14 October 2011

Josiah Horsey's will

As mentioned in a previous post I visited the State Records Centre at Kingswood the other day. My primary objective was to see original records from probate packets and deceased estates. I also looked up a few insolvency records and some correspondence to the Colonial Secretary.

One of the records I looked up was the probate packet for Josiah Horsey, and also his insolvency records (I have previously written about his insolvency here). Before I go into details on these, you need to know a little more about the family. Josiah married Sarah Irish in South Petherton, Somerset, England, and they had four children in South Petherton (Elizabeth Glyde, b 1840 d 1918, Rosetta b 1842 d 1927, Selina b 1844 d 1917, and Frederick b 1846 d 1925) before emigrating to Australia in 1849 on the Harbinger (which, incidentally, I think is a terrible name for a ship). After the Horsey family's arrival in Sydney, three more children were born: Sarah Ann (known as Annie) b 1849 d 1936, Samuel George b 1850 d 1906, and Josiah b 1856 d 1932. Neither Samuel nor Josiah's births appear to be recorded in the NSW BDM, however, we can guess their birth years from their mother's death certificate, which records their ages (and their existence).

So, back to the probate packet. It contained Josiah's will, and various other documents relating to the will, the witnesses, the executors, etc. Josiah's will is quite interesting.

The first thing I realised, reading through it, was that Josiah could clearly not read nor write, despite the fact that he is noted as being able to do both in the ships passenger list when he emigrated - there are spelling mistakes in his name throughout his will, and he signed it with his mark rather than a signature. Of course, it is possible that Josiah, making out his will on 28 November 1863 and dying the very next day, was too ill to read through the document, nor sign it with his signature. However, I'm not sure you would have a "mark" if you had a signature.

The next thing I discovered was that Josiah had a property down near the Cooks River, in the south of Sydney. It was still mortgaged (for £45) at the time of his death, and his instruction was that the money from it was to be drawn and expended on the education and apprenticeship of his son Josiah (jnr). I'm not sure that any of my living relatives were aware of this property - presumably because it was sold and not retained within the family. This is the only reference to this property that I am aware of. I have not been able to locate it on any parish maps, but as it was mortgaged it is likely that the parish map would have shown the name of the bank rather than Josiah's name anyway. I am also intrigued because this land was not noted in Josiah's insolvency papers - under "Particulars of Insolvent's Landed Properties" was written "I have none", and considering he was only given his certificate of conformity (i.e. meeting the conditions of the insolvency) on 10 November 1863 (19 days before he died) how could he afford to buy land whilst insolvent? Would a bank allow an insolvent to take out a mortgage? I have no answers to these questions as I do not know which bank the mortgage was with, only that the mortgage deeds were in the hands of a Mr Pennington - whoever he was - at the time of the writing of Josiah's will.

The other interesting thing about Josiah's will is the distribution of his assets. Josiah left everything to his wife - his estate was worth under £200 upon his death - apart from the £45 mortgage which was to be realised for his son Josiah's education and apprenticeship. To his other "beloved children I give my best blessings, requesting them to assist their afflicted mother in every way as it is the duty of good children." Did the other children feel ripped off?! So why did he single out Josiah? It is likely that the reason lies with the fact that Josiah was his youngest child, and was only seven years old at the time of his father's death. The next youngest, Samuel George, was 13 and would have been of an age to be working. Josiah (jnr) needed to be provided for so that he could continue his schooling and have a chance of getting a good job. So I don't think it was favouritism for his youngest son - his namesake - but instead a caring father looking after the interests of his young child, as he wouldn't be able to be present as he grew up. It seems to be a lovely picture of a father making sure everything was in order for his family before his imminent death.

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