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ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


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.


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!



Von Report 24 Feb 2011 18:33

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


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.

Chris Ho :)

Chris Ho :) Report 3 Mar 2011 12:44



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?


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.

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.



♥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 12:58


I was listening to a NA podcast on wills and the lecturer was saying thatthere were a substantial amount of 'Labourers' wills in the PCC which you wouldn't have expected.

His advice as to whether a 'poor' ancestor left a will or not boiled down to....

You won't know unless you look!

Mind you my lot tended to go down the 'not' route :-)



♥Deetortrainingnewfys♥ Report 10 Mar 2011 13:01

thank you Chris.
Knowing my lot, mine will be in the "not" route too!
Might have a quick route for some.
Thanks again


Sylvia Report 21 Mar 2011 02:10


I have a shepard from Leicestershire that left a will in 1743, so worth looking.

Sylvia (in Oz)


K Report 22 Mar 2011 06:20

Thought I would nudge this to join the others


Ken2 Report 24 Mar 2011 11:53 has a searchable index of probate commencing 1861.
What about the missing 3 years - ie from 1858?


PricklyHolly Report 24 Mar 2011 13:18

Thankyou Jonesey. x

Chris in Sussex

Chris in Sussex Report 25 Mar 2011 07:40


Ancestry say...

'Our collection covers 80 years from 1861 to 1941. We currently do not have the books for the years 1858-1860 and there are some gaps for the years 1863, 1868, 1873, 1876, 1877, 1883, 1888, 1899-1903 and 1910-1911. However, we hope to add records for these years as soon as possible.'



SpanishEyes Report 25 Mar 2011 08:57

I have just found this thread and it is very interesting. Thank you for putting this information in such a clear manner.

I am going to book Mark it and then start trying to find somecwills.

Please could someone tell me is it costly to obtain wills and is it easy to usebthe online resources. As I do not live in the UK it is not possible for me to visit.

Many thanks

09. 56 hrs Spain


SpanishEyes Report 25 Mar 2011 08:59

Oops just read again and noted that much can be done and paymentbmade online BUT will still need help I am sure




Steve Report 25 Mar 2011 10:59

Hi All (*I usually include a smiley face with any of my posts – but am finding it hard to smile of late) :-(

Sadly I have just read this post which I feel would have been of great help if only I had read it 30 days ago.

I have ordered 4 wills with the payment of $25 Australian dollars made in full on the 23rd February 2011 and I am still awaiting there delivery. I have emailed them (the site) twice in the last 3 days asking for a ‘please explain’ as to why I have not received them – no such luck. Needless to say I am incredibly down hearted and bitterly disappointed. Especially after waiting near 6 years to bite the so called bullet, I feel so let down.

Living in Australia and ordering from the UK has had some issues for me in the past – but everything has been OK till now.

The upshot of my message is – how long is too long to wait for delivery 14 days? – 20 days? – 30 days? – 40 days? And what can I do if I am still waiting in another 30 full days with no response?

The site I have ordered the wills from appears to be above board and has many and varied current links – so I am at a complete loss as to now what to do next – any thoughts or suggestions would be most appreciated – I am truly at a loss as to know what to do next.

Thanks in Advance



MargaretM Report 25 Mar 2011 17:38

Steve, I'm in Canada and it took a couple of months before the will arrived. When it did I was rather disappointed, it was just a typewritten copy with no date on it. I was really interested in when the will was written.