The Society of Genealogists
Bank of England Wills Extracts Index 1717-1845
The Bank of England Wills Extracts contain 60,523 entries, covering the period 1717-1845. They contain extracts of wills of those who died with monies in public funds, as well as abstracts of orders made for stockholders who went bankrupt or were declared lunatic.
All social conditions are to be found, from servant girl to Peer of the Realm. Stockholders, or fundholders as they used to be called, appear to come from every part of the British Isles and the Colonies. There are also several hundred Dutch fundholders.
The index is a finding aid to the original entries and hard copies of extracts found via the index can be ordered online.
What are the Bank of England Wills Extracts?
The Bank of England Wills Extracts contain extracts of wills of those who died with monies in public funds, as well as abstracts of orders made for stockholders who went bankrupt or were declared lunatic.
The monetary value of many of the stockholdings is often quite low. Investment in government funds was seen by many as an ideal vehicle for providing for their old age and as a repository for surplus earnings. This was particularly true of Londoners, immigrants and religious minorities although the stockholders, or fundholders as they used to be called, appear to come from every part of the British Isles and the Colonies. There are also several hundred Dutch fundholders.
The index is a finding aid to the original entries and not a source in itself but hard copies of extracts found via the index can be ordered online.
The registers from which this index was compiled were presented to the Society of Genealogists by the Bank of England in 1985. The registers are one of the most valuable sources for Georgian biographical and genealogical information to have become available in recent years.
Other materials in the extracts
Occasionally the Bank of England seems to have accepted other evidences concerning the dispersal of annuities and stocks rather than testamentary material. In some cases the register entry cites only a 'burial extract' which must have been presented to the Bank as evidence of the death of the stockholder. The register entry may also refer to certain other folios but as the Bank of England registers are in register number rather than folio order it is almost impossible to locate the cross referred folio without a name.
The Bank of England also registered the stock, consols or annuities possessed by those who were declared lunatic. In this case the register extracts not a will but the order of the court that declared the lunacy such as the Court of Chancery. In most cases the court ordered that the holdings be transferred by the Accountant General or Bank of England to the Accountant General of the particular court.
Understanding the Index records
The Index records are in two formats depending on whether the extract was from period 1717-1807 or 1807-1845. The differences apply to the identification of the extract and are only relevant if you intend to view the films of original books at the Society of Genealogists Library.
About the source records
The Bank of England took over the management of the British Government's funded debt (Gilt Edged Funds) in 1717. A Stock Register was opened for each type of stock (loan, lottery, annuity, etc.) and in it was recorded each stockholder's personal details, current holding and dividends, etc. Such stocks were usually irredeemable and the Bank also included its own capital (bank stock) in these arrangements. Over the years these stocks might be changed by conversion to a different stock description, by consolidation (consols) or by having their interest rate (coupon) lowered (reduced). Many have survived in one form or another to this day.
Changes in stockholdings could be by sale by transfer or, in the event of death, bankruptcy or lunacy, by direction of the Bank according to the rules for the stock. Sale by transfer involved payment (consideration) at an agreed price between seller and buyer (or attorneys or brokers). If the stockholder was dead or incapacitated, the Bank acted upon legal documents which would be docketed, examined, copied and then, usually, returned. The Bank opened Register Extracts Books for each type of stock to make copies of the documents and record the action taken.
In 1807 the Bank established a Register Office to look after the registers and introduced multi-stock books. Document copying was limited primarily to bequests of stock. The Bank's lawyers marked portions of wills mentioning such stock and clerks then copied these extracts into the registers. The Bank Solicitor and, after 1830, the Principal, then recorded his opinion against the extract.
Three opinions were usual:
- a transfer to a named person
- a placing at the disposal of the executors or their successors
- or a subjection whereby the stock was to be held by one party for a specified period, such as for the life of a widow, and then to be transferred or disposed.
After 1812, the Bank ruled that it would accept only grants of probate from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. It discontinued the recording of bequests of stock in 1845.
Though a Will Extract will not contain all of the information which may be contained in the original will, it will often identify members of the deceased family, as beneficiaries to his/her estate.
The full text of the will (only an extract is included in the Bank of England registers) can be obtained from the records of the probate court in which it was proved. This will normally be the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. The researcher may be able to obtain further information from the Estate Duty Office records, held at The National Archives (Series IR 26, indexed in IR 27: the index to death duty registers 1796-1903 which you can search on findmypast.co.uk).
Access to the Bank of England's archives is restricted, but application can be made, in writing only, to the Bank of England.
Sample of original documents
The example here is typical source will extract, but the amount of information contained in the extracts does vary widely. Click on the image to enlarge it:
The Society of Genealogists is grateful to those volunteers who participated in the creation of this index: John Addis-Smith, Norma Allum, Ann Ball, Henry Batchelor, Derrick Blaxhill, Susan Bourne, Patricia Boyd, the late Arthur Brown, Isabelle Charlton, Brenda Cox, Dorothy Gibbs, Josephine Hobday, Jennifer Key, Sue Kirby, M E MacSorley, Nicholas Newington-Irvine, Anne Prudames, Lonny Race, J R Russell, Suzanne Spurgeon, Jim Willerton, Meryl Woogate, Messrs Hignam and Robertson.Search Bank of England Wills Extracts Index now