WILLS, PROBATE & LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION
This is a very fruitful area of research. Wills provide a tremendous amount of information and the following indexes - copied from the index volumes held at Birmingham Central Library, list all the Empsons who died between 1858 and 1973 leaving a will or in respect of whom Letters of Administration (Admons.) were granted. Subsequent extracts come from the indexes held at the Birmingham Probate Registry. About ??? souls are recorded on the list all of whom have left some information about their life and relationships.
Probate is about taxation of course so the wills are concerned with money. However there is much information in them - particularly in the bequests - or lack of them!. John Empson who died in Birmingham c1896, whose story I am researching for a forthcoming edition of Empsonian Logic*, initially left £5 to each female teacher in the Sunday School of Soho Congregational Chapel, ". . . of which I have lately been Superintendant". In a later codicil however this was withdrawn. Enough of a story to make several trips to the library worthwhile!
It is intended to go back to the indexes and check the information that has been transcribed so far, but I have posted up the information as it stands in the knowledge that you will let me know about any errors or problems.Where I am aware of problems I have marked the text accordingly.
Getting a copy of a will etc.
Today this is a simple procedure. Wills can be ordered from any District Probate Registry at a cost of £5.00 (payable to H M Postmaster General), by filling in a simple form - the information contained in the indexes being quite sufficient for the purpose. Alternatively you can write - or request a search of the records - addresses will be found by clicking on the link below.
Records after 1973 are also available but these indexes are held at local Probate Registries and slightly less accessible. Records from 1973 - 1983 are now posted and the others will be added shortly.
Further information about wills etc. is obtainable from: The Court Service, however their web-site is not currently operating but when it was you could find helpful information, forms and other contacts.
As usual, I would be more than happy to obtain wills etc. for researchers from overseas. I only ask to be reimbursed the cost. I will keep a copy on file and, assuming the 'owner' agrees, pass it on to other researchers to save on costs. I also hope to be able to sort the index into family groups.
Note: Letters of Administration appear to have no more information than is recorded in the indexes so they may not be worth purchasing.
Searching the Indexes:
The information in the index is self-explantory. The amount of information changed (reduced) over time but all entries give at least the full name and last address, the date of death and the type of grant issued.
Note: Remember that Probate may be granted some years after a person's death. So start from the known date and work forwards. Ann Empson in Oxfordhire died in 1844 but she is recorded in the index for 1861.
If you have the name simply use your browser to bring up the choices.
Note: Remember that the deceased will be recorded under the name that he was known by in life. I don't believe there is a requirement for his name to be that given at birth. The Probate Clerk will simply need to make sure that the paperwork matches the person.
Search the Index
Examples of Wills:
Here it is intended to display some copies of wills to show what information you might expect.