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Berkshire Family Historian
September 2000

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Berkshire Family Historian
Main Page, September 2000 Contents

The Snell Collection on Berkshire and Beyond
John Gurnett

Anybody with Berkshire roots should light a candle to the memory of Frederick Simon Snell. He was one of a small number of people, who with devoted dedication discovered the vast store of documents we take for granted today. For 20 years F.S. Snell kept a series of notebooks on his research. The early volumes contain much detailed information on Snell and related families, but much of his time was spent abstracting and indexing local and national documents.

He worked at the Bodleian Library, Somerset House, the old Public Record Office and many local repositories, including parish churches, copying wills, Mls, parish registers and any other documents he could find. When he died his collection, then numbering almost 40 volumes, passed into the hands of the Society of Genealogists.

Not much is known about the man himself. He was a graduate of Durham University and lived most of his life in Middlesex, where he died in November 1914. He lived abroad for a time; one of his notebooks contains a transcript of two churchyards in South Africa, so he must have spent some time there. He also refers in one of his books to time spent overseas.

He began in 1879 writing in small notebooks and odd sheets of paper, afterwards transferring his work into larger volumes. Although not complete many have lists of contents, but they only give a brief outline of what to expect. Some of his work has been superseded by later research, but much is still quite unique and deserves to be used not only by Berkshire historians. For example the almost complete transcript of the Hearth Tax for 1663/4 provides easy access to what was a virtual census of the county at a crucial time when parish registers were only just recovering from the turmoil caused by the English civil war.

Of all the material contained in the collection without doubt the most valuable is the index to Berkshire wills. Snell made abstracts of all wills, from the Archdeaconry and the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, to the beginning of the eighteenth century. He has left us an index to all the names mentioned in the wills, not just testators, but witnesses and beneficiaries too. As Snell himself writes, it only awaits another genealogical enthusiast to complete the task which he began in the closing years of Queen Victoria's reign. So far we wait in vain.

Although there is a general index to the whole collection, some volumes have their own indexes and are not included, and one or two are not indexed at all: Volumes 7, 8 and 11 are not included, Volumes 13, 14, and 15, the wills in the Archdeaconry of Berkshire are indexed separately, Volume 16 is the list of Berkshire wills in the PCC index, Volume 17 the Berkshire Hearth Tax, is indexed separately, and Volume 21 is the list of Berkshire Wills (continued from Volume 16).

Most titled people are indexed under their proper titles, as Marquis, Duke, Bishop, but some baronets and knights have been indexed without their titles: 'In indexing several persons of one surname, I have tried to keep to the alphabetical order, but as I was pressed for time I have not always avoided a mistake and in some cases the Christian names are not quite alphabetical.'

What follows is a general outline of what is contained in each volume, but with such a vast work you may find other small amounts of material that I have missed.

Volume 1. Parts 1 and 2. Monumental inscriptions for Hampstead, Middlesex, transcribed during 1883-88.

Volume 2. Monumental inscriptions copied in 1883-89:

Middlesex: Kingsbury churchyard (complete), St. Mary's Chapel of Ease, Holloway Road burial ground, St. James' Hampstead Road cemetery, Paddington, Finchley, Fulham and Hendon churchyards, and St. Marylebone burial ground, Paddington Street

Surrey: Wimbledon, Morden and Merton churchyards

Kent: Bromley and Hayes churchyards

Hertfordshire: Widford church and churchyard, Thundridge churchyard (complete), and Ridge churchyard

Sussex: Battle churchyard

Volume 3. Originally contained monumental inscriptions for many parishes, including Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Sussex, Lancashire, Middlesex, Kent, South Africa, and documentary abstracts on the same parishes (and others); unfortunately this volume was either stolen or lost from the Society in 1941.

Volume 4. Snell family. Miscellaneous notes and abstracts from parish registers, Mls and information from directories and published books.

Volume 5. 'Notes made on a cycling tour May 5-15,1898, during which time 1 looked through 17 parish registers and took notes of a number of Mls all relating to the Snell family'.

