|Printable version||E-mail this to a friend|
Explore our wills on Shakespeare's birthday
William Shakespeare, whose birthday is traditionally celebrated on 23 April (the same date as his death), famously bequeathed his 'second-best bed' to his wife Anne Hathaway in his will, dated just a few weeks before he died in 1616. Digitised copies of Shakespeare's will, along with a selection of other famous wills, can be searched and downloaded online.
Over one million wills online
We've also digitised over one million wills from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, dated between 1384 and 1858 - these are registered copies of the original probates written into volumes by clerks at the church courts.
The information found in wills usually includes details of where the person who died (testator) lived, the name of the person responsible for carrying out the wishes (executor), the date of the will, details of any witnesses to the will and the chief beneficiaries.
Royal Naval Seamen's wills
You can also search the wills of around 20,000 men who joined the Royal Navy between 1786 and 1882.
The records in this online collection are original wills of Warrant officers and seamen. Most of them are written on printed forms. These forms were accepted as valid by the Admiralty and they were deposited in the Navy Office, with orders to issue cheques to the executors.
Find out more
Latest News from
Members appointed to the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives28/10/2014 14:10:34
We are pleased to announce that the Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Rolls have appointed new members to the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives for a term of three years.
Latest batch of MI5 files released27/10/2014 09:15:39
Recently (24 October 2014) saw the 31st release of Security Service records, containing a total of 157 files.
Children to tell Tommies tales in our First World War competition22/10/2014 10:10:26
We are launching Telling Tommies' tales, a competition open to primary school-aged children across the UK to discover and interpret some of the records in our First World War collection.