NZ Probates Online

Will of James Harker 1901The New Zealand Probate records have been online for a while, but it is an on-going project between Archive NZ and FamilySearch so a press announcement has been made to tell us all that a million+ images are now online at the Family Search website.

It great to have the original wills freely available. A simple way to find those who left a will is to go to Archive NZ’s Archway search engine and do a search for a name. Once found check where the will is housed and then go to FamilySearch and see if that particular Court is on-line. If so, great you get to see the will free, if not you have 2 choices either pay $25NZ and buy a copy from Archives NZ who have a very efficient copy service or make a note and come back in a few weeks and see if it has gone on-line yet.

At the time of writing this post the wills that are available for viewing are from these courts.


Oxfordshire Transcribed Wills Online

Probate Office Oxfordshire Genealogy

The Oxfordshire Transcribed Wills project which is run by the Oxfordshire Family History Society has certainly come along nicely since I last visited the site. I haven’t been able to ascertain how many wills are now online, but the number is increasing all the time. Anyone, not just members of OFHS, can contribute a transcript of a will that they have as long as it has some connection to Oxfordshire.

As one would expect from the OFHS, which have high standards in transcribing, the transcriptions can be searched under a variety of surnames not just the person who wrote the will. The headings are ….

  • Testator – The person whom the document is about, including intestates (in Admons etc) and similar.
  • Close Relative – Spouse, Grandparent, Parent, Sibling, Child, Grandchild, Spouse of sibling or of child.
  • Other Relative – Nephew, Niece, Uncle, Aunt, Cousin, Kinsman, Kinswoman, Greatgrandchild etc.
  • Legatee – Unrelated person with a legacy — Friend, Servant etc.
  • Will Official – Witness, Trustee, Overseer, Appraiser, Executor etc.
  • Mention – Unrelated person with no legacy — Bondee, Landlord, Tenant, Priest etc.
  • Bureaucrat – Any official, clerk or witness involved in the Probate process.

The web page has guides for new users of the project, contributors, a glossary and information on pre 1858 wills in Oxfordshire. Altogether a very useful source of family history information.

Image of Former probate office, designed by Charles Buckeridge and built 1863, in New Road, Oxford – Wikimedia Commons – Motacilla

NZ Wills Collection expanded

NZ Wills

Thanks to for the newsflash that FamilySearch has added another 384,000 images to it’s New Zealand Probate Collection 1878 – 1960.

Tracing wills in NZ isn’t a straight forward business as they are kept in a number of different locations and there is no central index to where they are held or who left a will. Therefore having this collection which comprises the wills held by Archives New Zealand is a great help. The images are available for viewing free of charge, but first you will need to visit and undertake a name search, then with the probate file number attached to that name you can then head for Familysearch and locate an image of the will. Wills are great documents for adding information to your family history so it is well worth the trouble to locate them.

Ancestry Card Catalogue Lucky Dip

When you enter England as the location in the Card Catalogue and leave all other boxes blank it comes up with 991 entries. There are the well known and well used censuses, civil registration indexes, the London parish registers and the Army records, but what are the other hundreds of datasets for England?

As there are no major releases today from the likes of Ancestry or FindMyPast I thought I would pluck out one or two of the more unusual datasets, take a look and report on what I find.

Suffolk Committees for Scandalous Ministers, 1644-1646

Suffolk Committees for Scandalous Ministers, 1644-1646This dataset is a scanned copy of a book edited by Clive Homes, Assistant Professor at Cornell University and published in 1970 by the Suffolk Record Society.

The description attached to this book tells us that during the English Civil War a committee was set up to seek out Scandalous Ministers and these were defined as those who were “non-resident, incompetent or idle, scandalous either in life or in doctrine, or in any way ill-affected to Parliament” I suspect that there were a few of those around as anyone who didn’t agree with the Presbyterian viewpoint that parliament took was likely to be put under the heading of Scandalous Ministers.

The book has details of the cases brought against 38 ministers, including the wonderfully named Maptid Violet who was curate of Aldeburgh plus an index of witnesses which runs to five pages, so plenty of names that will feature on someone’s family tree. The book has been indexed so names should come up when a search is undertaken under the Stories & Publications tab on the main Ancestry page.

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 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.



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 will be adding it to my section on Records by County on which is the sister site to this one. Hopefully this will let more people know what is available hidden in the depths of the Ancestry Card Catalogue.

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

Boyd’s Inhabitants of London & Boyd’s Family Units

Percival Boyd would have loved the internet, he was a prolific indexer and produced the Boyd’s Marriage index and the lesser known, but as important Boyd’s Inhabitants of London and Boyd’s Family Units. I can imagine that if he was alive today he would be pleased to have his indexes available on the internet and I suspect he may have been quite a presence on the genealogy blogging scene!

What is Boyd’s Inhabitants of London?

Boyd’s Inhabitants of London are sheets that contain details of a family living in London, the sources for the information are varied and not always documented. The time period covered is generally 16th to 18th century.  The collection has in the region of 60,000 sheets, all handwritten.

As a source for family history Boyd’s Inhabitants of London are invaluable as they can link families outside of London with those who migrated to the city. It is well worth searching this collection even if you haven’t discovered any ancestors in London.

What is Boyd’s Family Units?

Boyd’s Family Units were designed by Percival Boyd to be an extension to Inhabitants of London, it comprises of a further 10,00 sheets with families coming from a wider geographical area. The two collections have been amalgamated by FindMyPast into one index which contains over half a million names as more than one person is named on each sheet. The time period covered is lengthier than the Inhabitants of London, 14th to 20th century.

Where are the Boyd’s Inhabitants of London & Boyd’s Family Units?

The original sheets are in the care of the Society of Genealogists, London, but have been scanned, indexed and placed online by FindMyPast.

What can you expect to find on Boyd’s Inhabitants of London & Boyd’s Family Units?

Each Boyd’s Inhabitants of London sheet starts with a man who often, but not always, was a citizen of London, it has the parish in which he is living also it may, or may not, have his wife’s name and the date and place of marriage, his parents details, his children’s names and dates of baptism, his occupations and other such notes that may have been found on the documents consulted to make up the sheet.

The Boyd’s Family Units sheets can start with a man who has links with England, he may be living anywhere worldwide. they then have similar details noted as the Inhabitants of London. The British Empire countries are well represented here as well as America, this makes this a valuable collection for those who have ancestors who have left England to make their fortunes elsewhere.

As both of these collections are fully indexed they are easily searched so really it would be worth while for anyone to enter their family names in the search box.

Below is an example of a sheet from Boyd’s Inhabitants of London, it is for Matthew Pottinger an ancestor of mine who I had no reason to think had left rural Berkshire to establish a business in London. The sheets mentions his will in which he named his brother John & his wife Dorothy, his brother Nicholas & his wife Dorothy and their son Richard and his sister Mary. This was enough information to make me surmise that this Matthew was “my” Matthew. A copy of London Matthew’s will confirmed that he was indeed mine. The clincher was his bequest of monies for the poor of his home parish of Compton in Berkshire. What wasn’t mentioned in the Boyd’s sheet was that he left the majority of his estate to his maid servant this must have surprised his seemingly very conventional farming family!

Boyd’s Inhabitants of London

Below is an example of one of the Boyd’s Family Units sheets. This is for Richard Pyott who was from Staffordshire and names his wife, her parents, their children and their spouses, his occupation, reference numbers of wills for both Richard and his wife and a description of his arms. Valuable information for those researching the Pyott family history.


Thanks must go to the memory of Percival Boyd who worked so long and diligently to provide the genealogical world with such valuable indexes.