|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
Newly released files reveal 'agent provocatrice' in Second World War17/09/2014 13:05:00
Today we are making more than 3,300 Security Service records available online, including a file which has been opened revealing the previously dismissed use of an 'agent provocatrice' in Second World War operations.
The National Archives publishes four new titles10/09/2014 14:05:00
Four fantastic books showcasing the wealth of treasures held at The National Archives are being released this autumn.
Volunteers help identify famous First World War officers' records23/08/2014 07:05:00
Following three years of work by volunteers, data from nearly 140,000 surviving paper records of officers who served in the First World War (WO 339), has now been catalogued.