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.