Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Modern English & Welsh wills calendars now online

A MAJOR release from Ancestry today - the probate calendars to English and Welsh wills from 1861-1941.

Here's the blurb from the Ancestry site:

This collection contains summaries of the vast majority of probate cases in England and Wales between 1861 and 1941. It effectively forms an index to wills and probate records for this period.

The records were created by the Probate Registry, which took control of proving wills and administrations in 1858. Before this, four different types of ecclesiastical (church) courts dealt with these cases. A Principal Probate Registry was established in London in January 1858, and several district probate registries were created around the country. From then on, the registries oversaw all grants of probate and letters of administration. This collection is the Calendar of these grants.

The Calendar is separated into a different volume for each year. The entries in each volume are then alphabetised by surname. Information varies across different entries, but each typically includes:

•Probate date
•Full name of the deceased
•Death date
•Death place
•Registry where issued

Missing volumes:

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.

Ordering wills:

Unfortunately it is not currently possible to order a copy of the will from us. If you wish to order a copy of a will or grant mentioned in this collection, you can do so for a fee from the Principal Probate Registry at First Avenue House or any district probate registry. You’ll need to provide the full name of the deceased, the date of the grant and the registry where it was issued.

For more information, please visit the Probate Registry’s website.

I must admit to being surprised to see this. I had a discussion with one of the probate people at the last WDYTYA Live in London, and I got the impression it was a non-starter from their POV. Nevertheless, this is a seriously useful dataset, albeit currently incomplete, but one which will really add meat to the bones of your southern research.

Nice one, Ancestry!


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Caroline Gurney said...

I've been searching this all day and turning up lots of useful information on "branch" lines of the family. It is a bit frustrating how many people fall into the currently missing years but I'm sure Ancestry will put that right in due course. One tip is that you need to watch the indexing of people with double barrelled names. I was searching for members of the Corbould-Warren family. They are indexed as Corbould-Warren but when you view the page it redirects you to Warren as the surname. Searching again for just Warren, the index does not contain Corbould as a part of either the surname or the given names. I had to plough through large numbers of Warrens because there was no way to separately identify my Corbould-Warrens.

Caroline Gurney said...

PS This is not just for people with English and Welsh ancestry. There are over 113,000 Scots in the database (people who had property in England or Wales when they died).

Beth said...

A hugely useful database / index for those of us in USA without easy access to the indexes - I cannot wait to begin and confess to hoping Ancestry will do the same for Scottish testaments.

Sandra said...


I currently don't have a paid subscription to Ancestry but can anyone advise if these records are available on the UK heritiage package or only on the World Heritage Package?