FindMyPast Australia announced in June last year that they had acquired the rights to digitise and publish the Will Books held by State Records NSW. I don’t usually publish press releases but I was so pleased I just had to do it!
All things come to those who wait, as they say, and the Will Books are finally here.
The Will Books are hand-written copies of the wills made by the office of the Probate Registrar. They contain a summary of the probate process and the value of the estate. They have been on microfilm for some time, and I imagine it was the microfilms that were digitised. The original will is kept in the probate packet, access to which is restricted until the packets are sent to the Archive at State Records NSW. See the entry for this series in Archives Investigator.
The records are easy to find and download. I searched first for all my Easons, because even though I have images of the actual probate packets I had never looked up the wills in the Will Books. Here is the entry for Irwin Eason, who has his will drawn up in November 1914, after the oubreak of World War I, and died on 12 October 1945 having seen both world wars. Irwin died childless and left his estate to his beloved wife Annie.
And here is the first page of an earlier, handwritten entry for Irwin’s uncle Robert Ewin, who died on 21 October 1921 survived by his second wife and nine of his eleven children.
These records are well worth searching for, even if you have the probate packet, for the easy-to-understand summary they contain.
It’s also worthwhile checking the transcription of the entry. It doesn’t transcribe the whole entry for you but it picks out the most important names for you. Here is the transcription for Robert Ewin:
Make sure you search for absolutely everyone you can think of – the siblings and neighbours of ancestors can be just as informative as the records for your own ancestors, and may have references to them. The names of the heirs and executors listed in the transcription do not seem to be indexed so you can’t search for mentions of people in the wills of others, although perhaps that will come.