These Delaware will books contain copies of wills and related details, such as appointments of administrators and details on the dispersion of an estate. They may include names of the testator, descendants, heirs, witnesses, and administrators; dates; places; occupation; and other facts related to the testator and the estate.
Wills are important documents because they can provide a great deal of genealogical information. Often the names of surviving family members, especially those to whom items were bequeathed, are mentioned. They may also list the names of the testator's parents. In addition to family relationships, other information may also be gleaned from wills. For example, based on the type of items and the worth of the items being bequeathed to surviving relatives one can formulate an idea about what kind of life the testator had.
When a person makes a last will and testament, he or she leaves a testate estate. Originally, a will devised (gave) real estate (or land) and property attached to it—buildings, mills, timber, water rights, etc. A testament bequeathed personal property made up of movables (lump sums of money, books, jewelry, furniture, clothing, horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, grain, tools, slaves, services of indentured servants) and receivables (book debts, mortgages, bills of exchange, and loans). American laws generally leave a person free to distribute his or her estate at will as long as it does not leave the heirs dependent for their upkeep on the state.
Wills are of three kinds: (1) Attested wills are prepared in writing, signed by responsible witnesses who certify to the court that the will was written at the instance of the deceased of his or her own free will and choice and that he or she was of sound mind at the time. (2) Holographic wills are handwritten entirely by the person making the will, signed, dated, and not witnessed. If any other person writes on the will, it is invalid. In addition, the will must be found among the individual's important papers. It cannot be filed with an attorney or other third party unless all valuable papers are so filed. In some jurisdictions, this kind of will is not valid. (3) Nuncupative wills are oral, deathbed wills dictated to witnesses who convert them to writing at the earliest possible moment and present them to the court within a specified period of time after the person dies. In some jurisdictions, this kind of will is also invalid.
From Eakle, Arlene H., "Research in Court Records." In The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, ed. Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997).
This collection is currently browsable by county and volume. There are several volumes missing from the collection (New Castle County Volumes J2-J7 and Volume O2).
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