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Getting Started

Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his or her heirs. Probate records include wills and administrations. This article is about probate records in Cornwall. See England Probate Records for a general description of probate records in England.

1858 to the Present

Beginning in 1858, the Principal Probate Registry had the authority for probating estates. Click on the link to learn more.

Before 1858

Before 1858, Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process. To search for a pre-1858 probate record in Cornwall, follow these steps:

Step 1. Search Indexes

Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Cornwall. Search these indexes first:

Before looking for a will, you should search an index.

Court of the Archdeaconry of Cornwall 

Original wills, administrations and inventories for the Consistorial Court of the Archdeaconry of Cornwall, 1579-1859

Calendar of wills, administrations and accounts relating to the counties of Cornwall and Devon in the Connotorial Archidiaconal Court of Cornwall : (with which are included the records of the Royal Peculiar of St Burian) now preserved in the district probate registry at Bodwin Contents: v. 56. 1569-1699 -- v. 59. 1700-1799.
Cornish probate records at Cornwall Record Office, 1800-1857.
Index to Cornish probate records, 1600-1649.

Unproved Archdeaconry Court Wills are listed in this book.

Index to Cornish estate duty and Deanery of St. Buryan wills The Royal Peculiar of the Deanery of St. Buryan included the parishes of St. Buryan, St. Levan and Sennen. See above v. 56 amd v.59

"The present list is an amalgamation of the main series of Archdeaconry of Cornwall wills and bonds with those of the Royal Peculiar of St. Buryan and the Estate Duty Office wills (the latter from 1812 to 1857)."

Calendars of wills and administrations relating to the counties of Devon and Cornwall : proved in the Court of the principal registry of the Bishop of Exeter, 1559-1799. And of Devon only, proved in the Court of the Archdeaconry of Exeter, 1559-1799.

Transcript of Devonshire wills, 1600-1800. This court also covered some Cornwall parishes and these abstracts may include wills of Cornwall residents. br>Index to wills, copies and related papers [of the County of Devon], 1200-1900's. It may include persons from Cornwall.

Cornish wills in Prerogative Court of Canterbury Contents: v. 1. 1383-1558, A-J -- v. 2. K-Z -- v. 3. 1558-1583.

Indexes Archdeaconry of Cornwall 1796-1811 Death Duty Registers.
Index to Cornish estate duty and Deanery of St. Buryan wills.
Wills for the Diocese of Exeter (County of Devon), 1812-1857 The copies were made for the Legacy Duty Department of the Stamp Duty Office, and from 1848 on to its successor, The Estate Duty Office of the Inland Revenue Office. They consist of wills proved in the Principal Registry and Consistory Court of the Bishop of Exeter, and in the various Archdeaconry Courts.

Estate duty wills, Cornwall, 1811-1857.


Did you find a reference to a probate record?

  • If yes, go to Step 4 below.
  • If no, go to Step 2 below.

Step 2. Identify when and where your ancestor died

Determine when your ancestor died. If you aren't sure, use an approximate date. 

Determine where your ancestor died. It is easier to find a probate record if you know whether the place where your ancestor lived or died is a parish. To learn whether it is a parish, look it up in a gazetteer. Here is a link to the 1872 Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales online:

The gazetteer will either tell you:

  • A place is a parish, or
  • What parish it is a part of, or
  • What place it is near.

If the latter, look that place up in the gazetteer and see if it is a parish.

Once you have identified the parish, go to Step 3.

Step 3. Identify court jurisdictions by parish

Once you have identified the parish where your ancestor lived or died, learn which courts had jurisdiction over it then search indexes for those courts. Every town and parish in Cornwall fell under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. Click on the link for the letter the parish begins with B, CD-K, L, M-O, P-R, S, or T-Z


1. In the first column, find the place where your ancestor lived.
2. In the second column, click on the court name to learn where to find the records and indexes.
3. If the record isn't found in the primary court, search the records for the secondary courts in the order listed.
4. The last court to search is the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

If no will is found, your ancestor may not have left one.

Step 4. Obtain a copy of the probate record

Once you have found an index reference to a probate, obtain a copy of the record. Do so by one of these methods:

  • Visit or contact the record office that has the original records in its collection.
  • Visit theFamily History Library or afamily history center and obtain a copy of the record on microfilm. For more information, click on a court name below.


Cornwall Probate Courts

The following probate courts had some jurisdiction over the county of Cornwall prior to 1858:


 

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  • This page was last modified on 7 May 2013, at 15:10.
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