Find out if there really is a relative where there’s a will in our records of inheritance disputes between 1574 and 1714. Search more than 77,000 names of those involved in over 26,000 law suits at the English Court of Chancery.
Each record contains a transcript of the original. The information contained does vary but you can find out the following about your ancestors:
Name of the testator (writer of the will)
Name of the plaintiff (person taking the case)
Name of the defendant
Year of case
National Archives reference
This dataset is an index to over 26,000 lawsuits in the English Court of Chancery concerned with the inheritance of money or real estate. These cases typically involved several members of the same family so are of particular value to family historians.
The Index to Inheritance Disputes identifies whose estate the case is concerned with, where that person lived, the parties to the dispute, the date the case started, and The National Archives (TNA) reference(s) to the original documents. (The original documents, which are all written in English, can provide a very great deal of valuable information.)
This database, compiled by the late Peter Coldham, makes available exclusively on Findmypast a comprehensive index to over 26,000 lawsuits instituted in the Chancery Court of England relating to inheritance of money or real estate. The index covers the wills, bequests, grants of administration, descent of property, identity claims and other testamentary disputes tried in the Chancery Court in London.
Most, though by no means all, of these suits arose because the ecclesiastical courts, where wills were normally proved and grants of administration were made, had no jurisdiction over bequests of freehold property.
There are several well-known names among these records. In 1690, for example, Charles Burford, Duke of St Albans, the illegitimate son of Charles II sued Laurence Hyde, the Earl of Rochester over the estate of St Albans’ mother, the actress Nell Gwyn in the parish of St Martin in the Fields, Middlesex (London).
50 years before this, a bitter literary feud broke out between Thomas Walkely and John Benson over the literary estate of playwright Benjamin (Ben) Jonson. After Jonson’s death in 1637 there was a scramble for the right to publish his poetry. Walkely had obtained copyright for several poems but had neglected to register the titles he held. Benson, in 1640, produced several volume of Johnson’s poetry, including several poems to which Walkely held the copyright.
Entail, entailment: To entail a property is to specify the class of heirs or line of descendants who can inherit the property.
Nuncupative: A nuncupative will is one made orally, usually because the person was very ill or illiterate.
Court of Chancery: The Court of Chancery dealt with disputes where the common law did not offer a remedy.