Forty One Million Wills now available online

by Clare Fleming on January 19, 2015

Clare Fleming

The wills of Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, Alan Turing and Beatrix Potter are among millions which have been made accessible to the public through a searchable online database.

The government’s archive of 41 million wills dates back to 1858 and will enable people to find out more about their family histories, as well as researching the last wishes of some of the most influential people of the 19th and 20th century.

As a result of the project carried out by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and storage and information management company Iron Mountain, people will be able to connect to history from the comfort of their own home and look up the wills of people such as:

  • the mathematician Alan Turing whose life story has been told in the film The Imitation Game
  • Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist author Charles Dickens
  • Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill
  • Peter Rabbit creator Beatrix Potter

This project gives the general public, here and overseas, the chance to get closer to their ancestors. The ease of access enabled by technology is matched by careful preservation of the original paper records. These are and will remain in trust for future generations in a secure, temperature-controlled environment.

The writer George Orwell, who died in 1950, insisted that all his notes, manuscripts, pamphlets, press cuttings and other documents be preserved; while the economist John Keynes, who died in 1946, wanted most of his personal papers and unpublished manuscripts to be destroyed.

Alan Turing, the mathematician and cryptologist who cracked the Enigma code, died of cyanide poisoning in 1954 aged just 41. Turing left a brief will sharing his possessions equally among a cherished group of colleagues and his mother.

The creator of Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne, who died in 1956, left a share of future royalties and copyright to his favourite London club and Westminster School, while the creator of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter, left a long and generous will that reflected her passion for natural science and conservation.

Clare Fleming, a solicitor specialising in Wills at Kidd Rapinet’s Slough office comments “This fascinating project provides us with insights into the ordinary and extraordinary people who helped shape this country and the rest of the world. It is a fantastic resource not only for family historians but also for anyone with an interest in social history or famous figures”.

If you would like assistance with your Will, or probate, call the contact for your local office for further information:

  • Aylesbury: John O’Shea (01296 432541)
  • Farnham: Rebecca Panton (01252 713242)
  • High Wycombe: Gurvinder Sehra (01494 535321)
  • London: Rosalind Hallifax (020 7024 8030)
  • Maidenhead: Alex Norris (01628 621301)
  • Slough: Clare Fleming (01753 532541)