09 February, 2015: Findmypast.com, one of Australia’s leading family history and genealogy websites, today announced that is has access to over 400,000 NSW wills dating between 1800 – 1952 for the first time.
The digitised wills, sourced from originals held by the State Records Authority of NSW are now available online only at findmypast.com.au. Covering the years 1800 to 1952 they include handwritten copies of the original wills from 1800 to 1924, and typed copies of wills from 1924 to 1952, allowing people to discover more about their own family tree or simply, have a sticky beak into how the rich and famous lived. The wills cover anyone in NSW who had probate granted in the NSW Supreme Court in this time period, meaning people can also explore anything from who previously owned their house to any notable figures that lived in their neighborhood.
The records also reveal some weird and wonderful requests that were made during these times. With examples ranging from one gentlemen who was extremely preoccupied about how his alcohol supplies would be cared for after his death to a parent who excluded his son from his will due to his ‘rapacious, ungrateful, unnatural and cruel conduct’; these wills will prove to be a treasure trove of historical information.
“We are very excited to be able to offer these new records to the public for the first time,” said Vicki Dawson, Country Manager of Findmypast. “We are seeing people use this information for a range of things. Since providing access to this new set of information, we have heard of people who found land that they didn’t know their ancestors owned as well as people finally piecing together gaps in their family trees that has been a mystery for years. It’s incredible how the puzzle comes together after gaining access to a few more pieces of information.”
Consumers cannot only read up on their own family history, but can also discover more about some of Australia’s wealthy and most recognised families. The wills include fascinating details such as the deceased’s address, occupation, beneficiaries, the contents of their estate and their date of death as well as additional and anecdotal notes.
The Will Books are an invaluable resource to Australians and will only strengthen the already large and diverse collection of records available at findmypast.com.au. Through findmypast.com.au’s access to the new set of Wills and its other 2 billion records, the following information has been found:
- James Packer’s great grandfather - Robert Clyde Packer was a successful journalist who was the founder of the Packer dynasty. Has a detailed will and estate value was £54,306 or $5,658,000
- Mel Gibson’s paternal grandmother - Eva Gibson was a well-known opera singer and protégé of Dame Nelly Melba who died intestate (without a will). She was living in the US when she died and even though no will was lodged, she is still recorded as her estate had to be distributed.
- Malcom Fraser’s grandfather – Sir Simon Fraser, was also an Australian politician and member of senate. His estate was valued at £83,975 or $8,698,000
- Edmund Barton, the first Prime Minister of Australia and Justice of the High Court. Barton bequeathed all of his law books to his eldest son who also went on to become a NSW judge, however he had to pay a sum of £40 per annum to his wife until the agreed value was reached.
- Sir John Monash, legendary soldier, engineer and administrator, widely considered to have been one of the best allied commanders of the First World War. Monash was very generous with his bequeaths and included money to cousins, siblings and friends. His will shows he was particularly fond of his son-in-law, noting: “To my son-in-law the sum of £1000 as a special mark of my esteem and affection.”
- Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, the aviator who completed the first non-stop flight across Australia (and namesake of Sydney’s international airport). He disappeared and his will was finally distributed 6 months afterward. Will states ‘testator presumed deceased on or after 7th day of November 1935’ (the day he supposedly disappeared)
- Elizabeth Macarthur, the early colonial pastoralist and merchant, who effectively laid the foundations of the Australian Wool industry between 1801 and 1805. Macarthur left her entire estate and belongings equally to her three sons.
- Ludwig Leichhardt, the Prussian explorer who famously vanished during his 1848 expedition and whose fate remains one of Australia’s greatest mysteries. Leichhardt’s estate was left to his nephew, however it was 20 years later before it was distributed! More than likely due to not knowing whether he was alive still.
Geoff Hinchcliffe , Director of State Records NSW added, ‘’The will books are one of the most vital sets of records held by State Records and provide a unique insight into the past lives of people in New South Wales. This agreement with Findmypast is really important as it makes one of State Records most valuable resources more easily accessible to more people online than it is today.”
To get access to the newly released wills and Findmypast’s millions of other records, visit http://www.findmypast.com/new-south-wales-wills, Findmypast has a special for the launch of these new wills; offering customers $5 for one month’s access to their entire record collection.
Findmypast has been a leading family history website for more than 10 years. It’s a searchable online archive of over 2 billion family history records, from UK parish records and censuses to migration records, military collections, historical newspapers and lots more. For our members around the world, Findmypast is a crucial resource for building family trees and doing detailed historical research.
In April 2003 the company was the first to provide access to the complete birth, marriage, and death indexes for England & Wales, winning the Queen’s Award for Innovation. Since that time, Findmypast has digitized family history records from across the globe, including major collections from Britain, Ireland, Australia, and the United States. In partnership with the British Library, Findmypast is part of a project to safeguard the future of the world’s greatest newspaper archive – allowing digital access to more than 40 million newspaper pages. Recently, The National Archives awarded the company the exclusive rights to put the 1939 Register for England and Wales online.