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Probate Records

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Content by
Linda Jonas 2006

Probate Records

1858 to 1901 Probate Calendar: In 1858 District Probate Registries were established in England, Wales, and Ireland. Copies of wills and administrations in English and Welsh courts are kept at the Principal Registry of the Family Division (formerly Principal Probate Registry). They are calendared in Calendar of the grants of probate and letters of administration made in the Principal Registry: and in the several district registries of Her Majesty's Court of Probate. People who died from 1858 onward anywhere in England or Wales are included in this calendar if they left an estate of a minimum size, but there are references to Ireland and Scotland as well. There are 548 rolls in this collection covering the period from 1858 to 1957.

The yearly abstracts for those leaving wills are arranged by calendar year, then in alphabetical order by surname of the deceased. There is no handwriting to worry about; all the entries are printed. The abstracts show the value of the estate, the date and place of death, the occupation and residence of the deceased, the names of all executors, and additional information that is helpful identifying the deceased. Please note that from 1858 to 1870 the wills and administrations are calendared separately; from 1871 they are calendared together. Microfilm numbers for the records are as follows:

Probate Calendar

Years

Microfilm Numbers

1858-1864

0215221 - 0215266

1864-1901

0251172 - 0251383

Search the Family History Library Catalog for the entire listing of films and the alphabetical coverage that is included on each roll of film. Search by film/fiche number and enter film number 215221.

Death Duty Registers: While there is no national probate index prior to 1858, the Death Duty Registers and Bank of England Will Extracts [below] can serve as partial substitutes. After a will or administration was proved in probate court, the amount of tax payable on the estate was determined. The taxes are recorded in the Death Duty Registers. These registers are very valuable because they not only tell the court where an estate was probated, they can also provide significant genealogical information not found in other records.  The Death Duty Registers cover the years 1795-1903. They are on microfilm through the Family History Library starting with film number 1419473. You can access the death duty registers covering wills and letters of administration in the 'country courts' (i.e. non-PCC) from 1796 to 1811, via The National Archives' DocumentsOnline service.

Bank of England Will Extracts cover the years 1726 to 1845. The 75 rolls of microfilm begin with film number 523849. There are contemporary indexes to the Bank of England will extracts in many of the volumes, but the index prepared by the Society of Genealogists (SoG) is much easier to use. The Bank of England Will Extracts Index, 1717-1845 is searchable online at Originsnetwork.com

Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC): Prior to 1858 in England, Wales, and Ireland only the Ecclesiastical Courts (with few exceptions) could grant probate. The Prerogative Court of Canterbury was the highest court of probate jurisdiction. The PCC had jurisdiction over estates within its area and also over estates with property in (1) more than one diocese in the Province of Canterbury, or (2) in more than one Province (Armagh, Canterbury, and York). The PCC also had jurisdiction if the estate involved foreigners (including colonists), if the testator died abroad, if the will was disputed, or if the person was willing to pay the higher fees to have the estate probated in the PCC. The probate records for the PCC for the years 1383 to 1857 are on 2,457 rolls of microfilm. Search the Family History Library Catalog by film number 91887 for a complete listing. The manuscript indexes to wills and administrations (admons) are on FHL films 0091801 to 0091888. The manuscript indexes are compiled by year, then chronologically by first letter of the surname. There are also printed indexes to wills on microfiche:

PCC Indexes to Wills

Years

Fiche numbers

1383-1558

6073728 - 6073729

1558-1583

6073736

1584-1604

6073743

1605-1619

6073761 - 6073762

1653-1656

6073772

1657-1660

6073779

1671-1675

6073785

1675-1685

6073789

1686-1693

6073795

1694-1700

6073798

The PCC Wills index from 1750-1800 is part of a subscription to Originsnetwork.com. Also, Anthony Camp printed the will indexes in PCC Will Index 1750-1800. (6 vols.). These books are much easier to use than the PCC manuscript indexes on microfilm because Camp's index is in strict alphabetical order for the entire 50-year period so you do not have to know the exact year of death. See also Index of Wills & Administrations Now Preserved in Probate Registry at Canterbury 1396-1558 & 1640-1650.

See also Peter Coldham, American Wills and Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 1610-1857.

Prerogative Court of York: The Index of Wills for the Prerogative Court of York 1688-1858 is on nine FHL microfilms 0099445 - 0099453. There are also registered copies of wills 1389-1637, original wills 1638-1704, and registered copies 1705-1858. Search the Family History Library Catalog by film number 99445 to see the entire series.

Other Probate Courts: Before 1858 wills could be proved in either the court of an archdeacon (archdeaconry court), a bishop (commissary or consistory court), or an archbishop (prerogative court). To determine pre-1858 probate courts, the best guides are Pre-1858 English Probate Jurisdictions for each county compiled by the Genealogical Department of the FHL.  There is also Hand list of English probate jurisdictions, of filmed and printed probate records on fiche #6026312 (90 fiche).

For Wales, see Pre-1858 Welsh Probate Jurisdictions on FHL fiche 6054481. On the same fiche is Hand list of Probate Records Pertaining to the Diocese of St. David's, St. Asaph, Bangor, and Llandaff, Wales and of the Peculiar and Exempt Court of Hawarden, Flint County which lists pre-1858 Welsh probate records available through the Family History Library, including film numbers.

There is an extensive collection of Abstracts and Indexes of Welsh Wills on microfiche. The abstracts are arranged by the four dioceses and then by year, but there are also surname, forename, and place-name indexes. These abstracts contain all names mentioned in the wills. The abstract will also give the film number where the will can be found.

Abstracts and Indexes of Welsh Wills

Diocese

First fiche Number *

Bangor

6036685

Llandaff

6020943

St. Asaph's

6026564

St. David's

6020816

*  N.B.: "First Fiche Number" means that there is a series of fiche, of which only the first fiche number is mentioned. Search the Family History Library Catalog by fiche number to see the entire series/

For other Welsh wills, see the Family History Library Catalog under

WALES - PROBATE RECORDS,

WALES, [COUNTY] - PROBATE RECORDS, and

WALES, [COUNTY] - PROBATE RECORDS - INDEXES

Colored Maps of Probate Jurisdictions are also in Cecil Humphrey-Smith, The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers.

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