Cheshire Probate RecordsEdit This Page
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The following article is about probate records in the county of Cheshire. For general information about English probate records, click here.
Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his or her heirs. The term probate refers to a collection of documents, including wills, administrations (also called admons), inventories, and act books. The Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process until to 1858. This article explains about probates and how to get started to search for a will.
Beginning in 1858, authority over probate matters was taken from ecclesiastical courts and put under the civil authority of the Principal Probate Registry. The Probates After 1857 section below has a link to an article about probates after 1857.
Follow these steps to look for a probate record before 1858:
- Discover when and where your ancestor died. If you don’t know, use the approximate date and place where they lived.
- Go to the Court Jurisdictions section below.
- Click a letter or span of letters for your place. This opens an article showing a table of places and the courts that had jurisdiction over them.
- Follow the steps at the top of the table to search for a will.
Court Jurisdictions by Parish
Before 1858, all of Cheshire was under the primary probate jurisdiction of the Court of the Bishop of Cheshire. Secondary courts are also listed in the table below. When looking for the will of an ancestor in Cheshire, search the courts in the order given. Search indexes first.
|PARISH||PRIMARY COURT||SECONDARY COURTS - IN SEARCH ORDER|
|All parishes||Pre-1541 - Court of the Bishop of Lichfield (Episcopal Consistory)||
Cheshire Probate Courts
Here is a list of the pre-1858 ecclesiastical courts that had some probate jurisdiction over Cheshire. The whole of Cheshire was under the jurisdiction of the Court of the Bishop of Chester (Episcopal Consistory). Click on a court name to learn more about records.
- Court of the Bishop of Chester (Episcopal Consistory)
- Exchequer and Prerogative Courts of the Archbishop of York
- Chancery Court of the Archbishop of York
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of York
In addition, the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury had jurisdiction over the whole of England and specifically in the following cases.
- Wealthy individuals
- Interregnum, 1649-1660, because the Prerogative Court was the only court.
- Property in more than one diocese in the Province of Canterbury.
- Property in both the Province of Canterbury and Province of York.
- People who died outside England, including British citizens and others who held property in England.
Any probate that was disputed and could not be settled by the county courts could be sent to these higher appeals courts:
The Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury also served as an appeals court.
Cheshire's probate jurisdictions are well-covered with indexes.
Starting Your Search in Indexes
1. First search each index (see below) to help you more quickly find the will, writing down each detail cited in the index entry.
2. Click on a court name above to learn more about the records.
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, search the comprehensive and county-wide Wills index compiled by the Cheshire Record Office. This index covers the years 1492-1940 and contains 130,000 entries. It covers probate documents proved at Chester mainly for the County of Cheshire.
The following Website specifically covers the parishes of Disley, Lyme Handley; Taxal & Whaley in Cheshire:
A brand new Probate Index for Cheshire is available at Labs.FamilySearch.
The original will indexes for the Court of the Bishop of Chester (Episcopal Consistory) for 1545-1858 are available in print by both the Lancashire & Cheshire Record Society and the Chetham Society. These two large publication series cover both Cheshire and Lancashire counties. These series are available at many major archives in the United Kingdom such as at the British Library, and Guildhall Library, London, and other like institutions. The Family History Library likewise has most of these printed indexes in book form and/or on microfilm (see below).
Original Handwritten Indexes
Original handwritten indexes and calendars to the Probate Acts of Wills and Administrations (Admons) exist from 1492-1857, were created as the probate records were filed, and found with the records (see below).
Calendars are a kind of index (arranged by the first letter of each surname) to the probate records and admons (administrations).
Microfilmed Indexes and Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has copies of Cheshire probate records, indexes and calendars for 1492-1858. Microfilmed copies may be circulated to any of its 4,500 satellite family history centers worldwide. To determine film numbers, go to 'Cheshire - Probate Records' and 'Cheshire - Probate Records - Indexes' in the Family History Library Catalog.
In particular, see:
Some Explanatory Notes on the Cheshire Courts
1. Cheshire had no peculiar court jurisdictions in the county. There are several higher probate court jurisdictions which hold concurrent jurisdiction over Chesire. To identify and learn about these courts and their records, click on the "Cheshire Probate Courts" links above.
2. The Court of the Bishop of Chester (Episcopal Consistory) was sub-divided into basically two courts--a higher or what is termed, a "Supra" court and, a lower or "Infra" court. A majority of Cheshire wills and admons were probated in the "Infra" court.
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 you locate a will. For more information, go to the article on Estate Duty Records.
Probates After 1857
Beginning in 1858, the government took over the settlement of estates and all wills are now probated through the Principal Probate Registry system. For more information, go to Principal Probate Registry.