The will which follows serves to reinforce all
the regrets family historians have when they remember the
destruction of thousands and thousands of Devon wills during the bombing of
Exeter in 1942.
One of the tiny handful of those which happened to survive because
they were in the wrong place at the time, we find in the will of Joseph
Stuttaford dozens of pieces of information which are absolutely
invaluable to someone trying to reconstruct their family tree. Many of
the relevant parish registers are incomplete or even missing; many of
the people mentioned share their first name with other contemporary
family members, and one and all moved from place to place in an age which
predated the modern census return by many years.
Joseph Stuttaford had no children of his own and his wife had died by
the time he made the will. We know precisely who he is though. He names
his brothers, and tells us his sisters' married names enabling us to
identify his parents correctly; he names their children, his nieces and
nephews, by referring to the parent of each and gives the married names
of his nieces. He even names his brother-in-law, confirming his wife's
maiden name. Finally, he names and identifies his relationship with his
executor and identifies an ultimate heir who will inherit the residue of
his estate at some time in the future. Now, if only each of us had that
kind of help when doing our research!