Researching your ancestors from Great Britain and Ireland

A guide to researching your ancestors in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, using resources at State Library Victoria.


A will or testament is the indication of how a person wished his/her estate to be disposed of at death. Before a will can take effect, probate must be granted by a court - to determine the validity of a will. When a person dies without leaving a valid will, particularly when property is left, the court can issue letters of administration to assist with the disposal of the estate.

Probate records are an excellent source of information for family historians. They provide the date and place of the death and can provide insight into the financial affairs of your ancestors and the full names of executors, beneficiaries and other relationships to the deceased.

`Excerpt from the Will of William Wordsworth of Rydal Mount, Westmorland', PROB 11/2114/76, 27 May 1850. The National Archives - Discovery [online database], accessed 12 January 2015.