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England Gotoarrow.png Somerset Gotoarrow.png Somerset Probate Records

Contents

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 Somerset. 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 Somerset, follow these steps:

Step 1. Search Indexes

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

  • Somerset Medieval Wills - Vol. 1 1383-1500 Internet Archive | Vol. 2 1501-1530 Internet Archive | Vol. 3 1531-1558 Google Books | Bristol Origins includes all three volumes
  • http://www.gomezsmart.myzen.co.uk/  (For wills or probate on this website, look under 'Property.')  This site is concerned with family and social history in the Hundred of Frome. This consisted of the parishes of Beckington, Berkley, Cloford, Elm, Frome Selwood, Laverton, Lullington, Marston Bigot, Nunney, Orchardleigh, Rode (Road), Rodden, Standerwick, Wanstrow, Whatley and Woolverton. It also included the adjacent Liberties of East Cranmore, Leigh-upon-Mendip, Mells and Witham Friary and the Peculiar of Buckland Dinham (see map). 
  • Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills (1384-1858) which was the highest court in England.

For more information about Somerset Probate Records see:

Here is a list of published indexes with broad coverage which are available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. 

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 Somerset fell under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. Click on a link below for the letter the parish begins with.

 A  B  C  D  E-J  K-M  N-R  S-T  U-Z


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 the Family History Library or a family history center and obtain a copy of the record on microfilm. For more information, click on a court name below.

Somerset Probate Courts

The following ecclesiastical courts had some probate jurisdiction over Somerset prior to 1858. Click on a court name to learn about records and indexes.

Some Explanatory Notes about the Somerset Probate Courts

"All probate records of the Diocese of Bath and Wells which had been deposited in the Probate Registry at Exeter were destroyed there in 1942.  The records destroyed were those of the Consistory Court of Bath and Wells, the Archdeaconry Courts of Wells and Taunton, the Consistory Courts of the Dean and Chapter and of the Dean [of Wells], the Peculiar Courts of the Precentor, the Chancellor and Sub-Dean of Wells, the Royal Peculiar Court of Ilminister, and the various Prebendary Courts."[1]


  1. Camp, Anthony J., Wills and Their Whereabouts, London: by the author, 1974. FHL book 942 S2wa, page 116.

Estate Duty Records

Starting in 1796, a tax or death duty was payable on estates over a certain value. Estate duty abstracts may add considerable information not found elsewhere. Estate duty indexes may help locate a will, especially in Somerset where many of the original records were destroyed. For more information, go to Estate Duty Records.




 

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