Posted 02 October 2017
Did your ancestor leave a will?
For non-family historians, the appeal of a long-lost relative’s will is that they might find themselves a beneficiary. But for us, wills can provide an invaluable collection of names, relationships and clues to family members from times gone by. June Terrington examines this rich collection of records
Posted 02 October 2017
For non-family historians, the appeal of a long-lost relative’s will is that they might find themselves a beneficiary. But for us, wills can provide an invaluable collection of names, relationships and clues to family members from times gone by. June Terrington examines this rich collection of records
Did your ancestor leave a will?
So, you’ve found several ancestors, and used several sources in your family history research, but now you would like to check whether any of your ancestors have left a will.

Finding wills before 1858
Wills and administrations before 1858 were proved by the church court. Not all wills needed proving by a court, not everyone left a will, and to this day many still don’t. However, those that did chose the appropriate court – out of the 250-plus in existence. The wealthy tended to opt for the Prerogative Courts of either Canterbury or York. Mostly Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) wills dealt with southern England 1384-1858 can be found at the The National Archives (TNA). The Prerogative Court of York, meanwhile, dealt with northern England 1389-1858. Therefore your first task in using wills dating from before 1858 will be to identify which court dealt with your ancestor’s will.

What are probate records?
Probate is the process of dealing with someone’s money, possessions and final wishes after they die. In probate, a will is ‘proved’ in court and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased. The probate court decides whether the deceased person’s will is valid and grants it to the executor. This then becomes a legal document.

About the National Probate Calendar
The National Probate Calendar (NPC) is an annual index to grants of probate and administration of deceased persons’ estates in England and Wales, from 1858 to the present day. The index has been microfilmed from 1858 up to 1943, and microfiches or microfilm of these years are available to view in many record offices and in some probate offices (not all years may be covered in any particular office). Some offices also have bound volumes for at least some of the years after 1943.



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