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About Surrey & South London Will Abstracts  1470-1858
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About the index

This dataset contains fully indexed abstracts (summaries) of every Surrey will known to exist from 1470-1858. These abstracts contain a complete summary of all details contained within each will and were mainly proved in the Archdeaconry and Commissary Courts of Surrey.

Originally published in two volumes by Surrey Record Society 1915-1921 (named "Spage" and "Herringman", after the first testator in each will register) and reprinted by West Surrey Family History Society who subsequently published 39 further volumes of abstracts between 1993 and 2002.

Where are the originals held?

These wills are full abstracts of the original wills and contain all the information given in the original probate material and the original documents are unlikely to give any additional information.

Copies of the original wills held at The London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) - www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/lma.

To purchase a copy of the will you need to contact LMA for an order form. Upon completing the form you will need to provide the key information and document references given in the abstract. They will then advise you of the cost and payment methods etc.

Alternatively you can visit London Metropolitan Archives personally, details of opening hours etc can be found on their website.

Full details on obtaining copies of those wills deposited at The British Library, or to visit the British Library see www.bl.uk/.

What information from the document do I need to locate the original?
  • Testator's name
  • Place / Residence
  • Year / Date of will
  • LMA reference to source document including folio
Understanding the index

Which court or courts are included?
This dataset contains indexed abstracts to wills proved in the Archdeaconry and Commissary Courts of Surrey 1470-1858.

Which diocese is involved?
The old county of Surrey (including South London) were in the Diocese of Winchester.

What does the abstract include?
The abstracts include all personal names (testator, beneficiaries, executors, witnesses, overseers, and others) with their relationships, place names, occupations, bequests of money and, in most cases, bequests of furniture, livestock, clothes and other possessions, and descriptions of lands, plus full transcriptions of inventories where these were attached to the will. Unnecessary legal repetition has been removed.

Names are arranged alphabetically. This means some name variants may not appear clustered together. Names in the index are according to the spelling used in the documents, usually based on the signaturee of the testator.

Pre 1752 dates are given in 'Old Style' or Julian Calendar. From 1752 dates are given according to the Gregorian Calendar

Notes
The Abstracts follow the structure:

  • Abstract ID
  • name of the testator
  • date of the will
  • the substantive text (ie excluding legal and formulaic material)
  • the names of the executor(s), overseer(s) and witnesses
  • date of probate
  • and LMA reference to the source document with the folio number
Abstract ID identifies the Volume and sequential number of the abstract (corresponding to the position of the will in the original register; the reference number does not appear in the original). For example, Abstract IDs in Volume 16 are prefixed by SW/16_; thus SW/16_12 is the abstract of the 12th will in Volume 16.

Introductory text to each volume contain references to specific abstracts; some abstracts contain references to other abstracts. Any abstract can be retrieved via the Abstract ID search. Particularly comprehensive introductions are those to Intoduction to Volume 1 "Spage", published by Surrey Record Society in 1916, that by Cliff Webb for Volume 5A "Pykman". The latter gives information not just on the Pyman register abstracts, but on wills generally in Tudor times and later; the structure and content of Tudor wills is discussed in detail. See Introductions to Volumes 1-41

The abstracts contain folio references for the original register entry, so that with the Source Document reference you can identify the original will (strictly a copy of the will) held at the London Metropolitan Archives (with the exception of the British Library manuscript abstracted in Volume 5). This Summary Table relates the online abstract references to the original microfiche publications, and provides references to the source documents.

Note for ordering copies of wills in Volume 42 you will need to provide London Metropolitan Archives with document reference, eg. DW/PA/5/1826, plus the testator surname.

Filed wills, original wills, registered wills
Although the term 'original wills' is sometimes used to refer to filed wills, this is actually a misnomer; most filed wills are office copies, not the originals, which presumably went to the executor. It must also be emphasised that these abstracts are of will registers, ie books into which copies of the wills were transcribed. Almost all the wills registered have as counterparts a filed copy of the will. While some of these filed copies have been examined to try to fill in the few gaps in legibility, etc., the vast majority have not. In some cases, therefore, there may be substantial differences. For example, it is far from unknown for a list of debtors and debts, attached to or part of the filed will, not to be recorded in the will register. Having found a will of interest, therefore, the thorough searcher will also examine the filed will. To facilitate this process, the reference number of the filed will has been given - these are the references beginning DW/PA/5 (for Archdeaconry Court wills) or DW/PC/5 (for Commissary Court wills); the registers have references beginning DW/PA/7 (for the Archdeaconry Court) and DW/PC/7 (for the Commissary Court).

Inventories
Many wills are annotated with the value of the inventory and occasionally with the date the inventory was taken. This information has been added in round brackets at the end of the will, after the reference. Where inventories were attached to the will they have been fully transcribed.

We would like to express our own thanks to Cliff Webb, for having created one of the most valuable secondary sources anywhere for research into English social and family history.
Related National Wills Index collections

See also:  Help Searching Surrey & South London Will Abstracts
  Background from Cliff Webb
  Introductions to Volumes 1-41
  Summary Table
  Surrey Wills Abstracts Glossary
  Forename Abbreviations
  Image of original entry
  Probate Glossary
  Logged in users search the collection
For help negotiating the labyrinth of over 300 pre 1858 probate courts explore our collection of Jeremy Gibson’s probate jurisdiction maps.
Explore Probate Jurisdictions Maps