This is an index to people mentioned in wills held at the Essex Record Office where the surname
differs from that of the testator. It is not an index to the testators themselves (i.e.
the people making the wills) which can be found in Dr F.G.Emmison’s 3 volume work entitled
"Wills at Chelmsford".
Coverage of the index is for wills proved in the listed probate courts in the period 1675-1858.
For full details of the probate courts covered Click here.
The index has been compiled over a period of some 15 years, the information being taken from microform
copies of probate registers plus some original wills. Over 36,000 wills have been read resulting in
excess of 165,000 entries in the index. These entries list all people mentioned in the wills with the
exception of witnesses and those bearing the same surname as the testator. Therefore not only
beneficiaries and relatives appear but also executors, trustees, occupiers of property and adjacent
One of the benefits of the index includes the possibility of establishing the maiden name of a wife
where no marriage can be found in that a married woman may be mentioned in the will of her father, brother,
sister, grandfather, great grandfather or any other relative. It may also confirm such things as supposed
but unproven family connections, previous marriages and the existence of ‘step’ or illegitimate children.
Sons or brothers of the testator bearing his surname are not indexed but it should be noted that they may well
be named in the wills of various relations such as maternal grandparents, married sisters and in-laws etc.
People referred to may not necessarily be resident in the same parish as the testator, this can be useful in
pre-census days for discovering relatives who are living further afield potentially in any part of the county,
country or even abroad.
To apply for information from the index, follow these steps:-
You send me an email giving details of the surnames in which you are
interested (a maximum of 2 surnames per application please). If the names are common or widespread an
indication of area or period would be helpful in selecting those entries which are most likely to be of
use to you.
- I will send you a return email showing the incidence of those names (including apparent variants)
in the index and the options available to you. At this point there is no charge.
Below is an example of the kind of information you might receive.
Where place is given in brackets this indicates the place of abode of the testator,
Name Place Date Type ERO will Extract of details
reference from will required
MESSANT Mary [Gt Totham] 1786 sis) .......... ..........
Sarah " " nce)
Frances " " " )
MESSENT Elizabeth Alphamstone 1769 dau) .......... ..........
John " " sil)
MAYSENT Ann [Braintree] 1722 dau) .......... ..........
James " " sil)
Mary " " grd)
Judith " " " )
Margaret " " " )
Joseph " " grs)
that of the person mentioned not being stated.
‘Date’ is the date of the making of the will, not of probate which may be soon after
or many years later.
‘Type’ abbreviations as follows: sis = sister; nce = niece; dau = daughter;
sil = son in law; grd = granddaughter; grs = grandson.
If you request an ERO will reference it will give you the name and abode of the testator,
his occupation if stated, the date of probate and the reference you would need to read the
will at the Essex Record Office or to acquire a copy of it. If you request an extract I will
need to visit the Record Office where I will make a verbatim copy of the parts of the will
which refer to the people listed (unless this involves many pages of repetitive legal phrases
and terms in which case I will summarize it). An extract will also include a list of any other
people mentioned in the will, including those with the same surname name as the testator.
In the above example where the names are grouped together this indicates that the information
all comes from the same will and therefore represents one reference or extract.
You may choose to have a mixture of references and extracts.
The scale of charges depends on your selection and are as follows:
Basic handling charge (per application i.e. up to 2 surnames) £5
Plus: £2 for each ERO will reference supplied
£10 for each extract of details from a will supplied
Please note that if there is nothing of interest to you in the list there will be no charge
but an acknowledgement of receipt would be appreciated as the index is not currently computerised
and compiling the lists can take quite a long time
When you receive the list you make your selection and mark it indicating whether you require
the extract (which includes the will reference) or just the will reference. You then return the
marked list to me, either by email or by post and at that time payment should be sent by cheque
(in sterling) for the correct amount. Details regarding the address and to whom the cheque should
be made payable will be included with the list.
When I receive the payment I will forward the requested information via email. Where the
request is only for ERO references I will normally respond within 24 hours of receiving the payment.
If the request includes will extracts there will be a delay since this does involve making a visit
to the Record Office, but I would hope to be able to do this within a week.