Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

5/7/2004

Wills at the National Archives

Another good source of Wills is the National Archives and this can be found at their website at http://www.documentsonline.nationalarchives.gov.uk/wills.asp and is well worth a visit. Below is the introduction to the page and there is a lot more information there of interest to the family historian.

“A will is a formal document setting out what a person wants to happen to their possessions after their death. PCC stands for Prerogative Court of Canterbury.

All PCC Wills held by the Public Record Office (grouped in the series PROB 11), which are available on DocumentsOnline, cover the period from 1384 to 1858. Until that date, all wills had to be proved (formally approved) by church and other courts. The Prerogative Court of Canterbury, the most important of these courts, dealt with the relatively wealthy individuals living mainly in the south of England and most of Wales (what was originally the ecclesiastical province of Canterbury).

The PCC wills on DocumentsOnline are all registered copy wills, meaning they are copies of original probates written into volumes, by clerks at the church courts. Over the years, styles of handwriting changed, and you will find that many of the earlier wills are written in Latin. You can look at samples of typical wills from across the centuries on our sample wills page.

Original wills of selected famous people, including Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell, Samuel Pepys and Christopher Wren, were grouped in the series PROB 1. You can now see colour images of these original wills in the famous wills category.”

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