Find the family history of everyone in the UK census from 1841 to 1891.
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Probate records are wills. Once the maker of the will has died, his/her executor must have the will 'proved'. A copy was made of the will into a register and a fee was generally charged for this. In some cases where the executor was reluctant to pay this fee the will was still deposited but was then known as an 'unregistered' will - equally valid in law.
In general the more wealthy the deceased, the higher the court asked to prove the will. Once proved the executor must carry out the bequests made in the will. Wills can be a valuable source to the genealogist since they need to identify the beneficiaries.
If a will was disputed then it was adjudicated by the Chancery Court.
To find a will, check indexes at County Record Offices or at the Public Record Office.
You could discover the following from a will:
- An inventory (list of all property of the deceased) which can give you some indication of the status of the deceased
- A lawyer-made will, although only the wealthy could afford this
- The names, married names and location of children, grandchildren and brothers and sisters.
You can also see whether the wife was given her bed - this usually meant that she was to remain in the house. Also, if a son was given 1 shilling, this usually meant that he had already been provided for.
Interesting Facts about Probate Records:
- Children over the age of 14 (boys) and 12 (girls) could make wills to dispose of personal property until 1837.
- Lunatics, slaves and prisoners (other than debtors) could not make wills.
- Wives could not make wills except with the consent of their husband. Widows could make wills however.
- Traitors and suicides could not make wills, their property was confiscated by the state.
- Roman Catholics could not make wills from 1700. This law however gradually lapsed.
Related Website: http://www.parishrecord.net
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