Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills Vol. XII 1694-1700

British Record Society volume 80

Introduction to Original Volume

With the publication of the present volume, the second which a generous grant from The Pilgrim Trust has enabled to be produced, indexes to the Wills in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury down to 1700 have been completed.

The majority of the work, covering over 300 years, has been done by the Society ; but as certain periods during the 17th century were indexed by other bodies, it may be as well to list these publications for the use of future students and especially for the many workers in the U.S. who are increasingly using these indexes.

  • "Year Book of Probates" 1630-1653 (6 vols.). Edited by John Matthews and George F. Matthews, B.A., 1902-13.
  • "Wills, Sentences and Probate Acts" 1661-1670 (inclusive). J. H. Morrison, 1935.

Several innovations have been made in the present volume which will save searchers considerable time. Major F. J. Jebens, M.C., who has written many slips for this and the previous volume, made the suggestion to the late C. Harold Ridge, our greatly regretted honorary General Editor, that the page of the Probate Act Book, [P.A.B.], could be usefully included.

This has been done, but entailed far more work than might be imagined: Identity of testators' names in the same folio of the Register; a new set of facts in the Act, sometimes embracing nothing common to both; the death of executors before Probate, as well as contemporary clerical errors, can all contribute to complicate the relating of the Act to the Will.

The pagination of the original clerks was found to be at fault in several instances and alterations and additions to the Probate Act Books have been made in pencil as follows:

Probate Act Book1696Between pp. 125 and 126 of original ink pagination one page left unnumbered has been numbered '125A' in pencil.
 1697The page before original ink page 1 has been numbered '0' in pencil. After original ink page 229 six succeeding pp. have been numbered 229A-G (7 other blank or spoiled pp. have been left unnumbered). The remaining pp. after original ink numbering 246 have been numbered in pencil 247-254.

A further innovation relates to the great number of mariners whose wills will be found in this volume.

Mariner's wills

After the typescript had been prepared it became evident that the mere mention of a mariner's name together with the ship or ships in which he served or died was likely to be of little value to searchers seeking to identify a surname with a place. Most of these wills were, therefore, re-examined and where the place of residence on shore of executor, relative or legatee could be ascertained this has been added. About three thousand wills have thus been checked.

Unfortunately many sailors made use of the official form of will whose banal terminology may have satisfied Doctors Commons but which has transmitted to posterity next to no information at all about the testators. It is not claimed in this connection that the mention, for instance, of Stepney, as the residence of an executor, is likely to be of great assistance ; but at least it will give the searcher a possible clue, even if negative, before having recourse to the actual registers.

At the time of Harold Ridge's death the slips had been written, and he had made a commencement with sorting and typings the present editor has endeavoured to continue his work in the same way.

The following manuscript calendars are superseded by the present volume:

1697"PYNE "    


As with all British Record Society publications square brackets indicate that the information so enclosed is derived from the Probate Act Book.

Information in round brackets is either from the body of the will or is editorial comment.

Where there is more than one Act the original Act is given without a year date, it being understood that this refers to the same year as that of the Register folio; subsequent Acts, if falling within the period covered by this volume are given with year and page, if after Dec. 1700, with month and year, as quoted in the margin of the Probate Act Book. These latter references have not been checked, but as they were often essential to the contemporary clerks mistakes are unlikely.