Ancestry.co.uk has as part of their collection The National Probate Calendar 1858 – 1966. This calendar is the key to finding if your ancestors who died between these two dates left wills. It doesn’t matter where they lived in England & Wales, or even if they left a will or not, if they had an estate to leave behind then it will be on the calendar.
The great thing about this calendar is that it gives you quite a bit of information without you having to buy the will. You may of course decide you want to buy the will/administration, but for those ancestors who aren’t direct line and are interesting, but not so interesting that you want to pay for the will/administration the calendar is wonderful.
Ancestry have completely indexed the calendar so it is a simple case of putting a name into the search engine and pressing search.
There are a few points to bear in mind; firstly sometimes a estate isn’t probated and dispersed until some years after the death of the person concerned so be flexible with your criteria in searching. Use the wildcard * if the surname can be spelt several different ways. If you aren’t sure of the date of death then use the GRO Death Index dataset on Ancestry.co.uk to try and locate the year and quarter.
Once you have located your ancestor what can you expect to find?
Using my ancestor John Bint as an example I searched for him in the calendar. I knew John was alive at the time of the 1861 census, but he was dead by the 1871 census.This was all I knew. I soon found him in the calendar.
BINT, John 18 September 1863
Letters of administration of the personal estate and effects of John Bint late of 15 Hockley Birmingham in the county of Warwickshire Boat Builder deceased who died 11 April 1863 at 15 Hockley aforesaid were granted at Birmingham to Mary Bint of 15 Hockley aforesaid widow the relict of the said deceased she having been first sworn. Effects under £200.
It can be seen that the calendar gives the date and place at death, John’s occupation which can be most helpful in confirming that you have the correct person plus the information that John was outlived by his wife Mary.
If you wish to buy a copy of the will or letters of administration then an application to the Principle Probate Registry can be made. The documents are usually delivered to you within 21 days, but occasionally can take longer.