So That's Where I Get It From

Discharge of Legacy – Betty (READ) BURGESS – 1804

This is the Discharge of Legacy that turned out to be a real gem, found totally unexpectedly and which enabled me to find my 6 x great grandfather Cozens READ’s siblings (and their families), parents and birthplace after searching for ten years!!

How did I find this document you may wonder?  Well, I knew I was going to be visiting Buckinghamshire to do some ancestor hunting in 2000 and already knew quite a lot about my READ family at Nether Winchendon and that four of Cozens READ’s children married into the ROSE family, who had a farm between Nether and Upper Winchendon.

I wrote to the owner of that farm to say I was coming for a visit to Buckinghamshire soon and would it be ok to come and take some exterior photos of the farm as my ancestors had lived there.  Mrs. ROSE replied (yes, it was still in the family of ROSE) and she kindly said yes we could visit and gave me her phone number to phone her when we were in Buckinghamshire to organise a mutually convenient visit.  She also mentioned that she had a family tree and that the READ surname was certainly on it!

To cut a long story short, we went to the farm, took many photos and Mrs. ROSE kindly invited us in, showed us around this huge building and told us of its history.  We were enthralled and as we sat drinking cups of tea by the huge inglenook fireplace with logs burning on it I just knew that my 6 x great grandfather had stood there with his back to the fire, warming his behind, while visiting his married daughter Mary.

Mrs. ROSE produced the ROSE family tree.  When she mentioned this in her letter, I thought it would be a large chart that had probably been folded and unfolded many times.  How wrong I was!!  The ROSE family tree turned out to be the biggest book you had ever seen – a good 3ft tall, so beautifully written in calligraphy with drawings of coats-of-arms and whole pages devoted to each branch of the family.

I had gone armed with my notebook and pencil but was a bit disappointed because it would have taken me forever to copy all the details.  Luckily, we had our video camera with us, so my dear, patient other half stood and filmed every page, very slowly and carefully so that I would be able to read the details when we got home.  We were with Mrs. ROSE for hours and she was very happy for us to do this filming of the family tree.  She did suggest that we take the huge book away to do and bring it back another time!!  I was amazed by this as she didn’t know us at all and was happy to entrust such a family heirloom with us.  We said no, we couldn’t do that.  Just imagine if I lost it or damaged it!!

So, Mrs. ROSE kept the cups of tea going and chatted about the ROSE family, and her life at this farm and was such an interesting person.  My other half kept the logs going on the huge inglenook fire and kept on filming and then when he got to the last page, between that and the back cover we found endless notes about most of the people in the huge book, even down to whether someone was the third son or fifth daughter and that when they married they went to live at so and so and masses of other information.  There were also birth, marriage and death certificates, photographs and the three original parchment Discharge of Legacy papers that I show on these pages.

Well, again it was all too much to copy out, and my other half was very tired from all the other filming he had done of the pages of the huge family tree book.  Just by chance, we carried in the boot of the car a small portable A4 sized photocopier!  So I asked Mrs. ROSE if it would be ok to photocopy all these things, she agreed, and so we spent a bit longer there copying all these notes, certificates, documents, photos, everything!!

So, a real treasure was found and we will always be so very grateful to Mrs. ROSE for opening her home to us, strangers – although very distant cousins, and allowing us such a long long time to gather copies of everything that was in that terrific family tree.  Sadly, Mrs. ROSE has since died and as she was the last of the family to live at that farm, no other family members live there now.  The farm is being looked after now by the National Trust and I just wonder where that huge family tree book has gone?  We tried writing to someone at the National Trust to find out, but they could not help.  I just hope it wasn’t discarded because someone thought it was just full of old names that didn’t interest them!!

The huge family tree was a real treasure and this Discharge of Legacy for Betty BURGESS that we found in the huge family tree is also another treasure in itself for the reasons I mentioned earlier.

I photocopied the original document which was in a private collection - copyright 2010


Here is a transcript of the document:

We William Burgess of Great Haseley in the County of Oxford Labourer and Betty his Wife – one of the Nieces and Legatees named in the Last Will and Testament of Rachel Read late of Tiddington in the Parish of Albury in the same County Spinster deceased DO hereby acknowledge that we have this day had and received of and from Michael Read of Lower Winchendon in the County of Bucks – yeoman a Nephew and the Devisee named in the said Will of the said Rachel Read the full sum of Thirty Pounds in Satisfaction and Discharge of the Legacy of that amount which by the same Will is given to she the said Betty and directed to be paid within six calendar months next after the Testatrix’s Decease As Witness our Hands this 11th Day of May in the Year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and four.

Betty Burgess

Witness, Edward Read; the mark X of William Burgess


I have found it very interesting that although in each of the three Discharge of Legacy documents, the legacy was left to Mary ROSE, Jane MAY and Betty BURGESS, it was actually paid over to their husbands!!



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