Ancestry.co.uk have released another exciting record collection on their UK site. The National Probate Calendar serves as an index to wills proved and administrations granted after 1858 and although the database is not complete yet it is still going to be a major boost for UK researchers.
Even though the calendar is only an index it does provide a great deal of information on the deceased. They may not look much, but those few brief lines can tell you a lot about the deceased, take for example the entry for my 3x great-grandfather John FAIRS:
FAIRS John of 6 Park-road Henfield Sussex agricultural labourer died 27 November 1915 Probate Chichester 11 December to George Shepherd private 4th Royal Sussex regiment. Effects £982 19s. 2d.
There is so much information there. Name, address, occupation, date of death, where and when probate was granted and to whom (his son-in-law) and their occupation. Also how much the estate was worth, hopefully dispelling the myth that a humble agricultural labourer would have nothing of value to leave in a will.
Details will vary, but these index entries will often help fill in details or clarify research. In the example above, I had no idea that George SHEPHERD was serving in the 4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, that fact should help me identify him amongst dozens of George SHEPHERDs who also served during WW1.
These records have been available previously in selected locations (I have previously accessed them on microfiche at the West Sussex Record Office), but genealogist have been waiting a long time for them to be available online. I only hope the Probate Registry can cope with the increased demand for copies of wills this release is almost certainly going to create.