Volume 6 (on microfilm only). Notes on the following families: Blagrave (or Blagrove), Pile (or Pyle), Maynard, Cheek, Saxon, Robins, Bancroft, Porden, Roberts, Williams, Swinstead, Stringfield, Steggall, Adams, Grundy, Dolby, Deane, Daller, Shakespeare, Thompson, Blundell, Acworth, Scraggleford, Sturges, Mortlock, Schnell, Rutherford, Mundy, Ward, Porter, Snellock, Stratton, Field, Tisdale, Wallis, Lumb, Cookworthy, and Lister.

Volumes 7 and 8. Typescript made by Edmund N. Snell in October, 1938. It is in two parts: the first contains abstracts, in some cases full copies, of Snell wills, and the second a scrapbook of notes on families and genealogies of Snell families. The original was in the possession of Alfred Saxon Snell of Reading.

Volume 9. Coleman's Catalogue of Deeds.

Volume 10. Notes on various families: Maynard, Cheek, Robins, Blagrave, Saxon, Pile, Hawtrey, Steggall, Wallis, Lumb, Bradford, Newbery, Williams, Bertolacci, Willis, Tomkins, Breedon, Curtis, Douglas, Zinzan, Darvall, Mortlock, Bye, Vanlore, Brookman, Shattock, Ireland, Mullis and Palmer.

Volume 11. Typescript by Alfred Saxon Snell made in 1938 of Snell abstracts. This volume is indexed in the Society of Genealogists' Great Card Index.

Volume 12. Notes arranged under parishes, including registered wills, curious names, Chancery proceedings and items on a number of individual families including: Courtrolls, Latton, Parry and Vachell. List of surnames, other than those of testators, occurring in Berkshire Archdeaconry wills (these are indexed in Volumes 13, 14, and 15). Also included are churchwardens' presentments extracted from Archdeaconry of Berkshire manuscripts at the Bodleian Library.

'In the Bodleian Library there are many volumes of Mss. originally belonging to the Archdeaconries of Oxford and Berkshire. As examples, 'Berkshire Licences for non-Residence': these are Bishop's Licences to the Clergy for absence from their cures (Berks. d.3). Licences for marriage, Libels on Incestuous Marriages etc., Divorces, Marriage, Baptism and Burial Certificates. The Licences are comparatively few in number, but are bound up with some curious libels and other papers connected with the Archdeacon's jurisdiction (Berks. d. 2). Other volumes are taken up with transcripts of a few Berkshire parishes and several parishes in Oxfordshire. The following notes are to be found bound in a Volume lettered: 'Thatcham, Tidmarsh, Tilehurst' (Berks. C. No. 137). The papers connected with Tilehurst extend from 1664-1837. They are full of much curious and not always savoury information about the inhabitants of the village. The presentment took the shape of a monthly report drawn up as a kind of answer to a printed list of questions, and concerned the Church, Clergy, and the parishioners. Each report is signed by the churchwardens, and sometimes by the vicar as well. When nothing of note has happened worth reporting the paper is signed omnia bene. Of course these formalities apply to other parishes besides Tilehurst, of which 1 have some notes. My extracts are taken from all years between 1664 and 1800'.

(These documents were later transferred to the Berkshire Record Office.)

Volumes 13, 14, and 15. Index to surnames, other than those of testators in Archdeaconry of Berkshire wills 1480-1710.

'The work was started in November 1897 and was left uncompleted in September 1898. Had I stayed in England, it was my intention to have finished the indexing of all the registered wills in this series. Whether I shall ever get the chance of completing what has been a true labour of love, I cannot say, but if not, I hope that at some future time another genealogical enthusiast will carry on the work, the greater part of which, I think, has been gone through by myself. The following pages may be regarded as supplementary to the excellent Index of the British Record Society, but of course there is a larger variety of names to be found in this than in the printed work. As regards the surnames scattered throughout the wills, 1 have made a point of noting every name that is mentioned as a relation, witness, executor, overseer etc. etc. - except of course when the relation, witness etc. in question bears the surname of the testator as named at the head of the will. I have thought well also to take account of all the surnames in the miscellaneous documents found among the wills, such as Deeds of Gift and Inventories (containing names of debtors and creditors) and incidental names occuring in the Administrations, eg the names of those bound over by bond."

