Bristol Wills 1572 – 1792

Index to Bristol Wills 1572 – 1792

This book is part of the extensive British Record Society series and was compiled by Edward Alexander Fry, it was published in 1897. The book is available at, but has not been indexed (which seems odd as it is an index) so will not come up on any search, you have to know it’s in the Card Catalogue and then browse through page by page. Browsing page by page is easy enough as it is obviously arranged alphabetically, but you have to first know it is there before you can browse.

The front page tells me that it is Bristol Wills 1572 – 1792 that is wills proved in the Bishop of Bristol’s Court so there will be people included here who didn’t live in the city of Bristol, but came under the jurisdiction of the court, but also included in the book is an index to Wills in the Great Orphan Books 1379 – 1674. There is a good introduction that thankfully explains what the Great Orphan Books are, these are wills where the testator left children who were minors at the time of their death and the city authorities acted as guardians until the child became of age.

The index for the wills is naturally arranged by surname, then Christian name and finally date of probate.. Sadly there is nothing else given to identify the person so if a popular name such as Thomas Smith is sought you may have some difficulty identifying which Thomas Smith is yours unless you know the date of death.

Administrations (where the deceased didn’t leave a will) are indexed from page 108, this index gives the name of the deceased, the name of the administrator and the date of probate so you are more likely to be able to quickly identify an ancestor.

From page 125 the index for the Great Orphan Books starts. This index is much fuller than the first two, a typical entry will give the surname, Christian name, occupation, which parish the deceased lived in at the time of death, probate date and a reference number. It also note if the will was proved through the Provocative Court of Canterbury not in the Bristol Bishopric Court. Below is a scan of the first page of the Great Orphan Book Index.

Bristol Wills 1572   1792

This book is a great resource for those with ancestors who lived within the diocese of the Bishop of Bristol, why it hasn’t been index by Ancestry so that it comes up when a search is undertaken goodness only knows.

I have written an earlier post explaining how to use the Card Catalogue and here is the link