Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Dorset, England, Wills and Probates, 1565-1858

This is a collection of Wills, Letters of Administration and Inventories for Dorset, England, between 1558-1858. These records are primarily parish registers because prior to 1858 the churches were in charge of proving wills. When wills involved more than just local holdings either the Bishops Court or the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) proved the will. The PCC was held in high regard as a court, so it wasn’t just the wealthy land owners who used it to prove wills or settle estate problems. During this time period, only a small portion of the population made wills and after 1837 oral wills were only legal for those in the Armed Services. The date a will is recorded is the date it was proved and not when it was written or the date of death.

A Letter of Administration was needed when no will was left and someone was appointed to be the executor of the estate. The 1670 Statute of Distributions regulated the dispersal of estates without wills with a third going to the widow and the rest divided among the children or next of kin. The letter usually provides solely the name, date, possibly the address, and the person appointed executor.

An Inventory is a list and valuation of personal property and may provide insight into the lifestyle and wealth of individual. Inventories were required for a Letter of Administration to be awarded. for more click here

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