Useful Wills Translation site

A will and testament from the 19th century
A Will from the 19th century, online

Wills are great for family historians finding out what land, or other more personal possessions, your ancestors had and so building your family tree. The genealogical information that they can often supply is often a huge bonus. It is worth remembering that any names and details of relationships that are found in a will are those supplied by the ancestor themselves and so can be expected to be a highly accurate source for you.

A will furnishes the researcher with an approximate date of death for an ancestor, which can be helpful if you were uncertain of this from your other research. For example, if you had not been able to trace a death record or a burial because you have found several candidates with the same name as your ancestor, then at least a will may give you the evidence of the year of death of your ancestor and so can point you to the correct entry in the parish register.

Another point to remember is that a will may provide you with a whole list of nephews, nieces, grandchildren, cousins and so on. Especially if the departed was intent on spreading their bequests more broadly around than just their nearest kin.

Admiral Nelson's will
Admiral Lord Nelson’s will on TheGenealogist

In my own ancestor’s cases, for the wills that I have traced so far, I have found that many of my own forebears were a little unimaginative and kept it short and sweet, leaving all to spouse and children! Yet, in other wills that I have researched that do not belong to my family, I have seen legacies in abundance.

These bequests can be used to confirm family relationships that have previously been deduced from records of birth or baptism. One of the great virtues of wills are that they spell out the relationship to the testator of everyone mentioned. For example bequests to a married daughter, or her children, should make it possible to identify the record of daughter’s marriage and the baptisms of the ancestor’s grandchildren.

From a will you can often find out about debts owed to and debts owed by your ancestor. You may discover something about their business dealings or whether they owned land, houses, or other property.

You may find out about the personal property that they held dear as it gets mentioned in separate bequests. I have seen a Welsh will in which the deceased left a watch to a relative and specified that they were not to sell it!

One other highly valuable thing about a will is that it may also provide information on the occupation and social status of an ancestor, indicate the closeness or otherwise of the relationship to a spouse and children, and may allow you to identify, in the present day, a house or land owned by the family in the past.

If you want to learn more about these fascinating documents then The Family History Researcher Academy course on English/Welsh family history has a module on this and many more resources that you can use.

This week my attention was drawn to a site on the web that allows people to upload a transcribed will to. This then allows other family history researchers to search for a will and read the transcription rather than struggle with the handwritten original. I wish them well with this project as I am sure it will be of great use to those who can find an ancestor’s will amongst those that have been transcribed.

This is what the site says about itself:

This site contains a number of transcripts which it is to be hoped will grow. Anyone who has transcribed a pre-1900 will is invited to contribute to this site which is searchable by Testator, Executor or Administrator, or Witness. It is hoped that ultimately there will be a large number of transcripts which may assist family historians in their research and also those who are interested in local history and the families who lived in a particular locality. The site is completely free and material on it is not to be used for commercial purposes. Please do not copy anything without the permission of the transcriber.

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Review: Tracing Your Edinburgh Ancestors

Tracing Your Edinburgh AncestorsIf you have Scottish ancestry and begin to trace your family history from that country, then you will rapidly discover that it is quite different in many ways from tracing your forebears elsewhere.

Some years back I began to look into a side of my family that was from Scotland, although at the time I had no idea which part they came from. Quickly, I found, some of their roots were in Midlothian and also in the City of Edinburgh where they appeared to be merchants.

Following them further back in time I found that they were descendants of the lairds of Hope, an estate in the hills to the south of Edinburgh. To my delight, I found the first laird of Hopes marriage in the Scotlandspeople records for Kirk of Halyroodhous (sic), Edinburgh in 4 August 1664. I then discovered a privately published book about the family in the Society of Genealogists Library in London and this gave me a line of ancestors to follow on a visit to Scotland.


As I have been thinking about doing more research on this branch of the family I was, therefore, very happy to recently get my hands on the book by Alan Stewart called Tracing Your Edinburgh Ancestors published by Pen & Sword.

I learnt a huge amount about the local history of Edinburgh from this book, as well as discovering where to look for records pertaining to the City and its villages. Alan Stewart combines a great deal of the ancient history of the area as well as modern historical information and the all important genealogical data and where to look for it.

Part one of the book explains the history of Edinburgh from the volcanic activity, that is responsible for its geography, through the Ice Age and the Romans to the setting out of the Old Town and the New Town. From reading this book I now understand the way Edinburgh spread and how it incorporated Leith and the surrounding villages into its borders.

By Ronnie Macdonald from Chelmsford, United Kingdom (Edinburgh Old Town 2) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
From the second part of the book I was able to build my understanding of the family history records, that can be used to trace ancestors from the area. The explanations of the differences in them, when compared to their English and Welsh counterparts, clarified a great deal for me. Out of the chapters, in part two, I would just like to highlight how useful I found the sections on wills and inheritance records, to make sense of my own research into my Edinburgh folk. Now I understand what a Sasine record was. I had previously seen mentioned, in the privately published family history book I had found in the Society of Genealogist Library, that one of my ancestors, Edmund Hay of Hopes, obtained his lands in 1653 from his father according to a sasine dated that year. Alan Stewart’s book has made it clear what this is and that they have been digitised and are available to view on “virtual volumes” at the National Records of Scotland.

