Posted by on 1 July 2011 in General, Record Collections

Probate records

That’s right, for one week from today you can find your family fortunes in the most important probate collection online, without paying a penny!

We’ve made our exclusive National Probate Calendar, 1861-1941, completely free to everybody until July 8th. You can search the indexes to see where and when your ancestors died, see the original records to discover how much they left behind, and use the information to order their full wills and probate records from the Principal Probate Registry. Find out how

At the same time, we’re also offering Andrews Newspaper Index Cards, 1790-1976, for free. This collection of obituaries, death notices and other announcements was put together by heir hunters, and could offer vital clues about where your family’s money ended up.

So, you can spend your week chasing riches and treasured heirlooms through your family tree. Perhaps you’ll even discover a hoard of lost treasure somewhere in your past?

If you’re new to our site, this is a rare opportunity to dive straight in to some of family history’s most meaningful records, and start discovering your family’s stories. And if you’re already an Essentials member, it’s a chance to try out two of our Premium collections, to see what further details you might uncover. Find out more about our Premium membership

Start searching our free records now


Martin James 

Already have access to these with Worldwide membership.

So what do these members get for free?

Perhaps you should look at providing some benefit to these members after all we have paid good money to access these records.

1 July 2011 at 2:19 pm

Exactly Martin! Ancestry is in danger of alienating its current subscribers!

Findmypast are in the process of uploading 8 million searchable Welsh parish register records to their site. They have also had the full 1911 census on-line for a couple of years. What are Ancestry providing for us????

3 July 2011 at 1:11 pm

If you don’t like what you get for your money, don’t stay.

3 July 2011 at 2:36 pm

Jay, your constructive comment has certainly raised the level of the debate!

3 July 2011 at 6:04 pm
Paul Towse 


Ancestry were unable to start work on the 1911 census until the exclusivity agreement ended. They have already put up the scans and the Census index should be up by the end of the year. This may not be quick enough for some people I suspect.

I’ve never used “FindMyPast” but I note that it says:-

“Please note that these records are a mix of both indexes and transcriptions, and therefore vary in depth of content. Indexes are primarily used to help locate a parish record, but they do still contain detail useful to the family historian. Our transcriptions, on the other hand, show every detail found within the parish register and are often a goldmine of genealogical information. The results you are presented with will not contain images of the original parish record.”

with reagard to Parish Records.

Personally I prefer to look at a record, whether this is at an Archive or whether it is scanned to be certain in my own mind that:-

+ The transcriber has transcribed the information accurately


+ The transcriber has transcribed the information fully.

From the sounds of it you are unable to do this on FindMyPast as there are no scans avialable to guage how accurate (or not!) the transcription is.
I’ve no idea whether this will also apply for the Welsh Parish Registers you mention or whether you will, once again, be completely reliant on the transcribers.

In the past sis weeks or so Ancestry have added the Dorset Parish Registers, the West Yorkshire Parish Registers and the London Wills all have which have scanned images which you can view. I’ve just spent the past 4 or 5 days going through my tree and adding christenings, marriages and burials for various people in West Yorkshire.

These are in addition the the Liverpool and London Parish Registers which were on here previously (also with scanned images) and the National Probate Calendar (which FindMyPast doesn’t have).

It’s perhaps worth remembering that family trees usually span many counties and countries and that one website is never going to please everyone until every single record that can be put online is available online.

4 July 2011 at 8:33 am


How you never heard of consumer demand? Without constructive criticism from their customers it is all to easy for companies to sit back in self-satisfaction.

The last thing we need is sycophants telling companies what a wonderful job they are doing (lick, lick, …) when this is simply not the case!

4 July 2011 at 2:01 pm
Paul Towse 


You haven’t actually made any constructive criticism.
Yes, the indexes for the 1911 census are not up yet so you can maybe argue that they are being slow with that.
You mentioned the Welsh Parish Registers on FindMyPast and, as I said, Ancestry have put up the Dorset Parish Registers, the West Yorkshire Parish Registers and the London Wills, all with scanned images for us to view.
If you have access to the 1911 census on FindMyPast I’m mystified as to why you’d be bothered about how long it takes for it to appear on here.
I’d love Ancestry to hurry up with the 1911 census because this is the only site I use but, having said that, I also recognise that they’ve added the Dorset Parish Records, the West Yorkshire Parish Records and the London Wills all since the 01 June so it’s hardly as if they’re being idle.
What is it you’d actually like them to do?

4 July 2011 at 2:43 pm
Russell James 

I totally agree we need to make sure we provide new resources for all our members. That’s why, on the same day we made the National Probate Calendar free, we released a brand new collection of London wills, going back centuries earlier. As my article on the day said, this collection’s worth searching even if your ancestors didn’t live in London, because of the way wills were proved at the time.

In the past couple of months, we’ve also released large new collections of parish records for West Yorkshire, Dorset and Liverpool. So hopefully a large number of our Premium and Worldwide members have something new that relates to their family.

At the same time, we’re also working hard on the 1911 Census transcriptions, which will be available to all our members, Essentials, Premium and Worldwide.

I agree that it’s always useful to have criticism though. So if there are particular types of records that you’d like to see us add, please do let us know.

