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Registered copy of will (detail). 1723. Cat ref: PROB 11/593 q 196. Author and copyright, Thomas Pike

Detail from registered copy of will

Document 2: The registered probate copy of the will of Thomas Pike, a shipwright, dated 15 February 1722/3

(Catalogue reference: PROB 11/593 quire 196)

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About this document

Bound volume of registered copies of wills. Cat ref: PROB 11/593. Crown copyright.

Bound volume of registered copies of wills

Wills were recognised as ecclesiastical documents because of commending the soul to God, and had to be presented in church courts to prove that they really were the last wishes of the deceased in relation to the disposal of their lands and possessions. After the will had been proved in court, a process known as granting probateLinks to glossary - opens in a new window (taken from the Latin 'probare' - to prove), a copy of the will was made in a probate register.

This example of a will is quite short but they can be many pages in length and the information contained can vary. The handwriting is a cursiveLinks to glossary - opens in a new window style (from the Latin 'currere' - to run), so called because it was written at speed and 'runs' across the page. Unlike the italic hand we saw in document 1, the pen does not leave the page between letters when using the cursive style. This is the handwriting style used for administrative purposes.

The probate clause, which was written in Latin and not shown here, states that Thomas Pike's will was proved on 18 September 1723 although his actual date of death may have been a few months earlier. There were quite complex rules regarding which church court would prove a will.

The National Archives holds those wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). This was the court of the archbishop of Canterbury, its jurisdiction covering the southern half of the country. It also proved wills for persons who had died abroad but left personal property at home - this may have been the case with Thomas Pike, who states that he is writing his will 'in consideration of the perils and dangers of the seas'.