Family History - Probate Records

Ref: C3678886

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?

  • You will need your own personal email address so that you’re able to login to the WEA’s digital learning platform: WEA Canvas. You will need to be able to understand how to follow URL links to pages on the internet. If you want to understand more about Canvas please visit:
  • You will need to be able to follow links to join our WEA live video learning platform: WEA Zoom. If you’d like to understand more about our video learning platform, Zoom please visit: and
  • This course is for a group of around 15 students studying in a live video-learning platform conference and an online digital learning environment platform from the comfort of your own home.
  • This course is suitable 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?

  • The WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas will be used to provide resources or to support lessons, enable assessment, provide learner feedback and for other activities for individuals away from the course. If you want to understand more about our digital learning platform please visit:
  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • You will be able to keep a record of your progress and achievement using photos, audio, text or documents uploaded into the WEA’s digital learning platform, WEA Canvas.
  • Your tutor will provide written, text and audio feedback recorded in WEA Canvas, WEA’s digital learning platform.
  • You will be able to keep a digital portfolio of your work on WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas.
  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • What you need: You will need an internet connection, speakers, a microphone and a webcam so that you can use our video learning platform, Zoom. If you’d like to understand more Zoom please visit:
  • You will also need access to the internet outside of your sessions. You could do this using a smart phone, tablet, laptop or a desktop computer (at home or through a library etc.).
  • You will need a personal email address to join the WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas so that you can receive resources, record your progress and achievement and to work with others and share ideas. If you want to understand more about our digital learning platform please visit:

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • You will have access to course resources and links to wider learning through the WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas:

What can I do next?

Download full course information sheet

Family History - Probate Records


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:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2020
  • You declare that the address you provide is correct and that you will provide evidence of this and your eligibility to live and work in the UK
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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