4 July 2011 at 2:48 pm
Paul Towse 

Hi Russell,

The IGI is patchy at best and does not always capture all of the information that can be gleaned from Parish Registers. For example, it does not list witnesses, occupations etc listed on the marriage entries prior to 1837. That’s why the scans in the Parish Registers are so useful ~ because you can see this detail for yourself.
So, I’d like more Parish Registers please, especially East Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, Sussex, Northumberland, Gloucestershire, Lincolnshire etc.
You may also want to have a think about municipal cemetery records. I’ve seen the ones in Hull and they provide a wealth of information comparable to what you’d find on a death certificate. This makes a nice change to the brief details you usually find on a church burial entry as you usually get death date, burial date, age, cause of death etc. I would presume that this is similar for most municipal cemeteries across the country.
And are there, perhaps some sort of tax lists pre 1837 that would allow researchers to access a different avenue of research?

4 July 2011 at 3:21 pm


Perhaps I was too subtle for you? Occasionally one has to read between the lines. I was suggesting that Ancestry speed up their processing of the 1911 census and maybe produce parish registers, as their main UK opposition has done?

4 July 2011 at 9:05 pm
Paul Towse 

Perhaps you were.

I do agree that Ancestry could perhaps speed up the 1911 census but, as I said, they weren’t able to start work on it until the exclusivity agreement ended. And, I would suspect, that you and everyone else has no idea how long it took FindMyPast to work on it before it was ready to go up on their site.
In terms of Parish Registers, Ancestry have, as I mentioned, put up the Dorset Parish Registers and the West Yorkshire Parish Registers in the space of just over three weeks. That not quick enough for you?
Both collections are linked to images scanned from the original Parish Registers.
It would, I think, take longer to work on these collections, to get all the links correct and all the entries transcribed that it would for FindMyPast to scan a load of indexes and transcriptions that have already been done.
Their site says:- “The parish records were transcribed and indexed mainly by family history societies, although a few dedicated individuals have also contributed data.” so all FindMyPast had to do was turn up and scan of all the lists in whatever collection they were working on.
From reading their blurb they haven’t scanned any of the original Parish Records nor have they personally transcribed any of the collections on their site.
By all means criticise Ancestry for their “slowness” if you feel it’s appropriate but let’s not pretend that FindMyPast are doing an idential level of work on the Parish Registers to Ancestry.

4 July 2011 at 11:15 pm

One has to remember the legalities and niceties regarding records availability on Ancestry and elsewhere. The 1911 tender was one by the Scottish company brightsolid, following the change in the law to have this available sooner than the 2012 expected legal release date. Brightsolid has since bought Find My Past and Genes Reunited, both these now have a version of the 1911.

Ancestry and others were allowed to have access to the originals only after the end of the exclusivity deal with brightsolid. You cannot index what you don’t have.

Ownership of Church of England records (which are usually BUT NOT ALWAYS deposited in Local Record Offices which have been designated Diocesan Record Offices – not all are) remains with the Church. Permissions for reproduction of these records have to be sought and granted. Individual church incumbents have the right to refuse even if the Bishop agrees.

Please remember that the IGI – more correctly the International Genealogical Indix – is exactly that, an INDEX. It was never designed by the LDS church to be a full transcription of the entry, it was and remains a finding aid only. Very useful, but limited, as again they had to have permission to include each church, and some incumbents refused. Hence the gaps.

My personal gripe with FMP and parish records is the lack of images. Human transcriptions are fallible, even knowledgeable family or local historians make errors. The “type what you see” rule is misleading – I have seen Eligabeth in the past – it may look like a g and not a z but really!

So again I say if you don’t like what you pay for don’t stay. Simples!

5 July 2011 at 8:05 am

Jay, you may be content to sit back humbly and take whatever morsels Ancestry throws at you. I, like Oliver Twist, will keep asking for more for my Worldwide Subscription!

5 July 2011 at 4:09 pm

Hardly an expected response to my comments. Morsels – surely not – the Liverpool PRs, Dorset PRs and London Wills copying were pretty big morsels.

I have knowledge of the latter as I was one of a team of LMA conservation volunteers who helped prepare the original documents, by numbering, flattening and cleaning them ready for the camera work. Though other commitments have prevented me from helping with more of this work, it is nonetheless continuing. AND it all takes time. So not only the necessary legal paperwork has to be dealt with but so has the preparation work before anything appears on the website.

One can of course suggest the directions one would like Ancestry to go. I could do with Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Sheffield and Tameside in particular. Always bearing in mind that it could be many, many, many months, or even a two to three years, between suggestion and realisation.

5 July 2011 at 4:55 pm

As an Ancestry subscriber for many years I don’t begrudge a free taster of what is available because that is the way I started, 14 days free trial and I was hooked!
Yes, there are limits to what is available on here and one could subscribe to many other similar sites with different offerings but the costs mount up.
I make use of lots of other free online sources of info such as,,, etc and through my library number I can access newspaper archives.
And if all else fails I just search online with a name and a place, this can sometimes turn up something interesting.
Yes, I have some ‘brick walls’ and on my wish list I would like more Essex, Berkshire, Durham and South Yorkshire parish registers, Mariners records from 1840 onwards, bastardy bonds, apprentice records….. My list goes on and on.
So for now I do what I can and have recently become an indexer for to help get their records online faster!
Happy Hunting!

