Wills of Dickens, Churchill, and Turing made available
UK makes millions of wills publicly available online
The will of Helen Beatrix Heelis who is better known as Beatrix Potter. Millions of wills including those of Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, Alan Turing are now available online. Photo: Ministry of Justice/PA Wire
Iron Mountain wills storage site. Photo: Ministry of Justice/PA
The will of Alan Turing. He died of cyanide poisoning and his death is still widely speculated on as either suicide or murder. Photo: Ministry of Justice/PA Wire
The UK government is making its full archive of wills, which dates back to 1858 and contains 41 million wills, available to the public in a searchable database.
People will be able to use it to find out about their own family history, as well as looking up the wills of famous and influential people.
There have been two million searches of the site since soldiers’ wills were made available last year, and it is now possible to request a will online and receive an electronic copy within 10 working days.
Courts Minister Shailesh Vara said: “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.
“I am delighted that HM Courts and Tribunals Service are leading the way in innovation and are helping deliver a more modern and efficient public service.”
Among the wills to be made available is that of mathematician Turing, recently played by Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, who died of cyanide poisoning in 1954. He left a short will with instructions to share his possessions between his colleagues and his mother.
AA Milne, who wrote Winnie The Pooh, gave shares of his future royalties and copyright to his favourite London club and Westminster School when he died in 1956.
Christmas Carol writer Dickens left a will written in cursive script when he died in 1870, and Peter Rabbit creator Potter left a lengthy and generous will reflecting her love for conservation and nature.