Ancestors Magazine

November 2004

Medieval wills

Relatively few records survive from the medieval period; but as the introduction to Wills in the York RegistryWills in the York Registry 1398-1652 (S&N £29.95) says, given the turmoil of the Wars of the Roses, it is a wonder that so many have. The English Civil War (1642-49) was a similarly disruptive time and from 1652-60, during the Commonwealth period, all wills were proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, and so this volume's coverage excludes this period. This publication is an index to the wills proved in the Exchequer and Prerogative Courts of York, and is therefore invaluable in locating ancestors all over northern England (not just York) before the mid-seventeenth century. Most people listed, of course, were comparatively wealthy, though there are a few described as 'labourer' and it's difficult to know whether the butchers and cordwainers actually worked in the shop or were perhaps less hands-on guild members. A useful appendix gives a list of all the known probate courts in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire and where their records were in 1889 when the original book was published.


Kathy Chater

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