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Welsh History Review


Vol. 10, nos. 1-4 1980-81

Index of the probate records of the Bangor consistory court : Book review.

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discusses why the introductions were written in Latin and the inter-actions
in the authors' minds between Renaissance themes and Welsh language
and literature.)
Vol. 1: PRE-1700. Compiled by Nia Henson. N.L.W. Probate Indexes
No. 1. Aberystwyth, 1980. Pp. xvi + 196.
Any serious student of Welsh society in early modern times will
welcome with gratitude the decision of the National Library of Wales to
publish indexes of its probate material. All the pre-1858 probate records
relating to the Welsh dioceses deposited in the Library will, in due
course, be indexed and published, and this first volume will prove to be
a valuable acquisition to the historian. The present volume which relates
to the granting of administrations in the counties of Anglesey,
Caernarfon and Merioneth does not, at first sight, appear to need a
review and seems to contain little more than a long list of names and,
where established, social ranks and occupations together with the
parishes and counties of origin. Such an impression, however, would be
entirely misleading.
The records were deposited in the Library in 1945 and this present
volume constitutes a new index, based on an alphabetical rather than
chronological order as had originally existed (until 1700). The volume is
divided conveniently into two main sections consisting of a forename
index (owing to the traditional patronymic system in Wales) and a
surname index. The probate records indexed begin in 1635 and end in
1858 excepting the Puritan period when the Consistory Court was
temporarily abolished. Of course, there are other inventories deposited
at the Public Record Office for which probate was granted at the
Prerogative Court of Canterbury, but they were compiled specifically for
individual members of the main county families in Wales and are,
therefore, not included in the present lists. It is, nevertheless, interesting
to note in this volume some names which remind the reader of families
which had experienced a more illustrious past. Richard Owen Theodor,
for example, was a Tudor descendant and an esquire of Penmynydd;
William Dolben of Segrwyd, another esquire, was the brother of David
Dolben, bishop of Bangor; and Robert Wynn (a descendant of Gwydir)
owned Plas Mawr, Conwy. These three individuals were representative
of that middle layer of society which was, by the late-seventeenth
century, somewhat on the decline in a period of social change and
economic recession.
The long lists of names that are displayed on each page can be
particularly interesting, and it is equally surprising to discover how much
meat does in fact appear on the dry bones of probate records indexes.
They contain a wealth of material for the historian of the period
1635 1700, an era which has, over recent years, been subject to drastic
reinterpretation by social and economic specialists. A cursory look at
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