Find your British ancestor among the fully indexed abstracts (or summaries) of every Surrey will known to exist between 1470 and 1856 – almost 27,000 wills. The area covered includes the old county of Surrey in the south east of England, which includes parts of South London. The abstracts contain a complete summary of the details contained in each will. The wills were mainly proved in the Archdeaconry and Commissary Courts of Surrey.
Each record contains an abstract or summary of the original document. Originals are held at the London Metropolitan Archives and can sometimes contain further information. The amount of information can vary but you can usually find out the following about your ancestor:
Place of residence
Date of will
The contents of the will, including details of beneficiaries and bequests
Names of the executors, overseers and witnesses
Date of probate
Reference to the original will with folio number
There are 26,703 will abstracts in this collection taken from the will registers held at the London Metropolitan Archives. Originals would often have been retained by the person who made the will, the testator, or their personal solicitor. The will registers contain the details taken down from office copies of the wills. Each abstract transcript contains a reference to the original register, which can provide further details about locating the office copy of the original will.
Every person named in a will has been indexed, so you will find the names of many people mentioned in wills besides the actual testator: in fact there can be a dozen or more people named other than the testator.
The names appearing in older wills often appear in a variety of obsolete spellings. In the actual abstract, Christian names have generally been rendered into modern standard form, but surnames have been left in their manuscript forms. However, in the index, surnames have been entered to modern form, but often with multiple variants. So even searching for an "exact match" will allow you to find records where the actual spelling might have been unusual. 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 signature of the testator.
Pre 1752 dates are given in 'Old Style' or Julian Calendar. From 1752 dates are given according to the Gregorian Calendar.
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. Before 1858 all wills had to be proved in the ecclesiastical Church of England courts. After this date that function was taken over by the civil courts.