Using Probate Records in Wales

April 5, 2011  - by 

When doing research in Wales, there are several limitations to using parish church registers. Because of these limitations, wills play a significant role. Beginning in about 1543 and continuing to 1858, wills are a prime source of information, unique because wills allow a person to be traced in his family context.

One of the common strategies for using wills is to search an index for the probate court in the area where your ancestor lived, looking for people with a common surname. In Wales, due to patronymics, this is an ineffective way to search, as a grandfather, father, and son might all be found under different names. The preferred method is to search by place. If your person is not found, it may be necessary to search all the wills for a place to find information about your ancestor.

The National Library of Wales (NLW) has made searching for wills in Wales quick and easy. Go to the Wills and Probate Records section of the NLW website and click on the new online index link in the peach-colored box. This will take you to the search page where you can search by diocese, name, parish, or occupation. The resulting index entries will then allow you to select an entry and go directly to digital images of the wills and inventories.

Abstracts of Welsh Wills 1773-1780.New on FamilySearch Historical Records is the first diocese (Llandaf) in a collection of Welsh probate abstracts. These abstracts, which are arranged by diocese, contain the names of every person mentioned in the wills, including the witnesses. . The genealogically significant information is collected on a preprinted form for your use. This is quite exciting for those who have a difficult time reading old wills.

To use these, go to the NLW index and find the will you want to read. Then, in, go to “All Record Collections.” Type in the search box “Wales, Probate Abstracts.” Click on the title link provided. You will be taken to a section called “View Images in this Collection” where you can click on a link “Browse through 186 images.” Select a diocese (the only one available at this time is Llandaf, but more are coming), and find the abstract for your will.

For further information on Welsh probate records, see the Wales Probate Records article in the FamilySearch Research Wiki.

Happy hunting!

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  1. Hi Judy —

    I had to do that read all the wills in a parish for a Welsh client once. One thing that was rather enlightening to me, I cant remember which diocese it was off the top of my head, but Family History Library staff had abstracted apparently all the registered copy wills for that diocese back 35 years ago or so. When I compared the list of wills for the parish to a new list of original copy wills we had acquired since that time, there were literally twice as many original copy wills as registered copy wills. I wonder which version were digitizing?

  2. Hi Judy —

    I love Welsh wills too. For one of my past clients, I did the read every will in the parish to learn more about the persons ancestry. I cant remember which diocese the parish was in off the top of my head, but I came across abstracts Family History Library staff had made back in the 1960s or so and thought great, I dont have to read all the wills. Turns out they abstracted the registered copy wills, as that was all we had in the collection at the time. We had more recently acquired the original copy wills and the number of wills in existence was literally double the number of registered copy wills. I thought it was odd that so many more of the original wills exist. Maybe they werent required to register them in that remote part of Great Britain? Or maybe staff didnt actually abstract all of the registered copy wills that survive? I wonder if were currently digitizing registered copy wills or original copy wills? Are we missing a lot of the wills if we only do the registered copies?

  3. HI