Wills of Jamaica

Note: if you have not worked with the facilities of the Mormon Family History Centers, go to IGI and Church Records to find out how to access this resource.

Supreme Court Actual Wills.

Very few of the probate records existing in the Registrar Generals Office and National Archives in Jamaica have been filmed. However, in August 1997, the FHL catalog listed the first series of films that are available, under Jamaica/Probate. These six films are Supreme Court wills from 1725-1925, with some gaps. The first film in the series 1725-1882 actually goes from 1775-1882 and includes very few wills before 1840. The wills filmed are the actual wills and not the enrolled series that constitutes the bulk of the wills.

Tony Martin-Jones in Australia has worked on an Index to these wills. They are filed by item number, which in later films are collected by year of probate, and then each will appears alphabetically by last name. There are hand written addenda added in the margins of many of these wills which record when real estate was entered in the title of deeds. Some of the items were added 5-20 years after the will was probated. This might explain the series of actual wills up to a certain time. The wills also have marked on them the date of enrollment in the records. One thing this suggests is that if a person did not leave real estate but only personal property, the will might exist in enrolled form but not as the actual will.

Some of the wills are typed and obviously prepared in a lawyer's office; some of them are in the original handwriting of the testator. The quality of the wills vary, some bleed-though of ink makes some wills difficult to read. The FHL catalog lists these wills as 1725-1930, however only those films up to 1925 were released in the August 1997 catalog. So there are about 5 more years to be released.

Early Will Indexes There are three sources for looking up locations of wills recorded or enrolled in Jamaica or England.

1. The National Archives or Registrar General's Office holds an index to wills. You need to know the year of death or approximate time and the parish to use it efficiently. The index gives the liber (volume) and folio (pages) of the will record. e.g. a will of 1777 was found in Liber 44, folio 207. Because some of the early will books deteriorated some of them have been recopied and the original folio in the index may no longer be valid unless it says old folio, new folio.

2. Caribbeana has an printed index to wills "which are on record in the Office of the Island Secretary, Jamaica from 1663-1750". These indexes were compiled by Vere Oliver from the third source below. They occur throughout Caribbeana therefore it is necessary, as with the PCC will index mentioned below, to search the 6 volumes on film of Caribbeana for these lists. The first list 1663-1700 is ordered by liber with several years in each liber. The names are not alphabetical. The second list is alphabetical ordered within each year for the period 1731-1750. The folios are not given for these indexes. I have not found the list which covers the period 1700-1730 in Caribbeana, but I have only had access to the film. Caribbeana has been filmed by the Mormon Church. Look under West Indies if you don't find it in the Jamaican section of the catalog.

Caribbeana also lists an index to wills which were probated in the PCC, Prerogative Court of Canterbury, of testators who either held land in Jamaica and/or England or who considered it the status thing to do. After you identify the volume (liber) and folio from Caribbeana you can find the film numbers for the enrolled copies of the PCC wills in the FHL catalog under England/Probate/PCC.

3. A third source is available in the British Library (Add MS 21,931) which are hand written lists compiled by the Jamaican historian C. E. Long. These lists cover the period 1661-1750 and are described as follows: List 1, 1661-1700 by liber without folio non-alphabetical. List 2 1700-1730, alphabetically by year and liber, with folio numbers. List 3 1731-1750 alphabetically by year with liber and without folio.