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England and Wales Wills on-line

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist on September 19th, 2010

Ancestry.co.uk on a computer screen

Ancestry.co.uk -         (Disclosure: Image is a Compensated affiliate link)

Ancestry.co.uk has launched online the England and Wales National Probate Calendar, 1861-1941 – an index to more than six million wills proven across the 19th and 20th centuries.

Ancestry has said that the combined value of the 6,079,000 estates in the index reveals a fortune that today would be worth more than £20 billion! On the flip side, however, the average value of our ancestors’ estates is a rather modest £3,400.

Now not all of us will be able to find our ancestors in this collection, but if you are lucky enough to do then they can be wonderful resource for family historians. The value of the index is that each entry may also include the name of the departed, the date and place of your forebear’s death, the name of the executer and also, in a few instances, bequest recipients.

So what is Probate? This is the term given to the court’s authority to administer a deceased person’s estate and including the granting representation to a person or persons to administer that estate.

It was in 1857 that the Court of Probate Act came in to force and with it the power to administer estates were transfer from the Church of England to the state. It is the probate calendar books, in which are summarised and collated annually the grants, that are now to be found on Ancestry.co.uk.

Ancestry.co.uk International Content Director Dan Jones comments: “The probate calendar books provide countless new leads for family historians to explore as they move beyond being about family members to long-gone fortunes, mysterious beneficiaries and valuable objects – all with connections back to our ancestors just waiting to be explored.

“Anyone able to find an ancestor in the probate calendar books will be able to find out a great deal about how their ancestor lived, what they bequeathed and to whom – meaning we will be able to find out so much more about what their lives would have been like.”

All wills and administrations were proved in England and Wales however the places of death vary enormously and include more than 107,000 people who died in Scotland, around 20,000 in France and 18,000 in the USA.

To take a look go to Ancestry.co.uk (Disclosure: This is a compensated affiliate link)

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