Mr Christopher Whittick (East Sussex County Archives)
Full-day, from 10.00 - 17.00
Maximum: 15 students
Venue: Senate House

This course, which is aimed at those with some palaeographical experience, aims to provide a brief overview of the records produced by the various ecclesiastical courts, local and national, which undertook the probate of wills in the early modern period, together with a practical application of their use. No experience of Latin will be required, but the course will aim to explain the purpose of those elements of probate records which are written in Latin, and encourage students to exploit the parallel English forms as a means of understanding them. Also included will be a crash course on currency, coinage and the understanding of Roman numerals, all frequently encountered in probate records. The documents to be studied will be circulated in advance of the class.  Students are expected to read the hand-outs and to attempt to transcribe the documents in advance, so as to get the most out of the course. Anyone wishing to attend who has a particular document on which s/he needs help or advice is most welcome to notify the tutor in advance and bring it along, though total satisfaction with the results is not guaranteed!  Students who have completed the Introduction to English Palaeography course should have enough experience to study the material contained in this one.


L. Boatwright, M. Habberjam & P. Hammond (eds), The Logge register of PCC wills, 1479–1486, (Knaphill, Surrey: Richard III Society, 2008).

Cecil Humphery-Smith, The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers (2003) contains lists of ecclesiastical parishes by county, indicating the dates covered by the registers, whether they are included in the International Genealogical Index or other indexes, the dates of any non-conformist registers at the Public Record Office and the record office in which the originals are to be found. There is also a key reference to a series of county maps, in which diagrammatic plans of the boundaries of parishes are printed opposite an engraved map of the same area in 1834. On the first of these maps appears the earliest date of the registers for each parish, and the boundaries of the jurisdictions of local probate courts.

Jeremy Gibson, Wills and Where to find them (1997), is a publication dedicated to probate records, as is Jane Cox An introduction to Wills, Probate and Death Duty Records (1998).

Francis W Steer, Farm and cottage inventories of Mid-Essex, 1635-1749 (1969), and Rosemary Milward, A glossary of household, farming and trade terms from probate inventories (1993), and for accounts, try Jacqueline Bower Probate Accounts (1994).

If you are interested in finding out more about the work of the church courts, Anne Tarver, Church Court Records (1995) is an excellent book with many examples of transcribed documents. Some of the reproductions are of poor quality, making this book not as useful as it might have been to the student of palaeography.

Miriam Scott, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills and other Probate Records (1997) includes brief section on reading engrossing hand.