Wills of married women

It is generally accepted by genealogists that before the Married Women’s Property Acts of the late 19th century only spinsters and widows were able to make wills. The reason for this was simple: married women owned nothing – everything belonged to their husband – so they had nothing to dispose of.

However, these wills were made by married women and appear to have been granted probate:
– Arminella Yeo, 1545
– Dionesia Yeo, 1561
– Mary Yeo, 1680
– Rebecca Selden née Yeo, 1737
– Susanna Herring née Yeo, 1796
– Elizabeth Yeo, 1837
– Sally Yeo, 1858
– Elizabeth Yeo, 1863.

Gertrude Yeo née Stapleton (1548–1605, first wife of Leonard Yeo of North Petherwin) made a bequest, as a married woman, to her daughters Ebbett and Arminella Yeo [note 1].

The will of Julia, Lady Yea was proved in 1791 with the wording ‘the lawful husband of the deceased first consenting’ in the probate record.

In two instances, administration of the estate of a married woman appears to have been granted to her husband:
– Elizabeth Yeo alias Oliver of Exeter to her husband William Yeo, 1714
– Mary Sykes née Yeo of St Mary Newington, Surrey, to her husband George Sykes, 1747.

1. See report by Yve McLaughlin.