The majority of the documents in this series are original wills signed and sealed by testators and attested by witnesses. Some original wills are written on printed forms which testators filled in with simple instructions as to the disposal of their estates. Also included are original promulgated sentences which were bundled with original wills until the mid seventeenth century. A few items now in this series may once have been kept in the bundles in PROB 31 and PROB 33.
The rate of survival of original wills is uncertain before the early seventeenth century and particularly poor before the mid sixteenth century. Up to about 1600 many of the documents are copies, the original wills having been returned to the executors by the court.
The vast majority of the wills and sentences in PROB 10 were registered in the will registers in PROB 11. The text is of the two normally identical, but in a very few cases, wills within PROB 10 were written in other documents such as diaries and account books. Original wills may also include signatures and sometimes seals that are not reproduced in the registers. However, for most research purpose the registers are easier to use.
Dates given in the catalogue entries are the dates of probate, not the date of the will of the date of death. Late eighteenth and nineteenth century wills are often endorsed with the date of the testator's death.
Please Note: PROB 10/639 to PROB 10/642 are available to download free of charge as part of the Digital Microfilm project. These wills (which were proved by the Royalist Prerogative Court of Canterbury in Oxford during the 1640s) are not included in the registers in PROB 11.