Top 10 Archives… No 1!!
- 5th January 2012
The time has finally come to announce the collection which has made it to the number one spot in the countdown of our most frequently accessed collections. This means that more of our users request to see items from within our wills collections than from within any of our collections.
So, the number one spot goes to…
Wills and Probate Records
Our probate records date from 1451 to 1928. Under the Supreme Court of Judicature (Consolidation) Act of 1925, the Worcester Probate Registry was closed, and all subsequent probate records held at the Birmingham District Probate Registry.
We hold more than 190,000 original wills, inventories or administrations and a further 76 volumes of copies of wills proved in the Consistory Court of the Bishop of Worcester, or later, the District Registry at Worcester. There are also 19 volumes of Probate Act Books, from 1661 until 1858, which list wills proved chronologically, with indexes.
A majority of these original documents are available on microfilmed copies at our History Centre branch, and both branches have extensive name indexes to this collection.
Wills are very popular with researchers for a variety of reasons:
They hold a wealth of information regarding families – listing family members and usually giving the nature of the relationship between the testator and the legatees. This can be very valuable to family historians, for initial searches and for checking and cross-checking connections.
They can be used for more general research for a variety of different topics, including occupation studies, as most wills state the testator’s occupation. They give detailed information about property and land, giving currant occupants, tenants, land use, types of property etc., making them useful to house history hunters, as well as more general historians.
The inventories, listing household items owned at the time of death, give fascinating insights into the living conditions of a large part of the social spectrum, thus being a valuable social history resource.
Our indexes list the name of the testator, together with location – parish or town. This enables local historians researching an area, rather than family, to use the wills for specific, general or background information.
Wills are also frequently used as training tools in, for example, palaeography courses; as they are formulaic and repetitive they can aid the deciphering of common words, whilst giving clues to less common ones.
Wills can also be an indicator of larger events and they have also been an inspiration to at least one musician, as their customary final paragraph was begun, “Signed, Sealed and Delivered”!