'To the experienced genealogist, the value of references to names, however indirect, is known to be useful circumstantial evidence in tracing the habitat of families, so that even the bare name of a witness or creditor may be the means of suggesting a clue not to be sought elsewhere. 1 have less confidence as the mention of clergy and lawyers, mostly occurring as Witnesses, as the names occur again and again, but in comparison with the large number of other names these form a very small fraction, and even this fraction may come in useful. It would have taken too much time to have expunged these references from the Index, and as it is I do not regret having left them, for the reasons given above.

'This Index does not refer to the many surnames to be found in the 'Inductions to Livings' and some other ecclesiastical documents found among the wills. These documents are few in number, and it is much to be regretted that I could not spare the time to take the surnames from them, valuable as they are as evidence for the locality of names. For the same reason - lack of time - 1 was obliged to leave out references to fields, farms and plots of land named by some families and occasionally referred to in the wills, as these again are valuable sidelights on the history and origin of families, as in most cases the surname appears to have stuck to a place, long after the family - judging by the wills ­had left the neighbourhood. The notice of these 1 commend to my visionary genealogical enthusiast of the future.

'I have now one more important omission to note. In the note of probate as antiquarian searchers are aware will be found the name of the executor or executrix, and this is occasionally different from that of the person named in the will. For instance when a daughter has married, or a women has married again, or where some other person has been called upon to perform the duties of executor. These cases, however, only occur now and then.

'All variations in the spelling of surnames has been carefully noted and the following index gives a complete list of these variations - although some of the differences in the spelling of names is trivial, I thought it as well for the sake of completeness to note these along with abbreviations - the latter mostly resorted to by the original transcribers in the case of the commoner names and sometimes in names of less frequent occurrence. To a searcher the various forms of spelling as catalogued here will serve as a useful guide to the eye when looking through the wills.'

'Now-a-days cross references are not popular, but in an index like the following it is the most convenient way of classifying the more varying forms of names and in any case without a very thorough knowledge of the names of a county, it is impossible to be absolutely certain as to the identity of many names. The cross references are to be taken then as suggestions in many cases - in some cases of course the suggestion is more probable than others, but in no instance have I added a cross reference without some probability of identification. In the case of difficult forms of names placed under one heading, these in most cases are found spelt in the different ways mentioned, in one and the same will'.

Volume 15a. List of Berkshire wills Testator Registers A to M. 1480-1658. 'I have compiled this index from the printed index of the British Record Society. When making a list of all the names in some of the registers, I omitted - for want of time - supplying the name of testator at the head of each will, with the exception of the first 40 or 50 pages of Register 1. My object in making the following list is to make it possible to identify the testator of each will by comparing this list with the names entered in Volume 12 pp. 219-442, which is a list of all surnames other than those of testators at head of each will in Registers A-I, J (1-578) and M (1­245). 1 also made a list of names in Register 19, but the British Record Society list goes no further than Register M, so that the following names are no use beyond Register J (p. 578) and Register M (p 945)'.

Volume 16. List of Berkshire wills in PCC 1631-1745,1746-1807 (separate alphabetical lists). This is the working list that Snell used in compiling the index to Berkshire wills in the PCC. 'The materials for this index were given to me by George F. Tudor Sherwood who compiled them for his own use from the Calendars at Somerset House'. List of Berkshire subscribers to Lewis's Topographical Dictionary, 1831. Monumental inscriptions from the cemetery at Somerset Road, Cape Town. Miscellaneous notes on families.

Snell's Berkshire wills in the PCC - 1391-1737. Ten volumes, plus 15 volumes of indexes.

