General Collection Information
This collection contains records of the probate process, including wills and administrations recorded for residents of Westminster, London between 1504 and 1829. Probate records are an excellent resource for genealogical research because they contain personal information about your ancestor, their life, and their family. Probate records prior to 1858, such as those in this collection, are a type of parish record, and they’re some of the oldest types of records available. They can help you trace your family back for generations.
Using this Collection
The collection includes the following information:
- Probate date
- Will date
- Names of relatives
The records in this collection may span multiple pages. Click the arrow to the right of the image to access the rest of the record.
If you’re not sure if a document is a record of probate or a will, the wording of the document can provide clues. A will is considered a type of personal oath and usually begins with “I,” “The Last Will and Testament Of,” or “In The Name of God, Amen.” As probate records are documents administered by the church court, they often begin with “Memorandum.” Probate records are signed by officials, as the deceased is no longer able to certify the document.
Keep in mind that these records may not contain your ancestor’s exact date of death. A will may be written years in advance. Most probate cases are resolved within a year of death; but if the case is contested, the probate process may take years.
Collection in Context
A will is a legal document in which a person outlines how they’d like their estate taken care of upon their death. Probate refers to the legal actions taken to follow the will of the deceased. Wills aren’t just for the estates of the very wealthy. Probate records commonly detail the legal distribution of property belonging to deceased individuals, but they may also include instructions for paying debts or assigning guardianship for minor children. The practice of writing a will was first recorded in the United Kingdom in the 11th century, but most wills written before the 15th century haven’t survived. Prior to 1858, wills fell under the jurisdiction of church courts.
The original collection is held at the Westminster Archive.
Ancestry.com. “Probate in the United Kingdom: An Overview.” Last Modified 18 April 2014. https://www.ancestry.com/corporate/blog/probate-in-the-united-kingdom-an-overview
Ancestry.com. “Wills and Probate Records: How Do I Find What I Am Looking For?” Last Modified 9 September 2015. https://www.ancestry.com/corporate/blog/wills-and-probate-records-how-do-i-find-what-i-am-looking-for
Churchill, Else. “Guide Four: Probate Records.” Society of Genealogists. Last Modified 2020. https://www.sog.org.uk/learn/help-getting-started-with-genealogy/guide-five