Wednesday, 23 May 2012

National Probate Calendar and English poll books

Two collection launches from Ancestry ( today:

First, the company has extended its coverage of the National Probate Calendar for England and Wales to cover 1858-1966 (having previously covered 1861-1941). The calendars provide short abridgements of records that have gone through the probate process, outlining whether a person died testate or intestate, and if so whether there was a grant of probate or a letter of administration issued by the courts, the value of the estate and the executors details.

Incidentally, the equivalent for Scotland, which has a different system, was called the Calendars of Confirmations and Inventories - it is not online, though has been digitised and can be accessed at the national records of Scotland. Scottish testaments (the equivalent probate documents) up to 1901 are available on ScotlandsPeople (, and are soon to be extended up to the mid- 1920s. For the equivalent calendars from 1858-1943 for what is now Northern Ireland (with coverage soon to be extended to the 1950s) visit PRONI (, and for the modern Republic of Ireland, calendar records from 1923-1982 can be accessed at the National Archives of Ireland ( - though these are much easier to access via my guide (see link at top), where there are direct links to each year's records. Be aware though that if someone died in one part of the UK and had assets in the other, there may well be probate records within one of the other jurisdictions - so do check the English and Welsh entries for family who may have lived in Scotland or Ireland, as you just might just be lucky! Ancestry's National Probate Calendar is accessible at  Incidentally, the site also has a page telling you how to obtain an original will following a find in the calendar at

The second release from Ancestry is UK, Poll Books and Electoral Registers, 1538-1893. This contains the names of voters across England only, and not the UK (Ancestry is geographically confused again) from 1538, though mainly from 1660 onwards (the 16th century entries are for 1538 and 1549 only). Although described as England, I have no idea how widespread coverage is for the country - the collection has been supplied by London Metropolitan Archives. I took a random look at 1675 and saw records for Durham, and in 1739 Bristol pops up, but Ancestry would really help matters if they could supply some decent source information as to what is available and where for each year.  From the site:

Poll books will not list all residents of an area. Until 1832, most voters were freeholders and others who could meet property requirements for the franchise, and poll books list only those who actually cast a vote. And while the majority of books in this database are poll books, some are registers, indexes, lists of liverymen, and similar records that will include names and other details, but do not record votes.

To access the collection visit Again, you will find some equivalents for the north of Ireland at the PRONI website (


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1 comment:

  1. Just browsed the 'poll books and electoral registers' for the year 1538, that appears to be a list of Freemen of the City of London. First names heavily abbriviated, as they usually are for that time period, Jn for John, Wm for William and, my favourite, Xpofer for Christopher! :-)