The will abstracts themselves are numbered in chronological order. For example Volume 1 contains will numbers from 1 to loll (from AD 1391 to AD 1580). The 15 volumes of indexes refer to the number of the will and not the date. There are 12 volumes of name indexes, plus a three-volume place index. However, it should be noted that the place index only covers the period to about 1590.

Volume 17. Miscellaneous notes on Berkshire collections. Monumental inscriptions for St. George's, Hanover Square, burial ground, Mount Street. Biographical and statistical notes on the Counties of England. Wytham Mls copied on 16 Sept. 1906; Arborfield Mls: 'The old church stands ruined and rootless in the park of a private estate'. Lists of Berkshire Popish recusants made in 1716. Notes on the following families: Pile, Pill, Maynard, Loader of Sonning, Awbery of Tilehurst, Hall of Sonning, Latton, Wilder, Handock, Parry, Mathew, Man, Pottinger, Lloyd and Levingston. Hearth tax for Berkshire (of around go parishes), with lists of names grouped under each parish followed by a full surname index. For a detailed introduction to this volume see Berkshire Family Historian Volume 23 No. 1 September 1999, pages 26-33.

Volume 18. Notes on Oxfordshire made during a tour of the County in September 1906. Including parish register abstracts, Mls, a list of recusants, Lay Subsidies, Wills and Chancery Proceedings. Index to Oxfordshire Marriage Licence Bonds 1634-­1665.

Volume 19. Collections relating to the family Pile or Pyle, 'taken during a cycling tour in Berkshire and Oxfordshire in September 1906.'

Volume 20. Miscellaneous notes on counties and families, including pages devoted to: Adams, Albrett, Bancroft, Blagrave, Bowland, Brookman, Buss, Champ, Cheek, Cromwell, Curtis, Dallow, Darvall, Deane, Delafosse, Ellerker, Garrick, Heddy, Ireland, Lewington, Lewis, Lister, Lumb, Maynard, Mortlock, Mullis, Newbery, Palmer, Pill, Porden/Purdon, Renvoize, Roberts, Robins, Rutherford, Saxon/Saxton, Saddock, Shakespeare, Shattock, Snelling, Sprules, Stegall, Vanlore, Wakeford, Ward, Welch, Williams, and Zinzan.

Volume 21. Notes on Middlesex parishes, including MIs from Hendon, Mill Hill, Harrow, Stanmore, Pinner, Kingsbury, Northolt, Hampstead, Finchley, Edgware and Paddington. List of Berkshire wills in PCC 1746-1807.

Volume 22. Notes from Chancery Proceedings. Hendon, Middlesex, Hearth tax.

Volume 23. Notes from 388 Chancery Proceedings taken before 1714. Berkshire Lay Subsidies, 1663. Oxfordshire Hearth tax for Bensington. Directory of Edgware and Hendon, 1823-4. Hendon and districts poll, 1784. Welch family notes.

Volume 24. Abstracts of 658 wills in Register 'Busby' (PCC) 1751. 'I started this year intending to complete it. The wills are not full abstracts, but contain the names of all relatives and occasionally other names such as witnesses etc.' Index to place names in the Snell collection (by county), Bedfordshire to Hereford (incomplete).

Volume 25. Abstracts of 173 wills in Register 'Noel' (PCC) 1699. A few inscriptions from the Presbyterian burial ground, Queen's Road, Brighton, Sussex (taken September 1908). Whitchurch (otherwise called Little Stanmore) churchyard (note: This and the remaining London and Middlesex inscriptions were taken in the years l908 and l909). A few inscriptions from the churchyard of Great Stanmore, Middlesex, copied 1908. Pinner, copied l909. Harefield, Middlesex, l909. St. Martin's in the Fields burial ground, Camden Street, Camden Town, NW, l909. St. George's Bloomsbury, Friern Barnet, Middlesex. Bloomsbury cemetery, between Henrietta St. and Heatheote St., Hornsey, Middlesex. Various abstracts from wills relating to Berkshire.

Volume 26. Index to surnames in the preceding 25 volumes.


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