The National Archives holds a multiplicity of documents collected from all over the UK. It is a great tool that one could use to continue their family history research. The National Archives holds the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, recorded from 1384 to 12 January 1858. The PCC was the court that was the most important, dealing with many of the wealthy or those who had land in more than one county.
The Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills can be found by searching ‘PCC Wills’ on your preferred search engine. You could also get there directly by following this link (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/wills.htm). This page directly links you to Discovery, the National Archives Catalogue, rather than having to search the entire catalogue for the PCC Wills. From this page, you can search PCC Wills automatically by filling in search terms. If you are unsure about a spelling, you can use wildcards (*or ?) to help receive broader search results.
Say I wanted to find the will of Lawrence Spencer, who proved his will in the 18th century and lived in London. I would search ‘Lawrence’ in the First Name column, ‘Spencer’ in the Surname column, ‘London’ as the Place, and a Date Range From ‘1700’ To ‘1800.’
When searched, only one result appears which is a match to the information known about the individual.
To download or print the image of the will, click on the link that describes the will (‘Will of Lawrence Spencer, Gentleman of London’). It will then take you to a page that will give you ordering and viewing options. It will tell you much information about the document, including the number of pages of the will, a reference, description of the will, where it is held, and its copyright information. It will also give the price to download or print the document. Some documents may even allow you to preview the document, which may give you a hint whether this is your ancestor or not and it is necessary to buy it.
To buy the document, click the green ‘Add to Basket’ button to check out. You can also pay with PayPal if you prefer. When added to the basket, a dropdown menu at the top-right corner of the page will show the order.
At this point, you may proceed to checkout by clicking on the ‘View Basket’ link in this box at the top right-hand corner. To checkout, you must either enter your email address or enter your National Archives account name and password (so they have a way to send you a receipt). You can then pay as you would any online transaction.
With a membership at the Society of Genealogists, one can search and download PCC Wills for free. One must come to the Society of Genealogists to use this service on any of the computers in the Lower Library. If you need help to view the documents, please ask a volunteer or enquire at the desk.
Written by Abbie Black 2013
© Society of Genealogists 2017
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