Probate records are a highly valuable primary source for the study of social history, local history and family history. Wills and inventories comprise the main probate records, and are supplemented by administrations, accounts and other documents created when disputes arose.
Inventories and valuations were part of the process of proving wills, but relatively few have survived. There is a reasonably high survival rate for inventories in the period 1660 to 1740 amounting to about 50% in Gloucestershire, but outside this period there are very few.
Wills and inventories give a colourful snapshot of the lives of our ancestors, providing an insight into household arrangements, household and occupational goods, lifestyle, wealth and status, providing evidence of kinship, family sizes, occupations and landholdings.
There is a wealth of rich information included in these abstracts, including wills from; yeomen, cordwainers (cobblers), blacksmiths, feltmakers, listing detailed inventories such as the following will of Obediah Arrowsmith (haberdasher):
It wasn’t only possessions that are recorded in this dataset, many individuals, such as James Smallpeece left a hugely detailed list of debts, as noted by his executor, Thomas Keare:
Evidence of probable family disputes can also be witnessed amongst these documents, such as the will of Thomas Giles, yeoman:
The latest collection made available on Origins.net catalogues over 2014 individual names covering the years 1660-1740 inclusive and records can be searched by first name/last name and also by 'free text' search. Full details can be found here: http://www.origins.net/help/aboutNWI-BGA.aspx.
Origins.net offers subscription access to a wealth of unique and hard to find datasets, dating back to the 1200s from Britain and Ireland.
Collections include: Marriage records (1838-1856), London Apprentice records (1442-1850), Poor Law (1742-1868), Passenger Lists (1890-91 and 1858-70), Griffith's Valuation (the alternative census for Ireland; 1847-1868), Court records (1574-1714), Militia records (1872-1915), Electoral Registers (Somerset; 1832-1914 and Ireland; 1832-38), Irish Directories PLUS the National Wills Index – the principle online resource for pre-1858 English probate material!