Early Wills of Jamaica

Index to Early Wills of Jamaica, 1655-1816

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Surnames A-D
Surnames E-L
Surnames M-R
Surnames S-Z

You may purchase a copy of this index as a book at My Books


This book is a compilation of lists of 7,823 wills for Early Jamaica from two main sources. The first source is Prerogatory Court of Canterbury (PCC) wills, 1655-1816 as they are listed in Caribbeana.

Caribbeana: being Miscellaneous Papers relating to the History, Genealogy, Topography and Antiquities of the British West Indies edited by Vere Langford Oliver, Member of American Antiquities Society, corresponding Member New England Historical Genealogical Society. 1909-1919, 6 vol


The second source is Lists of Wills that were on record in the Island Secretary's Office Add MS 21931, Manuscripts in the British Library, which were deposited by C.E.Long in 1857. The copies of these wills (1662-1750) are now in the Registrar General's Department in Spanish Town, Jamaica.

PCC Wills

In Caribbeana, PCC wills are listed by year but not alphabetically. (Caribbeana is being re-printed in its entirety, by Jim Lynch, in Canada. CanDoo Creative Publishing 504-49 St.Clair Ave.W.,Toronto,Ont.,Canada M4V 1K6 (416) 968-9749, (416) 968-1850; Fax (416) 490-6907). The Liber is a unique name (e.g. Busby) in the PCC and was given in the PCC up until 1840, after which the year suffices to 1858. A quire Number (Q) is given, e.g. 50. The quire, sometimes referred to as a folio, is a bundle of 8-16 wills, 16 pages. The name of the testator is given in the margin, so the entire quire needs to be searched, i.e. 16 pages. The year got its name from a prominent person in the first quire or the name of the clerk entering the wills, and there is one name (per year) although there are several volumes per year in later years.

PCC Will Copies from the National Archives

The PCC Wills are available from the National Archives (UK, formerly the PRO) on line for 3-4 GBP each at Documents on Line

PCC Wills Copies from the Family History Centers of the Mormon Church.

The PCC Wills and Administrations (Admons) are available on microfilm from the Family History Library of the Mormons and its centers (2443 microfilm reels). FHCatalog on CDrom lists The PCC under England/Probate. In FamilySearch on-line you can find the PCC at this location.

You need to know the unique Liber name and quire number and year in order to find the film containing the will you want. The FHLibrary catalog calls the Libers by the names from 1559 to 1840 after that the Libers are given by Year. In the detail film pages there are also volumes noted within each Liber.You do not need the volume number if you have the quire/folio number for a will. The catalog also refers to the quires as folios, but for each of these "folios" there are 8-16 wills, so you do not have an actual page number for a will from the catalog. "Folios" as used by the FHL catalog are spread over several volumes and microfilms, so it is not enough to search for the year or Liber name.

For example from this index:

Winslow Edw. Esq. PCC Aylett Q 377 1655

This is a PCC will for Edward Winslow Esq. The Liber name is Aylett and quire/folio number 377 in 1655. From the FHL 0n-Line catalog:AYLETT you find under details of films:
Note Location
Reg. will copies of Aylett, v. 250. 1655
Folios, 373-
FHL BRITISH Film 92214
Reg. will copies of Aylett, v. 251. 1655
Folios, 420-
FHL BRITISH Film 92215
So the film you want is FHL BRITISH Film 92214 because it holds quires/folios 373-419. You will then look on this film for quire 377 (top right hand margin, a large number on the first page of the quire/folio) and read the margins of that bundle for the testator, Edward Winslow.
Copies can be made on a microfilm copier or you can send into Salt Lake City on an order form, but you must include the film number. I usually write on the order form that "pages are not given within a folio/quire in the PCC", because the order form asks for pages.

PCC Wills in the Family Records Centre, London

The Copy wills of the PCC are also available on microfilm at the Family Records Centre, London in CLASS PROB 11 records. The manner of finding the correct film is given on leaflets/handouts available in the Family Record Centre. An example leaflet for PCC wills before 1700 is given on the Web at: http://www.pro.gov.uk/readers/frcleaflets/willsbefore.htm and after 1700 at: http://www.pro.gov.uk/readers/frcleaflets/willsafter.htm The original wills are available at the Public Record Office (PRO) Kew, but several days notice are required for production.

Wills on record with the Island Secretary collected by C.Long (RGO/SpTw)

These lists of wills were obtained on microfilm from the British Library as manuscripts deposited by C.E.Long in 1857 in Add.MS. 21931. They include (from folio 2-7) Names of Persons whose wills are registered in Jamaica previous to 1700, List (from Folio 13-27)of all testators whose wills are on record from 1701-1730 inclusive, in the Office of the Island Secretary, Jamaica and List (from Folio 28-45)of all Testators whose wills are on Record in the Office of the Island Secretary, Jamaica, from 1731-1750 inclusive. These Lists are handwritten lists made by or for C.Long who lived in the later part of the 18th Century.

The first group are wills prior to 1700 and they are listed by Liber (1-9) and year as they occurred within a letter of the alphabet. i.e. all "A" surnames were together for each liber but they were not strictly in Alphabetical order within a letter. I have now arranged them in alphabetical order. No folio is given for this set of wills. WARNING: Some of these wills have been recopied and new libers and folios assigned.

The second group are wills of testators from 1701-1730, the wills are again given by semi-alphabetical list within a liber (Libers 9-18) and a folio number is given. WARNING: Some of these wills have been recopied and new libers and folios assigned.

The third group of wills is like the first group and go from 1731-1750 (Libers 18 - 28) in that there are no folios given but there is a liber and date associated with each will.

In order to access these wills you need to get a record's researcher in Jamaica to find them for you. In my case, she was able to find a 1738 will but it had deteriorated so badly that it was impossible to copy and only half the page was readable. Still the remainder mentioned many people.

At the very least, this index stands as a census of people, mostly men, who were in Jamaica and who owned some property real (land) or personal, at the time of their deaths. Note these are recorded wills so some of the pages of the records may have deteriorated and may no longer be available, although they were available when C. Long made the lists.

The lists of C. Long used were hand written. This means that sometimes it was difficult to make distinctions between like letters such as "e" and "o", "l" and "t", etc. Also in that period, the original writers were not as careful about using the correct spelling of a surname. I have come across two different spellings of a surname in the same document. Where it seems likely that a similar name appearing before is meant, I have given it as a second name, after a slash. The reader is advised to use all cognates of the name they are looking for in the lists.