Find your ancestors in Testamentary Records in the Commissary Court of London Vol. I 1374-1488, Introduction to Original Volume

Testamentary Records in the Commissary Court of London Vol. I 1374-1488

British Record Society volume 82

Published 1966

Introduction to Original Volume

The Commissary Court of London, apart from the general interest of early wills, has a dual claim to attention: the first registered wills antedate those of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury by nine years, while the testators, in the early years, are not only more numerous than in P.C.C. but reflect, in concentrated fashion, the diverse origins of London inhabitants in a way that is far easier to discern than from a study of the indexes to wills in the Prerogative Court.

Indeed, everything possible will be done in the volumes devoted to the London wills to bring out this aspect. By reading through every will and noting every place where the testator had property, as well as recording such incidental information as is occasionally provided, for example, a birth place or a legacy to some distant parish church, it is hoped that the greater part of the topographical value of the wills will be accessible to searchers without their having actual recourse to the wills themselves.

By listing together surnames with distinctive national prefixes such as "ap" or "van" the same purpose will, it is hoped, be served: "de" at this period survives as an English prefix as frequently as in a contemporaneous imported Gallic name.

The supplementary indexes, so useful a feature of the Society's publications in recent years, will, in the same way, strike searchers very forcibly with the number of provincial as well as foreign place names. It can safely be said that no other subsidiary court in the country contains so many references external to its jurisdiction.

In order to make this information available, much of it additional to anything previously attempted, a system of drastic abbreviation 1ms had to be adopted, otherwise printing costs would have been prohibitive.

In the first place, spelling variants of most Christian names as well as of London parishes have been ignored, as such examples from the 16th century are of little interest to scholars; for both a uniform system of abbreviation has been used. Among the parishes the single exception is that of St. Gabriel Fenchurch St., which was not so called until the first quarter of the 16th century: previously it had been known variously as St. Mary Fenchurch and All Hallows Fenchurch or variants thereof. In the Index the parish is uniformly referred to as "St. Gab." with the actual terminology from the will in round brackets.

Unless provincial place names vary very much from modern usage they also have been standardised in conformity with modern spelling. Sometimes when a form might not be easily recognisable both the original and the modern form are given.

In a number of cases the wills mention districts or hamlets in addition to the name of the parish in which they were situated. Some of these, especially in urban districts; are now separate parishes; e.g. Bethnal Green, Stepney, Mdx.; or Great Ilford, Barking, Essex. It has been considered unnecessary in this Index to do more than record these districts and the name of the county. Thus, the above examples are printed as Bethnal Green, Mdx., and Gt. Ilford, Essex.

The seven registers to which this volume is the Index contain both Wills, Probate Acts and Acts of Administration as well as a number of non-testamentary entries. It is only in the year 1489 that the registration of wills is, in principle, confined to one series of books while Probate Acts and Acts of Administration are entered in a parallel series. For this reason the present volume ends with the year 1488.

Since the transfer of the records of the Court to Guildhall, E.C.2, from Somerset House, Strand, W.C.2, a system of. numerical identification has been adopted in place of the personal names whereby each volume of registered wills was formerly known. Thus:

  • The volume formerly known as Courtney is now 1
  • The volume formerly known as Brown is now 2
  • The volume formerly known as More is now 3
  • The volume formerly known as Prowet is now 4
  • The volume formerly known as Sharp is now 5
  • The volume formerly known as Wilde is now 6
  • The volume formerly known as Lichfield is now 7

M, F. London, 1966