John Moore – thanks Dad

John Moore  – wills and family history

I have posted before about how to find and use wills in family history research.

The 1744 will of John Moore of Kirkbampton is one of those that tells us more than just ‘who got what’. 

Disappointing but still useful

I was hoping that John Moore would prove to fit on my family tree. The fact he doesn’t is disappointing, but still useful in that it rules this John out. I don’t want wrong people on my tree!

John Moore of Kirkbampton

I know nothing about this John, and will leave it to others who might be interested to dig into his life further.

What I can tell from his will is that his ‘personal effects’ were worth the equivalent of just over £20,000 in today’s prices – mostly due to money owed to him. 

And that he may have had some family issues.

John Moore was a yeoman – farming a freehold estate – so a solid Cumbrian farmer. He seemed, unusally, to specialise in horses. The inventory of his ‘goods, chattlels and credits’ starts with one horse, four mares, and 30 (squiggle!) mares. Then five cows, four young cattle, six little young cattle, and one pig. There are no sheep.

The will was written on May 21, 1744, with John ‘sick in body’. The inventory of his effects is dated May 24, so he must have been on his death bed when he signed it. One of the witnesses to the will was a William Stordy. The others were Richard Moore (has to be a relation) and Robert Bowman.

‘My only daughter’

The will starts by naming his daughter Mary Moore. By the time the will was proved, on June 16, she had married a John Sturdy (a relation of William?).

John Moore leaves Mary all his freehold property in the parish of Kirkbampton, along with his freehold enclosures of meadow at Thurstonfield, and every other bit of land he has anywhere.

He leaves all his goods, chattels, (almost all his) cattle, bills, bonds, mortgages, money and everything else he owns to be equally divided between Mary and her mother, his ‘dearly beloved wife Ruth’.

I say ‘almost all,’ because he leaves his son John ‘one yearling cow and one speckled heiffer’.

That’s just two of his 15 cattle – and nothing else.

Alas, poor John

Son John has to be over-21, or it would say otherwise. Under the conventions of the times, you’d expect him to be ‘son and heir’. For John junior to take over running his father’s farm, even if he had his own property. And as we can guess Mary was in her 20s in 1744, and her brother of a similar age, that doesn’t seem likely.

Meanwhile it is surely unlikely that Mary became engaged and married out of the blue between May 21 and June 16. The only marriage I can find for a Mary Moor(e) to a John Sturdy is actually dated August 1743. Either the will should have said Mary Sturdy, or she was surely engaged to be married by the time it was written.

In other words, Mary had either a husband or a fiancé to provide for her after her father’s death. 

Even if she had been in need of support from dad, the usual form is for the son and heir to be required to take care of his sister, or at least for the estate to be divided between them.

Why son John only got two cattle, we can only wonder. Along with three other questions: was son John living at home? What became of him? And if he didn’t have land of his own, what did he do with the calf and heiffer?!