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Archive Collections at HHC: Wills

Guide to material held at Hull History Centre, arranged by theme, creator and document type

“Say not you know another entirely, till you have divided an inheritance with him”

Johann Kaspar Lavater 


Research Themes Supported

Hull History Centre holds various wills. Such records can aid research into:

  • Property ownership amongst the lower classes
  • Female property ownership
  • Deathbed philanthropy
  • Inheritance
  • Familial relationships
  • Estates of notable individuals
  • Land ownership and transmission

Key Information Content of Records

The following are common categories of information which feature in this record type:

  • Date of will creation (and proving if probate copy)
  • Name of person leaving the will
  • Occupation of person leaving the will
  • Place of residence of person leaving the will
  • Names of executors
  • Names of witnesses
  • Names of beneficiaries under the will
  • Familial or other relationship between person leaving the will and the beneficiaries
  • Outline of how estate is to be divided

Where Record Type is Usually Found

This record type commonly survives in the following categories of archival collection:

  • Papers created by landed families and estates
  • Records produced by solicitors
  • Material left by individuals

Wills survive in archival repositories throughout England. Locally, the Borthwick Institute holds records of various courts responsible for issuing probate in the Northern provinces pre-1858. After this date, wills were proved by civic probate registries, who are responsible for the records.

Typical formats

Wills might consist of manuscript or typescript drafts, manuscript or typescript signed but unproved copies, probate copies, and extracted copies for use in legal cases.

Additional Supporting Material

The following secondary literature provides contextual background and useful further information when trying to understand and use this record type:

  • Stuart A. Raymond, Wills and Our Ancestors (2012)
  • Anthony John Camp, Wills and Their Whereabouts (1963)
  • Various texts on wills can be found using HeinOnline Legal Classics

Downloadable list of material

The following PDF contains a list of key wills held at HHC.