Over 105,000 Wiltshire wills released online

By Rosemary Collins, 31 January 2018 - 3:10pm

The new collection, released on Ancestry, features records of thousands of poorer individuals from southern England


This beautiful will from 1688 is among those available online. Credit: Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre

A new collection of thousands of historic wills and probate records from the West Country is now on Ancestry.

The records are held at Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre (WSHC) and come from the historic diocese of Sarum (an archaic name for Salisbury), which covered modern-day Wiltshire and Berkshire, together with parts of Dorset and the parish of Uffculme in Devon.

The collection, digitised by Ancestry staff and the WSHC, includes more than 105,000 wills and over 290,000 related records such as grants of administration, guardianship bonds and inventories of goods.

In total it has records of 118,751 individuals and 514,518 images.

The collection mainly covers the period 1530–1858, although a couple 
of wills date back to the 15th century.

Until 1858 wills were proved as valid documents in church courts, the most senior of which was the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.

Its records, which mainly covered the wills of wealthier individuals in southern England, are held at The National Archives.

The new Ancestry collection is therefore an important resource for making the wills of more ordinary people, proved in the 28 local probate courts in Sarum, more widely available.

Claire Skinner, principal archivist at Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, told Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine: “It can be particularly useful for family history, because you will get the names and sometimes the professions of children and grandchildren.”

The wills include some striking bequests, such as Mary Goddard of Swindon, who in 1788 left £2 11s to her servant Grace Buckland “to take care and protection of my Cats and Dog”.

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