On the 27th December 2014 the government launched a digital will archive detailing 41 million wills that date back to 1858.
The archive includes the wills of, Author George Orwell, politician Sir Winston Churchill, Codebreaker Alan Turing, economist John Maynard Keynes and the author of the Victorian Classics Great expectations and Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens to name but a few.
Members of the public will be able to search the wills database to find out more information about their relatives and lost loved ones. Rather than needing to visit the probate registry and search the archives in person you will be able to browse from thew comfort of your own keyboard.
To obtain a will you can order a copy which will include a copy of the grant of probate if there is one for the cost of £10. You will then receive a digital copy within 10 days.
Phil Greenwood, commercial director of Iron Mountain, said the size of the archive was “both humbling and impressive” adding: “Every will among the 41 million is a precious historical document that can provide remarkable insight into generations of lives lived and lost.”
Courts Minister Shailesh Vara said,
“This fascinating project provides us with insights into the ordinary and extraordinary people who helped shape this country, and the rest of the world.”
“It is a fantastic resource not only for family historians but also for anyone with an interest in social history or famous figures.”
“I am delighted that HMCTS are leading the way in innovation and are helping deliver a more modern and efficient public service.”
The move to digitise the database of wills follows the department’s digitising of the archive of soldiers’ wills, from 1850 to 1986, last year.
The first phase saw more than 2 million searches of the site that digitised wills including 230,000 of the soldiers who died on the front line during the First World War.
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