Family History: Wills and Probate Records - online course

Ref: C3679689

Generally considered the third most useful source for Family History research a really “good” will can be full of family names, personal information and associated details. Some probate records provide clues and signposts to additional records and sources to research. Examples briefly included will be Alumni, Civil Registration, Census, Clergy Lists, Death Duty Indexes, Inventories, Manorial Records, Trade Directories and Parish Registers. We will sample both Modern and Ecclesiastical will indexes and probate jurisdictions before looking at where and how to order copies. Our course will include basic palaeography techniques and glossaries, focus mainly on England and Wales although brief guidance for Ireland and Scotland will be included. It may be that some ancestors weren’t eligible to make a will or just didn’t however with all the probate indexes that are now available online there isn’t an excuse for not checking to see if they did.

Course aim

To review Wills and associated records evaluating and appreciating their value for Family Historians, House and Local History. To support individual studies with advice and website guidance via the WEA’s Learning Platform as time permits.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Explain the significance of January 1858 for probate records in England and Wales naming the new index that was created and the websites on which it can be found
  • Demonstrate having searched the Modern Will indexes for at least ten family members (or a place or two) and report back on results
  • Construct a speculative potential family tree from a sample modern will index entry (provided or your own) listing the sources indicated for future research
  • Display a map of Ecclesiastical probate jurisdictions for at least two areas of interest and list what indexes can be found online for these areas
  • Transcribe parts of both an Ecclesiastical will and a Probate Inventory included in the course materials

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

Online Guides will be covered. Optional reading: Wills of Our Ancestors by Stuart A Raymond; Eve McLaughlin Guide to Wills before and after 1858; Gibson Guide Probate Jurisdictions - Where to look for Wills. Voucher for some Pen & Sword publications & Gibson Guides available via Canvas to students.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Family History: Wills and Probate Records - online course


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

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  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2021
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  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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