Introduction to Abstracts of Maryland Wills
by Carson Gibb

The wills here abstracted are those recorded from 1743 to 1760 in Libers 23 - 30 by the Prerogative Court (see PREROGATIVE COURT (Wills) 1635-1777, S538).  Of most, one or two other versions are extant, and where the Prerogative Court version is defective I have used them.  Abstracts of subsequent libers will be added as they are done. The abstracts published by F. Edward Wright, though unreliable, have helped me.  A few notes will help in understanding the wills.

Until 1752 England and its colonies used a version of the Julian calendar, in which the year started on 25 March.  Instead of being the first months of the year, January & February were the last. That is, November & December 1745 came before January & February 1745, and a will executed in, say, July 1745 might be proved in February 1745. Though most of March was in the old year, the same year as January & February, it was the first month of the new year. Sometimes dates in January & February were ascribed to both the old & the new years; say,  20 January 1755/6 or 5 February 1749/50.

A widow had a defense if she thought her husband’s will unjust.  Whatever it left her, a widow was entitled to try to get more by claiming her dower, 1/3 of her husband’s estate real & personal.  Often a probate includes the widow’s acceptance or rejection of the will. The widow "stood to" or "abode by the devise in the will" or "elected" or "fled to" her one third or what the law provides. Occasionally she accepted what the will gave her of the real estate but rejected what it gave her of the personal estate, or vice versa.

Often the will was proved in the presence of the heir at law, almost always the testator’s eldest son. This information is helpful, and occasionally this is the only appearance of that son’s name.

Here is a sample abstract with explanations:

Liber 23, folio 605
11 Aug. 1744
EDGAR, HENRY, Dorchester Co.
To wife, Ruth Edgar, my extrx., my dw. plntn. & all my p. e.,
   for life or widhood, then to be equ. div. among my chldn.
To son William Edgar, my smallest gun & 1 calf.
To son Henry Edgar, 1 gun & 1 calf.
To the rest of my children, 1 calf apiece.
Witn: Lewis Griffen, Jr., John Gostee, Richard Lane.
3 Sept. 1744, sworn to by John Ganty & Richard Lane.
[Reference to the Prerogative Court will.]
[Date of execution of will.]
[Name of testator & county he lived in.]

 
  {BEQUESTS & DEVISES}

 
[Witnesses to will.]
[Date of probate & names of witnesses who proved the will.]

 

Abbreviations
acct. account   grdn. guardian
admin. administration
incl. including
afs’d aforesaid
L pound (money)
apprd. appraised
lb. pound (weight)
beg. beginning
mtg. mortgage
betw. between
m. e. movable estate
bu.  bushell
pat. patent
dec’d deceased
p. e. personal estate
dlvd. delivered
r. e. real estate
d. s. p. die without issue
s’d said
e.  estate
sh. shilling
extr., extrx. executor, executrix
survd. surveyed
gal.  gallon
tob. tobacco
g. & c.  goods & chattels
ttee. trustee


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