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A Collection of Newfoundland Wills
John Roche


Will of John Roch - probated July 4, 1771

This Will was proved at London the fourth Day of July in the Year of out Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy one before the Worshipful Thomas Simpson, Doctor of Laws, Surrogate of the Right Most Worshipful George Lay, also Doctor of Law, Master Servitor or Commissary of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, lawfully constituted by the Oath of Ann Reynolds , widow of the deceased and sole executrix named in the said Will to whom administration was confirmed by all and singular the goods, chattels and creweth of the said deceased his leaving her first sworn duty of Administrator. (Initialled Ex)

I, John Roch, of Placentia from Newfoundland, Mariner, being in bodily Health and of sound and well disposing mind and memory and considering the perils and dangers of soul and other certainties of this transitory life do for avoiding controversy after my demise must publish and declare this my Last Will and Testament in manner following, (that is to say):

First and Foremost, my soul to God that gaveth it and my body to the Earth or Sea as it shall please God's Order as for end unwavering.

All my earthly estate, I give, bequeath and dispose thereof as follows, that is to say, all wages, sum or sums of money and funds tenureship, goods, chattels and estate whatsoever as shall be any way be due, owing or belonging me at the time of my demise, I do give, devise and bequeath the sum and such my well-beloved wife, Ann Roch, of Appledoor in the parish of Northam in the County of Devon to my sole Executrix of this, my Last Will and Testament, thereby revoking all former and other Testaments and Deeds of Gifts by me at any time heretofore made, and I do order these presents stand for, and be used for, and to show, as my Last Will and Testament.

In witness whereof to this, my said Will, I set my hand and seal the 23rd of February in the Year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and sixty four and mid the fourth year of the reign of Majesty and King, George the Third, by the Grace of God, King over Great Britain, Hanover and Ireland, King Defender of the Faith and so forth.

John Roche, signed, sealed, published and ordered in the presence of us: Susan Hancock, Eliz. Scalean and Sarah Bishop.

Notes by Jim Roache:

NL Wills at by The Public Records Office Online UK , National Archives

PCC Wills held by The Public Records Office Online UK , National Archives are available on Documents Online, for the period 1384 to 1858. Until that date, all wills had to be proved (formally approved) by church and other courts. The Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC), the most important of these courts, dealt with the relatively wealthy individuals living mainly in the south of England and most of Wales (originally the ecclesiastical province of Canterbury). York had York, Durham, Northumberland, Westmoreland, Cumberland, Lancashire, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire and the Isle of Man.

Some were by people in or from Newfoundland. There are others there, in addition to the one I prepared, but they are a challenge and are expensive - given today's exchange rates.

The PCC wills Online are registered copies; copies of original probates written into volumes at church courts. Over the years, handwriting changed, and many earlier wills are in Latin.

12 January 1858, jurisdiction for the granting of probate was passed to the new secular Court of Probate.

Three main factors determined in which court a will would be proved:

  1. Where the person died
  2. The value of the estate
  3. How the estate was distributed - geographically.

The Prerogative Court of Canterbury (based in London ) was the senior church court. Originally, wills of sufficient wealth were proved there. In the early years, a minimum of 5 bequests were required - a difficult level for most to meet. Over time, accessibility improved. By the 1830s, a third of the wills made in England and Wales were proved by the PCC.

After a will had been proved, a copy would turned over to the executor attached by a seal authorizing the administration the estate per the terms of the will. The original would be filed at Court; but for a fee another copy would be made in the registers. In the mid-seventeenth century, the original might be returned and a copy filed. Copies can be searched and purchased online at the UK Archives, but they are scans of original handwritten documents - I noticed other Rocks, Rochs and Roches - the one Gary Thistle and I collaborated on is shown:

Will of Samuel Rooke, Merchant
Saint John's
13 January 1727
Will of John Rock, Mariner
0 9 July 1771

We have a portion of one by William Roch: runs over to next page. They are not mine, but clearly one or more lived in Placentia Bay, but travelled widely. I will include information on the family whose Will I transcribed - given me and proofed by GARY THISTLE, CBN, Newfoundland - originally Guernsey in the Channel Islands . His website can be found at:

John Roch(e) was English and worked in NL for the summer fishery until he made it permanent. John Roach & Ann Coats drop from the UK registers after 1766 and most likely where living elsewhere with the family He was a planter in Oderin, PB. John was likely related to the other Roach families of Northam, possibly a brother to Richard (below). Looking at the burial records of John & Richard Roach, it seems they may have been related, at least in some way.

We did the Will of John Roch(e) of Oderin, PB, Newfoundland re Ann Coats of Northam, County of Devon, 23 Feb., 1764; probated 4 July, 1771:


Their Children - born:
 28/2/1768 Roach Ann 19/01/1766 Roach John Pitt
Marriages 1748 to 1812
  10/05/1755Angelo FrancisRoach Elizabeth
 04/01/1774Barzey Joseph
(An Italian Name)
Roach Ann
 21/02/1783Jewel JosephRoach Elizabeth
 19/07/1774Roach RichardChampion Elizabeth
Northam Burials - 1748-1764 & 1765-1784
 ROACH Richard 07.08.1748  
 ROACH John 04.09.1749 
 ROACH Jane 12.02.1750 
 ROACH Ann 26.10.1768 dau of John an infant
 ROACH Mary 07.06.1769 
 ROACHE Catharine 05.06.1771 
 ROACH Richard 19.09.1771 
 ROACH Mary 30.03.1773 widow; a poor woman
 ROACHE Patrick 23.07.1776 
 ROACH Grace 18.01.1778 a poor woman


Also interesting is the fact that is it generally assumed that the English were in NL earlier and they were top of the heap. In fact, we know that there were also Irish families sufficiently well-off to take children to Ireland and to marry there under the RC Rotes - mostly in Waterford - just one example:

Baptisms - Newfoundlanders St. Patrick's Church,
Period 1752-1770.

1762 - Fr. John St. Leger baptized Mary, Anastasia, James & Anna, legitimate children of James Roche & Joan Dunphy of Newfoundland. Godparents Bryan Roche & Christopher Wyse also know as Tonnery, Henry Roche & Anastasia Langton also known as Tonnery in the abstance of whom stood in Bryan Roche & Anna Fanning, Joanne Wyse & Helen Power also known as Meany & finally Joanne Tonnery & Marie Murray



Page Contributed by Jim Roache and Gary Thistle

Page Revised by Ivy F. Benoit (February 27, 2007)

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