Antique Will

On February 20, 1670 John Jarfyd (probably “Garvey” today) wrote his Will. That same year, Puritans founded Charles Town (“Charleston”) in what is now South Carolina, the Hudson Bay Company was founded in England to operate in Canada, and the coffee house was a novelty just beginning to grow in London. Through some mysterious journey, Mr. Jarfyd’s Will came to be framed and hung on my office wall. (It was given to me by a friend years ago when her law firm closed down.)

Will of John Jarfyd

Will of John Jarfyd

The Will is written in brown ink on parchment in beautiful handwriting which is hard for my untrained eyes to read. There were no spelling conventions at the time, and some words are not spelled consistently even throughout the document. It is hard to tell an “s” from an “f,” and the ink has faded over the years. However, parts of it are legible and fun to try to decipher. It begins, “In the Name of God Amen….”and proceeds to bequeath Mr. Jarfyd’s land and money to his family and friends. Although I can’t quite make out the words, it is clear that he intends to leave money to care for his “loving wife Margaret,” that he was a wealthy land-owner and that he was a religious man. At some point someone (a court clerk perhaps?) wrote on the back of the Will, “Probate John Jarfyd.”

The document was folded over several times and sewn shut. I am guessing that this occurred shortly after it was written in order to preserve Mr. Jarfyd’s privacy and to ensure its authenticity when the Will was probated. There is also a binding running across the bottom that seems inconsistent with the folding and sewing treatment. So, perhaps the document was bound to other court records during probate. There is also a separate “page” that is affixed to the binding. This “extra page” is the same size as the document would have been when it was folded, and the writing is the same style in the main document, but it is much smaller and much harder to read. I wonder if Mr. Jarfyd had more to say than what would fit onto the main parchment, so the scribe had to squeeze the rest onto a smaller page.

Next time you are in my office, feel free to examine it more closely. Maybe you can help me decipher some of the words!

Originally published by Susan on August 25, 2014.