NSW Will Books now on FindMyPast

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.

4-310621 Irwin Eason

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.

4-111--2 Robert Ewin


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:

4-111002 Robert Ewin transcriptionMake 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.

Tim Sheens visits a great-uncle’s pub while on tour in Leeds

Glass of beer close-upTim Sheens, coach of the Australian Rugby League team, recently had a drink in the pub that had been run in the 1890s by his great-great-great-great-uncle in Leeds.

We’ve been researching Tim’s ancestry over the last few months, and he has some very colourful ancestors, with 14 convicts (at last count), and some publicans. We were hoping that, with Tim’s imminent visit to England with the Australian team, we could find an existing pub run by one of his ancestors that he could go and have a drink in while he was there.

His great-grandmother Emily Mann, who married George Sheens in 1902 in Sydney, was born at “The Dover Castle” in Lambeth, Surrey, the pub run by her father Robert Mann. Robert’s father, also named Robert, ran pubs around London, as shown by census records and birth registrations of children.

Unfortunately all of the pubs run by both Roberts, junior and senior, were gone – closed or demolished.

We had a breakthrough with the will of Robert senior, written in 1902. One of the executors of Robert’s will was a licensed victualler, and another was his brother Henry, described in the will as ‘a gentleman’.  Tracing Henry through the censuses found him in 1881 in the Albion Hotel at 142 Briggate in Leeds, and in 1891 in The Oak Inn on Otley Road, Headingley, in Leeds.

A Google search found that the Oak Inn, now known as the Original Oak Inn, is still in business. In fact, it’s one of the most successful pubs in England, with ‘the biggest beer garden in Headingly‘, a centre for the student and sporting venue trade in the area. You can see from the satellite image on Google (below) how big the place is, with the rows and rows of outdoor tables. Tim was told that there used to be a bowling green there that had been used for championships at the time Henry was publican.

Tim was given a copy of a document tracing the history of the Original Oak Inn during his visit, and hopes to get back there on the team’s return visit to Leeds for the final of the Four Nations Championship to find out more about the history of the pub.

Tim was interviewed by the Yorkshire Evening Post during his visit to Leeds – you can see the article here: http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/Aussie-rugby-coach-finds-his.5801926.jp

The Original Oak Inn, Headingley, Leeds


The Sydney Morning Herald has picked up the story and expanded on it.