Tracing Your Edinburgh Ancestors by Alan Stewart has much more to recommend it to the researcher of Edinburgh family. It is available as a paperback, a kindle book or an ePub book

Tracing Your Edinburgh Ancestors Tracing Your Edinburgh Ancestors Tracing Your Edinburgh Ancestors
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How Many People Are You Actually Related To?

Family tree as a wheel


A guest article this week as I found this fascinating…

How Many People Are You Actually Related To?
By Connor Kehl

Most people think of a Family Tree like a triangle. It starts with you and then branches out downward from there, starting with your children and then your grandchildren, and so on. The lesser looked at side is the other direction. Starting from you and moving up. This makes an upside down triangle. There’s you, then your two parents above you, then each of their two parents above them, and so forth. As you keep moving up a generation the number of ancestors, or the number of people it took to create you, doubles. If you know anything about exponential growth, you will realize this number can get very large very quickly.

If you were to go back seven generations (your great-great-great-great-great grandparents) you would have 128 ancestors. This generation would have been in their 20’s in approximately 1800-1825, which means if you traveled to the year 1820 there would be 128 people walking around all making up an equal 1/128th of who you will become in 200 years.

Now let’s go back 12 generations. You would have to say “great” 10 times before saying “grandparents”. These people would be in their 20’s, in about the second half of the 1600’s, and again if you traveled to that time, there would be 4,096 people that make up who you are.

Now if you continue to double your ancestors, eventually you will surpass the world population, which obviously isn’t possible. This is why there is a widest part of your family tree. This part of your family tree happens in about the year 1200, where you are related to almost the entire world population. This means that everyone alive today has many common ancestors from that time.

If you continue to go backwards your family tree begins to get smaller. The reason for this is because hundreds of years ago people didn’t tend to meet as many people in their lives. Transportation wasn’t what it is today and big cities weren’t a thing, so the people in the small village you lived in tended to be your only contact. This would mean that someone could have two ancestors that were very closely related to them. For instance, if two cousins got married (which was far more common back then because of the proximity issue) than their child would only have 6 great-grandparents, instead of 8.

So if you think about it, if you are a descendant from that many people, odds are somewhere up your family tree is a king or queen or someone really cool and important. If anyone tries to brag to you that they are somehow related to King Henry VIII or something, you can just tell them that you probably are too. He just might be your 19th cousin or something ridiculous like that.

If you like this article, want to read more articles like this, want to learn some interesting things, or just like random facts, check out Connor’s website –

Or his favourite/favorite page:

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Find your elusive ancestors in the online and offline records. Discover where to look and what records sets to use in the English/Welsh family history course from The Family History Researcher Academy.

You can take advantage of a Special Offer Trial of just £1 for a month!

You’ll receive 4 modules plus bonus content by going to:


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(Normal monthly subscription: £9.95 per month(or $14.00). Course length: 52 weekly downloadable tutorials to do at your own pace. You are free to cancel at any time.)

One month trial of the Family History Researcher Academy English/Welsh course
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English/Welsh Family History Course

The Family History Researcher Academy revises its popular course to celebrate its 3rd birthday!

Family History Researcher AcademyBack in May 2013 Nick Thorne launched his English/Welsh family history course online to help people with ancestors from this part of the world find their family in the records.

He saw that many family history researchers would benefit from a set of accessible guides.

Tutorials that would show the student how to master the many record collections and the various resources that are out there.

With the extra knowledge gained, from this course, many could easily discover their English/Welsh ancestors, both on and offline.

English/Welsh family history course on tablet computer

Nick, has researched family trees for private clients, worked on various projects for one of the leading British genealogical research websites, and is also a regular writer in Discover Your Ancestors Bookazine and its sister monthly online periodical. He writes case-study articles, published in several of the monthly British family history magazines, which reveal the best way to make the most of the records sets on a top data subscription site.


His English/Welsh Family History course has had tremendous feedback, from those who bought the training consisting of 52 weekly lessons that are delivered by email for the students to complete at their own pace. The modules explore the different resources, data sets and documents that reveal more about English or Welsh ancestry and allow the reader to become a much better informed researcher. Written from a practical point of view, with various lessons contributed by professional genealogists, online data experts and by Nick himself, it has been revised for 2016.


The English/Welsh Family History course has had tremendous feedback


Nick Thorne said: “Three years ago I took much of the knowledge that I myself had learned and began writing tutorials to help others. I soon found that people were very appreciative and eager to discover more and so the Family History Researcher Academy course was born.

The tutorials help you to understand where to look for records and introduce you to the collections or archives that you may have overlooked.”

Examples of unsolicited testimonials received and reproduced with the senders permission:

I am finding the course very useful, even though I have being doing family history for many years.” Kind regards, H.Stephens.

I would like to thank you for the resources, which I have received weekly, they are very interesting and informative, also a big thank you for the brilliant customer service .” P.Beilby.

