Indexed images of London wills 1523-1858 have recently gone online.
Ancestry.co.uk (which has added the records) says: “No city plays a bigger part in family history than London. Even if you don’t think of your family as Londoners, it’s likely that at least some of your ancestors passed through the capital, in search of wealth, jobs or a better life. Now you can find out more about these people with our new collection of London wills.
“London Wills, 1523–1858, is the latest result of our partnership with London Metropolitan Archives. Wills are among the most personal records available to family historians. They offer not just a snapshot of an ancestor’s wealth and possessions, but often vital clues about their family connections and even their personality.
“Before the proving of wills (known as probate) was centralised in 1858, wills in England and Wales were proved in church courts. These had a complex hierarchy, from individual parishes right up to the Prerogative Courts of Canterbury and York.
“Our new collection contains thousands of wills that were proved in the City of London or in Surrey – remember that much of what is now ‘south of the river’ in London was once in that county.
“Where a person’s will was proved usually depended on where their property was. Many people who didn’t actually live in London owned property in the capital, so their records may well be among our collection.
“Inevitably not everyone left a will. But these records provide a rich opportunity to learn more about your London-based forebears. In many cases you’ll find details of their burial, close family members and friendships, and sometimes even a complete inventory of their possessions. So, you can build a fascinating picture of how your family lived, centuries ago.”