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Language of Probate

Notes by William Gaskell

Colin Chapman is a former president of the Bath and Gloucester family history society.

In the 16th century Henry, Earl Stafford wrote in his will: “of good and perfect mind and memory”.

Wills are biographies, giving reliable genealogical data and give family, local and social history – much like a Roman era gravestone!

Wills deal with real estate whereas Testament deals with goods and chattels. Wills can be republished if Testament is invalidated. Similar documents include:
·         Letters of administration – Admons.
·         Inventory, from 1268-1750 rare afterwards.
·         Probate accounts – expenses run up by executors.
·         Law suits – contentious cases – sentences.
·         Bank of England – if Wills taxed. 1717-1850.

From 1858 Temporal Courts of Probate would hear inheritance cases. Wills were kept in Somerset House in London from 1874 to 1999. Now in High Holburn. We can access them online now through

Non Cuprative Will is a verbal Will (or a text) that is acknowledged.

Assignation – if there is no executor then an assignation assigned to execute Will of deceased.
Limited Probate – some abroad
Inhibition – were all the religious ceremonies being performed properly?
Hiatus – vacancy in office or Inhibition means no court meeting to grant probate.

Outlaws and suicides have no Testament but only legal Will.

Another example Will was an 1866 document in prose on 15 pages of A3.

A counter appeal is called a Libel.

Advice is to take Will to appropriate court, should be where the estate is based, pay the court fee if Bona Nobilis, probate granted, Will sealed and record kept and copy given to executor.
Another extract from a 19th century document: “In manner of form following: I give and bequeath to my daughter…”

If son not mentioned then we assume there was some argument of some sort but they may have been given inheritance already during lifetime of deceased.

Lambeth Palace is the highest ecclesiastical court archive.

Henry Budd’s Will: “If my said son should wear moustaches the said will be void.”


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