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Wills and probate

Reading probate records

Some early wills are in Latin or Norman French, but most were in English by the mid-16th century.

The notes at the end of wills stating that probate had been granted are likely to be in Latin until 1733.

Most administration bonds are also in Latin until 1733, but they are usually short and follow a standard format, so you can generally work out what they say with the help of a Latin dictionary.
Probate inventories were normally written in English. Handwriting, especially before the 18th century, can be somewhat different from modern-day styles, so you may find an NRO course on palaeography (reading old handwriting) useful.

Online resources are also available, such as The National Archives’ tutorials on Latin and palaeography.

We and NHC also have Latin dictionaries and books on probate records and palaeography available.

Staff may be able to help with reading individual words or phrases and we also offer a paid service for longer transcriptions and translations.