6 July 2011 at 8:22 am
Paul Towse 

Some people are never satisfied Jay.

I note from the June Round up that the West Yorkshire PRs alone covered 8 million records which is equivalent to the Welsh PRs that BroMaelor mentioned earlier. When you add in the Dorset PRs and the London Wills (all with scanned images) I can only assume that if Ancestry is feeding us “morsels” the FindMyPast subscribers are being fed “crumbs”.

Going back to the lack of images question I have a distant relative on my tree who was married four times, three of them prior to 1837. From the 1841 census I knew that his wife was called Eliza ~ which is hardly an uncommon christian name. Using the IGI I tracked down 3 possible marriages between my male relative and women named Eliza or Elizabeth. When I visited the Archives to look at the potential marriages I was reduced to comparing his signature with those on the other marriage entries I knew were accurate. Neither of the witnesses listed were family members nor had they been witnesses at any of his other weddings. That information, of course, wouldn’t have been captured by any sort of indexing or transcription system ~ it’s something that you can only see from looking at the original records, fiche or scanned images etc.
If BroMaeler’s waiting for the Welsh PRs to go up (s)he might soon realise how invaluable scanned images are when you’re dealing with fairly common names. Sometimes a signature is the only thing you can go on.

With PRs on here I made quite some headway when the London PRs went up. I was a bit more concerned when Ancestry added Liverpool because it looked to me as if they might just be adding cities and I didn’t think that would benefit me hugely.

You can imagine how pleased I was when the Dorset PRs went up, mainly because I took it as a sign that Ancestry were looking at getting more county-wide PRs on the site rather than just cities. This was depsite the fact that Dorset was no use to me whatsoever as I have nobody on my tree that was christened, married or buried there!

Thankfully West Yorkshire was added soon after which has allowed me to add in over 50 christening, burial and marriage entries for various people on my tree.

I’m just hoping that July brings another PR collection and that I manage to make further headway with whatever it might be!

6 July 2011 at 8:27 am
Louise Jones 

What has the debate regarding the 1911 census got to do with the first post made by Martin James? What do subscribers get? there are no freebies for us, no loyalty rewards of any sort. We just have to contend with a slower service when the world and his dog jump in to get the free goodies. As to the comment by Jay, “If you don’t like what you get for your money, don’t stay.” Who has said they don’t like what they pay for? We object to other people getting what we pay for for free . Why should we not get some kind of reward for our loyalty. Are you so niave that you think all these people who access these free records go on to subscribe? or do they glue their a*** to the seat and grab everything they can while it’s free and then sit back and wait for the next frebbie? in the mean time asking for look ups on other genealogy forums from the mugs who do keep paying.
I stay with Ancestry to access the records they have that are not available anywhere else.

7 July 2011 at 11:31 am

Thanks you Louise, another common-sense Ancestry user!

I would be interested to know what Ancestry think of Jay’s “If you don’t like what you get for your money, don’t stay” suggestion, because my annual Worldwide Subscription renewal is due this week!!!

8 July 2011 at 12:38 pm
Paul Towse 

Oh come on BroMaelor. The comments of Jay and myself were both in response to the comment you made:-

>>>>Findmypast are in the process of uploading 8 million searchable Welsh parish register records to their site. They have also had the full 1911 census on-line for a couple of years. What are Ancestry providing for us????<<<<

You haven't provided any sort of response to any of our comments.

Martin's original question:- "what do members get for free"? is something neither Jay nor myself responded to.

However, many companies now use "enticements" to try and attract new customers and, very often, they are not available to existing customers. One of my colleagues at work has recently got a deal on her new SKY subscription that I didn't get when I signed up.

There's nothing to stop members posting on here if they are unhappy about not getting anything whilst other get free access. Anyone can make a suggestion about what they'd like to see Ancestry do for loyal subscribers.

But, look at the posts above. Moan, moan, moan. Not one person who has said that they are unhappy has provided one single suggestion about what they'd like to see Ancestry do to reward loyal subscribers.

8 July 2011 at 2:53 pm
Louise Jones 

Ok Paul, here is my suggestion. At least a 20% discount for subscription renewal the same as Find My past have offered for quite a while.

8 July 2011 at 6:26 pm
Paul Towse 

Thanks Louise.

Nice to see someone offering a suggestion.

I do agree that it would be nice if Ancestry rewarded loyal customers. Perhaps a discount based on how long people have been with the site? eg get a reduced subscription on your third, sixth, ninth years of usage etc…..

Whilst I understand that Ancestry might want to offer “enticements” to try and obtain new customers I do have some sympathy with your comments above. It was obvious from the posts last time Ancestry ran a freebie like this that a number of people had already used a free offer and were annoyed that they couldn’t have another one!
And, as you mentioned, these are often the people who lurk on other websites asking for lookups because they’re not prepared to pay to access the information that they want.

8 July 2011 at 6:56 pm
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