BANK OF ENGLAND WILL EXTRACTS, 1717-1845
Transcribed by Anne Hawkins and Marjorie King
Historical background and the Source (BANK)
In 1717 the Bank of England had a law passed such that, if anyone bequeathed a holding of government stocks in his/her will, that person's will had to be proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) in London. The Bank then extracted the relevant stock details from those wills and recorded them in ledgers. (They then also entered the same details into further ledgers arranged by the stocks themselves, so that they could keep track of the holdings). Very nearly all wills that included bequests of government stocks were indeed proved at the PCC, but a few escaped the net, and, though they were proved in lower courts, still were included in the Bank of England's ledgers. This whole procedure continued till the year 1845.
Some years ago the Bank of England presented the will extract ledgers to the Society of Genealogists. They in turn 'sub-contracted' to Findmypast the process of making and digitizing an index of testators.
DWP's editing process
Our two volunteers went through the index (now available online at Findmypast) and extracted details of the 1,350 plus Devon testators listed. A few of the extracts show clearly that the original will was proved at the PCC. However, most indicate that the Probate was granted at Doctors' Commons, an organization whose most important role was to prove PCC wills. Thus, very nearly every will listed as appearing in our source BANK will have been proved at the PCC, and as a result will also be listed in our PROB 11 source. For Devon family historians it is likely to be the handful of wills not proved at the PCC which are of the greatest value.
Locating the Source and acquiring copies
In very nearly all cases the original PCC will is liable to be of far greater use to a family historian than the Bank of England will extract. However, if a researcher needs specific information about the inheritance of a certain government stock, then the Bank of England extracts themselves can be viewed on the Findmypast website (for a fee), or the original will extract ledgers may be viewed at the Society of Genealogists. The ledgers dealing with the ownership history of a particular stock holding seem still to be at the Bank of England.