After parish registers, undoubtedly one of the most valuable source records that are available to anyone undertaking family history research in England are probate records.
But knowing where to look for Wills before a civil system was introduced in 1858 has always been tricky. Wills could be 'proven' in any one of a number of ecclesiastical jurisdictions depending on where the deceased's property was located.
And even if you knew which ecclesiastical court applied, indexes of Wills in regional and district courts are few and far between and/or difficult to use.
In my own STERRY research I found many years ago that Wills proven in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury [PCC] were the best indexed and most readily available. [Wills were proven in the PCC if the deceased had property in more than one ecclesiatical diocese.]
These days indexes of PCC Wills can be readily searched online and the copies of original Wills from 1462 to 1858 downloaded for a small cost.
And now, thanks to the Familysearch Wiki, locating Wills in Episcopal and lower courts is also much easier.
The range and number of indexes and original probate records in England that have been filmed by the LDS is awesome and so far I have only begun to scratch the surface.
Allthough I live in Australia, I can order these probate indexes and original Wills through my very handy and local LDS Family History Centre at a very reasonable cost.
I am currently researching Wills mainly in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire and I plan to share my journey via the Sterry Family History blog over the coming months. I hope you may find what I learn of interest in your own research.
More as it happens .....