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21 Aug 2015

Findmypast launch index to the probate calendars 1858-1959

Findmypast launch index to the probate calendars 1858-1959
http://search.findmypast.co.uk/results/world-records/probate-calendars-of-england-and-wales-1858-1959

My first thoughts are, goodness, I have been working for a month on an index to these records, does this totally nullify my project? On some reflection, I think being able to search the indexes for any text is a good, clever and simple idea. However, its use really depends on how well the OCR (?) data has been cleaned. If you are looking for a name, occupation or street address and the records have been partially mis-keyed, or even are recorded in an unfamiliar format (e.g. 1-2 St. John-villas, London-road east, Berwick, North Britain), you could easily miss them.

Good luck to anyone searching for someone named John James. The old WillFinder database at First Avenue House was notorious for being impossible to search for someone male of the James/ John/ David lastnames. The beauty of the Tom's Wills index which I am curating will be in the visible juxtaposition of entries, and the genuine ability to browse across parishes and across many entries referencing the same surname. For me, seeing the records in context is important and without genuinely being able to browse, a chunk of the experience is missing.

Will Findmypast move towards an experience similar to Ancestry's, where more data is given in the search results? They are assuredly mistaken about the list of 500,000 names. That is off by a factor of 20 if you only count the decedents, and a factor of over 50 if you include the spouses, heirs and solicitors. (On checking, they clearly mean pages.)

Should you wish to search for using an ambiguous keyword such as Bury, you may get surnames when you are looking for place and vice versa too. Below is an example of searching on Jones.
In the meantime, come and browse the old streets and byways of the probate indexes at Tom's Wills.

Searching for Jones gives 57000 identical entries: http://search.findmypast.co.uk/results/world-records/probate-calendars-of-england-and-wales-1858-1959?contents=jones

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