Norfolk Probate RecordsEdit This Page
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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 Sussex. For a general description of England probate records, click here.
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, Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process. To search for a pre-1858 probate record in Sussex, follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Sussex. Search these indexes first:
- http://www.familyhistoryonline.net/database/SussexFHGprobate.shtml -- compiled by the Sussex Family History Group which has transcribed the names of 12,300 individuals found in Sussex wills, including testators, executors, beneficiaries or witnesses. The information recorded includes name, date and place.
- The Sussex Record Society has published four volumes of indexes to Sussex wills, and these can be viewed on their website. They are arranged by parish then by surname.
- Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills (1384-1858).
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 Sussex 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.
To see a list of Norfolk places and the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over them, click on a letter link:
Norfolk Probate Courts
These courts had some pre-1858 jurisdiction over the county of Norfolk. Click on a court name for more information. See also the Indexes section below. Click on a court name to learn more about the records available and how to find the probate of your ancestor in the court's records.
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Norfolk
- Court of Norwich (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Norwich
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean & Chapter of Norwich
- Court of the Peculiar of Castle Rising
- Court of the Peculiar of Great Cressingham
- Court of the City of Norwich
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.
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
All the indexes of pre-1858 probate records are included in the Norfolk Record Office's online catalogue, NROCAT. Some pre-1858 wills were proved by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and these can be searched via The National Archives documents online web page. 
An index to probate records for 1800-1857 is found at:
Probate Indexes at the Family History Library
- Index to Norfolk (England) wills, 1838-1858 
- Norfolk peculiar jurisdictions, Index to probate records, 1416-1857 
Some Explanatory Notes on the Norfolk Probate Courts
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. For more information, go to 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.
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