The publication of this Berkshire Probate Index - an index to the probate documents of the Archdeaconry of Berkshire 1480 to 1857 - on CD marks the culmination of a four-year collaborative project to build a comprehensive index of 39,000 historic probate documents of the Archdeaconry of Berkshire. The index features in excess of 9,000 distinct surnames and some 38,000 individuals, and makes this valuable collection accessible to researchers worldwide. The partners in the project - who gave both practical and financial support to ensure its completion - were Berkshire Family History Society, Berkshire Local History Association, Berkshire Record Office, Berkshire Record Society and Oxfordshire Family History Society. The project also received assistance from the Marc Fitch Fund.
This impressive probate collection extends across five centuries, and covers pre-1974 Berkshire, including parishes of North Berkshire and the Vale of the White Horse. In fact, the boundary of the Berkshire Archdeaconry matched, almost exactly, that of the pre-1974 county of Berkshire.
The collection's earliest document is the will of John HORNEHURST, of Wallingford that dates from 1480 and the last mid-Victorian papers are dated in 1857, at which point probate responsibilities passed from the Church to the State. It comprises wills, administrations, inventories, probate accounts, and many less familiar forms of document, from affidavits and almoner's warrants to tuition bonds. The documents are held at Berkshire Record Office in Reading. The index gives the researcher a gateway into the lives of the 38,000 Berkshire men and women whose documents make up the collection. Many of these individuals were far from wealthy, although all had left a will, or had assets to be assigned to others on their deaths.
Presented in PDF format, the new publication is bookmarked generously, making it easy to browse and to search. The CD contains nine separate finding aids, and three overview datasets. Its main index report gives names, dates of probate, occupations, place names, and document types and, in many cases, includes useful extra details, among them aliases, status and relationships. However, the index does not contain details of people named in wills, be they executors, witnesses or beneficiaries, as this information is only available by reference to the original documents themselves.
The Berkshire Probate Index CD can be purchased at OFHS Exeter Hall meetings or in person at the Holford Centre for £25.00, or via the society’s CD sales’ webpage at :- http://www.ofhs.org.uk/CDsales.html
Oxfordshire Family History Society
Website : www.ofhs.org.uk