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England Gotoarrow.png Somerset

For an explanation of probate records in England, click here.

Contents

Getting Started

Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his or her heirs. The Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process until 1858. Beginning in 1858, authority over probate matters was taken from ecclesiastical courts and put under the civil authority of the Principal Probate Registry. The Post-1857 Probate Records section below contains links to additional information about the records of this court.

To look for a probate record before 1858:

  1. Discover when and where your ancestor died. If you don’t know, use the approximate date and place where they lived.
  2. Go to Court Jurisdictions section below.
  3. Click a letter or span of letters for your place name. This opens a jurisdictions table.
  4. Follow the instructions on the jurisdictions table page.


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.

In addition, the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury had jurisdiction over the whole of England, particularly in cases of:

  • Wealthy individuals
  • People who owned property in more than one county or court's jurisdiction
  • Military and Naval personnel
  • People who lived or owned property outside of England

Appeals Courts

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.

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.
 

Court Jurisdictions

Before 1858, every town and parish in Somerset was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary ecclesiastical court and one or more secondary ecclesiastical courts.  For a list of Somerset places and the ecclesiastical courts that had pre-1858 juridiction over them, click on a letter link:

AB,  C,  D,  E-J,  K-M,  N-R,  S-T,  U-Z

Probate Indexes

Before looking for a will, you should search an index. Here is a list of published indexes with broad coverage. (Other indexes will be found on the court pages.  Click on the court links above.)

Online Indexes

Here is a list of online indexes.

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). 

Information about Somerset Probate Records:


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. Between 1813-1858 estate duty indexes may help locate a will. For more information, go to Estate Duty Records.

Indexes

Post-1857 Probate Records

Beginning in 1858, the government took over the settlement of estates and all wills are now probated through the Principal Probate Registry system.  The system consists of 11 district registry offices and 18 sub-district registries, located throughout England and Wales, and the principal registry office located in London.  The records are available through the office of Her Majesty's Courts Service.  To learn more, go to the HMCS website.

Indexes

A country-wide surname index to the records is available, so it is much easier to look for post-1857 wills.  The indexes for 1858-1957 and the records for 1858-1925 are available on microfilm at the Family History Library.


 

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