7 Tips to find English or Welsh ancestors’ wills before 1858

Finding your English or Welsh ancestors’ wills before 1858 in the Church courts Before 1858 there was an intricate system of probate courts in existence coming under the jurisdiction of the church. It befell to these ecclesiastical courts, ranging from Bishop’s courts to Archdeacon’s courts and some Peculiar courts, to grant probate on the last will and testament of our English and Welsh forebears. If someone was particularly wealthy, or they had goods in more than one diocese or jurisdiction, then probate would be granted by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, for the southern province of the country, or the Prerogative Court of York for the Northern province. Where the testator had goods in both the north and southern province then the PCC granted probate.

The copies of the wills for the Prerogative Court of Canterbury are held at The National Archives in Kew while the Prerogative Court of York are at the Borthwick Institute.

This short video is intended to introduce you to the subject of pre-1858 English/Welsh wills, but to find out more there is a lesson on the subject within the Family History Researcher course on English and Welsh family history (links in the tabs at the top of the page).

The best way to discover the records of your ancestors is to learn as much as you can about the hundreds of records, data research sites and various archives that there are by taking a genealogy course. Nick, The Nosey Genealogist has a really useful blog packed with family history tips and also various learning material. His extremely well received family history course – that can quickly put you back on track – is available from a link above.

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