing how soon it may please the Almighty to call me out of time into Eternity but I trust I shall be supported by the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit which alone can afford consolation in a dying hour & when I enter the dark valley of the shadow of death it will be illumined with the bright beams of the Son of Righteousness who I trust is my only hope and Saviour…”

Whitworth, Martha 1829 Will

Will of Martha Whitworth proved 30 Dec 1829.

Before I obtained Martha’s will I was not sure that my ancestor Robert Whitworth, a wine merchant in Wakefield, was her brother.  Because Martha’s will mentions him and all of his then living children, it proved the two were siblings.

One thought on “The Importance of Childless Relatives’ Wills: Martha Whitworth (1794-1829) of Ossett, Yorkshire, England

  1. Pingback: Flipping Through Records » Friday’s Five at Five for July 13, 2018

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