Tuesday, 25 November 2014

English & Welsh wills to go online - but London Probate Service search room to close

The following is an announcement from HM Courts & Tribunal Service - if ever there was an instance of good news and bad news combined this is probably it....

London Probate Search Facility

As of Friday 12th December, the Probate Service will make available our records from 1858 to the present and the records of some soldiers who died on active military service between 1860 and 1982 (predominantly those who died in the First World War) for searching online.

You can search, order and receive copies direct from your own computer without waiting for the Probate Registry to send them to you.

You can search and if there is a match you will be informed straightaway. You can then decide if you wish to pay £10 and order the documents.

You can pay by credit or debit card.

You will be informed by an email when the documents are available for downloading on your computer.

This is a change in the way the Probate Service deliver our copies and search service and therefore from Friday 12th December the London Probate Service will cease to provide a copy ordering function as this will now be available online. The facility will remain open for collection of orders made before the 12th December but will close permanently from Friday 19th December.

The Probate Service has over the last few weeks received feedback from users on the changes we are making and ahead of the 12th December would like to extend and invitation to a Search facility users meeting to be held on Tuesday 2nd December between 1-2pm in the search facility.

If you want to attend the meeting or provide us with any feedback on the changes then please email Probate.records@hmcts.gsi.uk  (UPDATE: This is bouncing as an address - should possibly be Probate.records@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk)

For more information please go to:- www.gov.uk/search-will-probate

COMMENT: I've noticed from online chatter through LinkedIn and other sources that there has been a fair bit of faffing about by the Probate Service in London over recent months in terms of its search room provision, but I'm not sure anybody quite saw the permanent closure of the search room as being on the cards. The online database is good news for those not in London wishing to make an online search - though how accurate the database is has still to be tested - but for those who regularly use the search room for genealogical purposes, this will be quite a shock. The meeting on Tuesday 2nd December may well be the only chance to cause enough of a ruckus to make them think again - assuming this is isn't just some corporate PR session designed to tell you why you're wrong and it's right, the decision having already been signed, sealed and delivered.

(With thanks to Diana Bouglas and Philip Gloyn)


Stuck for a Christmas gift?! I have a series of genealogy books available in the UK, Australia and Canada, on Scottish, Irish and British based subject areas. Further details at http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-books.html. Santa approves!


  1. And the e-mail address provided in the above announcement from HMCTS is bouncing - typical!

  2. I believe the issue is really that the closure is premature. There "is" an online service "of sorts" but it is VERY basic and provides little detail of the type we are used to in the Calendars (e.g. on Ancestry). In their own words, it is still in "Beta" testing, not all the years are on this system yet, and they should allow some time for overlapping the two services.

  3. I concur with Rosemary. The WHOLE on-line service should be proven in the live environment BEFORE any closure of the London Office. Anything else is folly. Remember the 1901 census release?

  4. I read it that is was only the copying service that was being ceased not the search facility. I imagine they don't want to have the hassle of taking payments etc it that can be done on line once you've found what you want