Hi Nick. Thank you very much for this series. I have learnt such a lot and it has increased my knowledge considerably.” A.Vallis.

The lessons are very good and I would recommend them to anyone” M.Lynn.

You communicate in an understandable way! Just wanted to thank you for the 52 very interesting lessons. I have them all indexed and saved and will refer back on a regular basis. I very much enjoyed the snippets of social history around the subject, this is so important when doing your own history.” P.Martin.


Topics covered in the 12 months include:

  • The census collections

  • The Parish records

  • The Parish Chest

  • Dade Registers

  • County Record offices and the valuable treasures they contain

  • Nonconformist

  • Religious records

  • Clandestine marriages

  • City and Town Directories

  • Census substitutes

  • Apprentices

  • Professionals

  • Army

  • Royal Navy

  • RAF

  • Merchant Navy

  • Illegitimacy

  • The Workhouse

  • Poor Law

  • Death records

  • Burial

  • Wills

  • Rural ancestors

  • Bankrupts

  • Black sheep

  • Genetics and DNA

  • Occupations

  • Maps and Charts

  • The National Archives

  • Other depositories

  • Family Search Centres

  • Passports

  • Manorial records

  • Newspapers

  • and more!


The Family History Researcher Academy is offering a Special Offer Trial of just £1 for a month.

Receive 4 modules plus bonus content by going to:

(Normal monthly subscription: £11 per month. Course length: 52 weekly downloadable tutorials to do at your own pace. You are free to cancel at any time.)



Or if you wish to pay in US dollars then I am currently offering a $1 trail for a month, consisting of four lessons, and then $14 a month for as long as you wish to remain, or until I’ve sent you lesson 52 (which ever is the sooner).

To pay in U.S. Dollars:
Click the Image to take a trial for only US$1
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Introduction to the Parish Records of England and Wales

Family History Researcher English/Welsh course

Parish Records

I was trying to explain, over the phone to a friend this weekend, what parish records were.

My friend’s understanding of family history was more or less at the beginners stage and so I found myself explaining how the parish is the smallest local administrative area in England and Wales even today.

In modern times a parish council looks after a civil parish that can range in size from a large town with a population of around 80,000 to a single village with fewer than a hundred inhabitants and is not connected to the church parish at all.

As confusion between this civil administration and the church parish had, by now, crept into our conversation I had to point there was a difference. The modern parish council was distinct from a parochial church council, which is the executive committee of a Church of England parish. This parochial church council had come out of the old parish vestry committee, which it had replaced in 1921.

Having got those two clear in his mind I then muddied the waters when I explained that this hasn’t always been the case and that at one time the church parish was also the arm of local government!

It is believed that parishes have been in existence from Saxon times (9th century) when they grew up around the Minsters.

For family historians the three most important records, at a parish level, are normally referred to collectively as the Parish Registers. They contain the names of our ancestors’ Baptismal records, Marriage records and their Burials. In England and Wales the parish register system, administered by the Church of England, had been in operation since 1538 and the reign of Henry VIII.

Nelson's birth in Church Register

Older registers will have been written in Latin and so we may need to be able to translate that language. There are various tools on the internet that may help, not the least of which is Google’s translation tool.

Even those later records, which are written in English, can vary tremendously in their readability and the amount, or lack of, information that they provide.

Sadly for family historians, many older parish records have not survived through time and so we cant expect to find full records for each parish that we are researching back to 1538.

With that proviso in place – a surprising number of parish records have endured.

Once a parish register is full it will normally find its way to be housed at the local Diocesan Office (often the County Record Office, but beware when a diocese covers more than one county). To avoid too much wear and tear, on these valuable old books, most have been microfilmed and can be viewed in the record office on microfilm readers and some have made it online at the large subscription sites.

If you want to learn more then I explain more about parish records in a lesson within the Family History Researcher course.

Many people will be aware of the Parish Registers and how useful they are, but not so many of us would be able to name all of the lesser used Parish records that would have found a place within the parish chest in our ancient parish churches.

Here are some other records that could be in the parish chest records for your ancestor’s parish and which I regaled my friend with in our telephone call:

  • The Churchwardens Accounts

  • Glebe Terriers and Tithe Records

  • Charity Accounts (possibly not of a great deal of use to family historians!)

  • Vestry Minutes

  • Petty Constables Accounts

  • Rate Books

  • Various other miscellaneous records

I had to stress to my friend that it is by no means certain that these documents will have survived the ravages of time, but that if they have then the originals should now be stored away safely at the relevant County Record Office for the church in question.

Cheekily, I suggested that he take out a subscription to my 52 weekly tutorial Family History Researcher Course to learn more – especially as he could have the first month for £1 (normal monthly subscription is £9.95 thereafter for the next 11 months. Cancel at any time, no questions asked and no hoops to jump through).

To pay in sterling:

I think he thought this was me offering “mates rates”, but actually it is my current offer to everyone. If you wish to pay in US dollars then I am currently offering a $1 trail for a month, consisting of four lessons, and then $14 a month for as long as you wish to remain, or until I’ve sent you lesson 52 which ever is the sooner.

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