September 24, 2021
Every once in a while, I see a presentation that is so interesting and informative that I feel like sharing it with others. A week or so ago, I saw Paul Milner’s Webinar on “Tracing Your 20th Century English Ancestors,” and it was one of those “must share” programs.
Paul is a well-known genealogist whose presentations on English research are always worthwhile. When I saw that he was presenting a webinar on 20th Century research on Legacy Family Tree Webinars, I decided to sign up since I had a great aunt who remained in England when her family came to the U.S. I’ve long wanted to trace her descendants who lived well into the 20th century. It turned out to be a good decision. In a short hour and a half, Paul opened my eyes to search strategies and sources that I hadn’t realized were available.
The great part is that nearly all of those resources were ones that genealogists can access from home. That’s good news in these days of restricted travel where a trip to the English repositories just isn’t in the cards for most of us. The emphasis was on free resources, or at least free indexes to records that can be ordered.
Paul covered a variety of record types from Civil Registration to Military Records to Electoral Registers and Newspapers as they pertain to 20th Century research. I was especially interested in the section on the Principal Probate Registry which holds probate records from 1858. Probate indexes are available to be searched online at no cost, and digital copies of the actual probates can be ordered. The cost for the probates has dropped from £10 to £1.50 ($13.64 to $2.05). Paul suggested that everyone ought to take advantage of this lower cost and order probates for anyone in their family with death dates beginning in 1858. This is a big savings, and it might not last forever.
The very next day I made a list of everyone in my tree who might potentially have a probate. I then used the free index to see who actually had probates since not everyone did. The free index can be found at https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/#wills . It turned out that there were lots of them, and I haven’t finished the search yet, but I did order nine wills for my great aunt and her husband and their children and their spouses. Amazingly, the probates showed up in my in-box in only three days!
The probates are only viewable for thirty days after you access them, but they’re easily downloaded to your computer. In my nine probates I learned everything from who inherited one cousin’s large estate to the names of another cousin’s children and their spouses. In a couple of cases, where cousins had common names, I was able to find addresses and occupations listed that helped me identify them in other records. It was a real bargain for under $20 since I’ve often paid more than that for a copy of one probate.
As I mentioned, probates are only one of the eight types of records that Paul covered in his presentation. I’m gradually working my way through the other types of records he discussed. If you have any 20th century ancestors in England, this webinar is for you. It’s also worthwhile for anyone who is trying to trace DNA matches and research forward in time. If you’ve tried to do that, you know that it’s often difficult to do, but this webinar will give you some great, practical steps to follow to help find those 20th Century English ancestors.
The webinar is available on Legacy Family Tree Webinars at https://familytreewebinars.com/ . A year’s subscription to all of the webinars on the site is less than $50. I’ve recommended Legacy Webinarsbefore, but this webinar is worth the price all by itself.
Researcher/Director at Large