History News

News on useful information to help you research your Essex ancestors

Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills

A new and important collection of Wills has just been added on Ancestry.co.uk: the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills from 1384 to 1858.

According to Ancestry, “Prior to 12 January 1858, wills in England and Wales were proved in ecclesiastical courts. This indexed collection contains images of wills as they were copied into the registers of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). The PCC, for the most part, handled probates from southern England and Wales, for individuals who owned property in both the Province of York and the Province of Canterbury, or those who died outside of England and Wales. Most of the wills in this collection will be for members of the middle and upper classes.”

What you will be able to see are the registered copies of the Wills which have been written out by the church clerks and bound in large volumes. As a consequence, the handwriting is sometimes difficult to read or may be in Latin. However, this is a great resource so don’t be put off by the challenge of trying to read the handwriting. Take a piece of paper and line by line identify the words you can read and leave gaps for those you cannot. Look out for the squiggles at the beginning and end of the lines, they were added to ensure there were no blank spaces. Now look at the writing you know and from the handwriting style try and guess the words you don’t. Many of the Wills will contain standard preambles. Look on the internet for examples of transcribed Wills. Also see our page on reading Latin and old handwriting.

Posted in Essex Resources, Miscellaneous | 2 Comments

Soldiers’ Wills now online

The final wishes of over 230,000 British soldiers are now to be found in their Wills recently published online. Many of them from the First and Second World Wars.

The handwritten Wills were made out by the soldiers and carried in the service pocket books. Some are very brief one or two lines, but others are accompanied by final letters to their wife, families or their sweethearts.

To search for the Will of a soldier who died while serving in the British armed forces between 1850 and 1986 you will need the soldier’s last name and year of death. You can search the database without registering, but to purchase a copy for £6, you need then to register. A copy of the Will will then be made available within 10 working days of your order.

Searches can be accessed at the Probate Sevice: https://www.gov.uk/probate-search#before-you-start

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Ancestry.co.uk – old v. new search

On Ancestry.co.uk there are two different search interfaces. The one presented to most users is the new version. However, many experienced researchers much prefer to use the old version. In our opinion it is easier use and returns better quality results, it is also more flexible for the experience researcher.

Ancestry are proposing to get rid of the old search as so few users use it. Well no wonder, it is well hidden. Where is the old version, some of you may ask. Go to the Search tab, select Search All Records. On the far right-hand side of the page in small print is a link ‘Go to Old Search’.

It you use the old search and want to stop Ancestry getting rid of it then fill out this Old Search Survey on the Ancestry website.

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Civil or Mechanical Engineer records

If your ancestor was a civil or mechanical engineer then the latest archive on Ancestry.co.uk will certainly be of interest. The records of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) contain details of over 100,000 people between 1830 and 1930 who built and shaped their world and left a lasting legacy for modern Britain.

Many of them were the greatest engineers of the Victorian era: pioneers of automobiles, construction techniques, mechanics, and all types of technology. Famous names in the records include Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Sir John Rennie, Christopher Hinton and Sir F Henry Royce.

The collection comprises membership records and photographs of engineers who were members of both institutions between 1820 and 1930. It is in three datasets, one of which includes photographs of the individual members.

UK, Civil Engineer Photographs, 1829-1923
UK, Civil Engineer Records, 1820-1930
UK, Mechanical Engineer Records, 1870-1930

There is one search page for all three datasets.

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Surrey Parish Registers – now online


If you have ancestors from Surrey then the new collection of Surrey Parish Records are now online at Ancestry.co.uk.

The collection features more than two and a half million historic Surrey parish records, the originals of which are held at Surrey County Council’s Surrey History Centre.

They detail baptisms, marriages and burials contained in Anglican parish registers, dating from 1538 to 1987.

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Masonic Periodicals

A new on-line archive may be of interest for late 19th century research: Masonic publications.
http://www.masonicperiodicals.org/

The archive consists of periodicals held at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London. Covering the period between the late 18th and early 20th centuries, it currently consists of 75,000 pages.

Not the easiest site to navigate, and a quick look at sample articles shows that most names are written as initials surname, or surname initials, which could make things difficult. However, looks a useful resource if one has hints of possible Freemason in your family tree.

As a short cut I would try this link.
http://mpol2.cch.kcl.ac.uk/Olive/ODE/MasonicLibrary/
Click on the tab> search (top left). Look in> All publications. Then type in your search terms.

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