Probate Records

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Wills have names, addresses, ocupations, dates. The date a will was 'proved' is when it went before court, so could be years after the death.

Probate = will has been recognised and can be administered by the Executor/trix.

Intestacy = no will made,a relative or creditor could apply for letters of admin, or admons, to sort out the estate. Up to 1870 were indexed in separate calendars, then together will other probate records. 'Admon with will attached' means not formally granted probate.

Other terms: grant and final sentance / Probate Act Book / Renunciation / tuition bonds / curation bonds / nuncupative, codicil / relict = widow / miw = mentioned in will (for non-family members) / messuages = dwelling house and out buildings.

Andrews Newspaper Index cards 1790-1976: on Ancestry. Newspaper notices and official sources, ads for missing next of kin.

Who could not leave a will: children / lunatics / criminals before 1870 / married women before 1883 Married Women's Property Act.

Want to note the year of probate, letter of surname, month and registry.

Pre 1858

Pre 1858 records were governed by the church and are held in local record / local church offices. Long and difficult to read. Read from "First..." or "Premis..." then "Item..."

Make an abstract that includes names, dates, executors. Draw the pedigree.

Older children may not be mentioned and may already have had monies.

1733 Latin in wills formally ceased.

Dioceses make up the country and are under the control of a Bishop eg: Kent is the Dioc. of Rochester and teh Dioc. of Canterbury. The Archbishop of Canterbury (in the south) is higher than the Arch. of York (in the north). The heirarchy of eccleasiastical courts is:

  • Prerogative Court of Canterbury in province of Canterbury, PCC {North} / Prerogative Court of York, PCY {South} (Archbishop)
  • Diocesan Court or Consistency of Commissary (Bishop)
  • Archdeaconary Courts (Archdeacon)
  • Peculiars (Rectors, Deans, King, University, Lord of the Manor)

To find pre 1858 wills, search all courts, start at top of chain of courts and work down. Can be at TNA (PROB11 registered wills, use the guide on the website rather than the Discovery db) or Borthwick Institute in York.

TNA has others inc. 1388-1858 will in probate Act books, grants of Adminstrators, inventories & more.

London Metropolitan Archives has scanned documents

Wills in Lesser church courts:

  • 1851 Look for the jurisdiction where the will may have been proved - Maps from FamilySearch.
  • ID the name of the court where the ancestor lived - maps on Ancestry or Phillimore atlas and index
  • British Records Society publish indexes and the SoG has indexes - not all online
  • Local archive probate collections eg: National Library of Wales and other counties
  • Use TNA Find an Archive to check local office's websites


  • PCC online or at TNA
  • Local Diocesan record offices
  • PCY at Borthwick Institute
  • Check LDSaints family history catalogue and get copy fro, LDS family history centre when you know the date
  • SoG indexes and collections


  • FamilySearch has some pre-1858 records
  • Ancestry PCC 1384-1858 (= PROB11). Has more actual documents as well as indexes
  • SoG PCC wills Index 1750-1800. ID an eccl. court will form a published index and then see if it's filmed and available at SoG.
  • FMP Probate
  • BYU has probate guides by county

Post 1858

Governed by the civil courts. Not on commercial sites so check the government website (below).

Year by year indexes produced by Court Service.

'Calander of wills', paper indexes - inc. name and address of Testator, date of death, date of probate, Registry where proved, Executors (up to 1968), value of effects and the will/admon.

Probate indexes are drawn from old paper indexes:

  • Ancestry 1858-1995
  • FMP 1859-2019
  • FamilySearch 1858-1957
  • SoG some on microfilm (better to use the government website at c.£1.50)

Not all probate records contain a will, the index will tell you eg: 'probate' or 'grant and will' or 'admon with will'.

There were 40 local offices. The Principle Probate Registry served London and surrounding counties. PPR received copies of local wills an local office retained the originsl and registered copies. Anything over 50 years old is mainly in local offices.

Other Documents

Other documents can accompany wills up to 1700s. Inventory (lists of possesions) survival is irregular, some archives keep these separate.

Tuiton bonds - curation for girls 12 to 21(?), boys 14 to 21; tuition for children younger than this.

Wills found elsewhere inc. tax and estate duties / disputes / enrolled in deeds / civil courts / local customs / manorial and peculiar jurisdictions.

Inland Revenue or Estate Duty tax/accounts - 1796-1903 are at TNA. Indexes IR26. TNA have research guidea to county court death duty registers.

Disputed wills - covered in church courts, Equity courts (where they were interpreted), Kings Bench and Commons Pleas (for common disputes). Testamentary Cosues were in the church courts. 'sentence' or 'decree' on a will may indicate there was a dispute.

LMA - Testamentary and matrimonial causes 1817-1857 that are catalogued by name at London Metropolitan Archives. The Middlesex Registry 1708 held there involves land titles but may include wills.

Wills could be enrolled at courts as part of evidence in a case.

Catholic wills were enrolled in Close Rolls series C54 (TNA).

Manor wills cdealt with at peculiar courts are at the TNA.


English probate records on FamilySearch wiki

UK government, Find a will, after 1857


'Wills and other Probate Records'

'Probate Jurisdeictions' 6th ed, by J. Gibson and S. Raymond

'The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers'

'Hatred pursued beyond the grave'