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ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


♥Deetortrainingnewfys♥ Report 10 Mar 2011 12:51

Most of my ancestors were shepherds from Norfolk. Is it likely they would have left a will? I think they were quite poor.

Chris in Sussex

Chris in Sussex Report 10 Mar 2011 10:49

I would just like to point out that not all wills before 1858 in the South of England were proved in the PCC.

There were hundreds of lower courts that operated around the country and where a will was proved or an administration granted was dependant on various factors.

The NA guide to wills before 1858 explains the process in more detail

and for those wanting to read more about the subject I would thoroughly recommend

Wills and Probate Records (2nd Edition) by Karen Grannum and Nigel Taylor.



Kate Report 3 Mar 2011 21:23

If the local record office has got a searchable catalogue on their website (ie. the Lancashire Records Office has got one) you can try searching that for wills - I've found a few that way. In the Preston office, they have the indexes in books split up by time period (1700-1720, 1721-1740 etc) so there could be others in other record offices like that.


Ken2 Report 3 Mar 2011 20:16

Thanks for the info Jonesey but some of us also have ancestors who died up north before 1858 - a few had a bit of brass and might have left a will!
Have you ant advice for finding those?

Chris Ho :)

Chris Ho :) Report 3 Mar 2011 12:44



KenSE Report 25 Feb 2011 13:50

As Jonesey says Old English Secretarial Script is not very easy to read. If you find phrases and pertinent words that you can read, then google those (eg "I bequeath into" farms tenements) you will find examples of transcribed wills which may contain words that you are unfamiliar with (such as messuages and hereditaments) and whole phrases that are common to wills of that time.

Also there is little punctuation and much more use of capitals for nouns in the middle of sentences and note that what looks like ff is really the way capital F was written.


Von Report 24 Feb 2011 18:33

National Library Wales is very good for pre 1858 wills if you have Welsh relatives.


brummiejan Report 24 Feb 2011 18:02

Worth saying that at least some archives centres have Probate calendars - Birmingham Central Library has for example. Worth asking anyway!

Good to see the Jonesey Tip of the Day back!



Jonesey Report 24 Feb 2011 17:15

Someones will can be a great potential source of information. It is estimated that two thirds of people leave a will. Contained within a will you can discover a great deal of information about children (Born on both sides of the blanket) and sometimes an insight into the kind of relationship that the deceased had with some of his relations. You may discover clues about ancestors that you did not know about or a lot more about those that you did.

Copies of wills are relatively easy and cheap to obtain. Where to look for them will depend on when and to some extent where your ancestor died. The most critical “When” is before or after 1858.

Before 12/1/1858 the wills of those living in the southern part of Britain were proven at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. Copies are held at the National Archive and if you can find your ancestors will in the index you can download a copy to your computer for just £3.50.

Copies of wills made/proved after that date are held at the Court of Probate and copies of the calendars (Registers) can be viewed free in London. Ancestry also have the Probate calendars up to 1966 amongst their databases. A copy of the will itself can be obtained by post for just £6.00.

These links will explain more:

Just a word however about what you will get. Earlier wills are likely to be handwritten in Old English Secretarial Script which is not very easy to read. The will may contain words and phrases with which you are unfamiliar but if you persevere I am sure that you will get the gist of things.

Good hunting.