There were rules on what constituted a valid will. Technically the following elements were required:
- the date,
- the testator's mark or signature - duly witnessed,
- the nomination of an executor.
Having said that, not all the wills in the collection follow these rules, for if no formal written will existed or it could not be found, other evidence could be used. Holograph wills (in the testator's own handwriting) were generally accepted so long as they were agreed to be genuine. Henry White's will is a lovely example of an informal hand-written will, found on the reverse of an old letter:
Will of Henry White
Click for a transcript of this will
The wills in the collection are usually on paper. You may have come across parchment wills in your research, but these tend to be the probate copies made by the court.