England Oxford, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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Collection Time Period
The date ranges for available probate records are from 1492 to 1940.
Wills probated up to 1857 were handled and kept by the Consistory Court of the Diocese Chester; thereafter (1858-1940) they were handled by the District Probate Registry for Cheshire. Until 1837, a male as young as 14 and a girl as young as 12 could make a will; thereafter, one had to be 21 to make a will. Wills for married women before 1882 are rare because they were not allowed to have property. Those who had land or money (such as merchants, shopkeepers, farmers, or laborers) created wills. About 10% of the heads of households were probated before 1857, but as many as 25% left a will or was mentioned in one. About 143,000 names are indexed in Cheshire Probate Record indexes.
Why the Record Was Created
Probate records document the transfer of possessions after a person dies. Wills, in particular, were written to ensure that the property and personal estate of a deceased person would be distributed according to his or her wishes. The court would then call in the next of kin and assign them the duty of distributing the goods. The administrator is usually the only person mentioned besides the court officials.
The records are quite reliable because of their legal nature.
There are several different types of probate records, but wills are the most informative. Original wills were generally on loose pieces of paper, copies of which were entered into books. Act books are brief paragraphs telling that the executor appeared in court and was approved to distribute the goods as set forth in the will. Administrations are documents created when a person died without leaving a will. Older wills from 1492 through to the late 17th or early 18th century will have varying degrees of legibility. There will also be some Latin in the wills in the middle of the 17th century.
Key genealogical facts found in most Cheshire probate records before 1858 are:
- Names of relatives receiving an inheritance
- Names of executor(s)
- Itemization of household goods and property
- Date will was written
- Date will was probated
- Amounts of money and goods
- Location where the deceased lived
- Listing of any debt or funeral expenses to be paid
- Property names
Key genealogical facts found in most Cheshire probate records after 1858 are:
- Name of individual
- Location where the deceased lived
- Names of beneficiaries (usually surviving spouse and children)
- Name of executor(s)
- Names of witnesses
- Date the will was probated
- Place where will was probated
- Relative or relatives present at the time of death
How to Use the Record
Use these records to find ancestors’ children and relatives in order to establish relationships that may be more difficult to prove in parish registers, especially before 1813. They are also useful to confirm relationships in families where relationship is already established.
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Sources of Information For This Collection
"England, Oxford, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Probate Records." Database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org). From Family Records Centre, London. FHL microfilm, Family History Library Salt Lake City, Utah.