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England Probate Guides
The Family History Library has compiled probate guides (also called probate hand lists) for each
county of England. These give the call numbers for the pre-1858 probate records (including
indexes) available at the library and include maps showing the probate jurisdictions. These
guides are available in booklet form at the Family History Library. They are also available on
microfilm and microfiche. The table below gives the library book, film, and fiche numbers for the
guides.
COUNTY:
FHL BOOK NUMBER:
942 S2ha (all counties)
FHL FILM
NUMBER:
FHL FICHE NUMBER:
6026312 (all counties)
Bedford No. 1 0599217 vol. 1 (1 fiche)
Berkshire No. 2 0599217 vol. 2 (1fiche)
Buckingham No. 3 0599217 vol. 3 (2 fiche)
Cambridge No. 4 0599217 vol. 4 (1 fiche)
Cheshire No. 5 0599217 vol. 5 (2 fiche)
Cornwall No. 6 0599217 vol. 6 (1 fiche)
Cumberland No. 7 0599217 vol. 7 (2 fiche)
Derby No. 8 0599217 vol. 8 (4 fiche)
Devon No. 9 0599217 vol. 9 (1 fiche)
Dorset No. 10 0599217 vol. 10 (2 fiche)
Durham No. 11 0599218 vol. 11 (2 fiche)
Essex No. 12 0599218 vol. 12 (2 fiche)
Gloucester No. 13 0599218 vol. 13 (3 fiche)
Hampshire No. 14 0599218 vol. 14 (2 fiche)
Hereford No. 15 0599218 vol. 15 (2 fiche)
Hertford No. 16 0599218 vol. 16 (2 fiche)
Huntingdon No. 17 0599218 vol. 17 (1 fiche)
Kent No. 18 0599219 vol. 18 (3 fiche)
Lancashire No. 19 0599219 (no fiche copy)
Leicester No. 20 0599219 vol. 20 (2 fiche)
Lincoln No. 21 0599219 vol. 21 (4 fiche)
London/Middlesex No. 22 0599220 vol. 22 (3 fiche)
Prerogative Court of
Canterbury
No. 23 0599220 vol. 23 (6 fiche)
Norfolk No. 24 0599220 vol. 24 (2 fiche)
Northampton No. 25 0599220 vol. 25 (2 fiche)
Northumberland No. 26 0599220 vol. 26 (3 fiche)
Nottingham No. 27 0599221 vol. 27 (3 fiche)
Oxford No. 28 0599221 vol. 28 (1 fiche)
Rutland No. 29 0599221 vol. 29 (2 fiche)
England Probate Guides
Research Guidance
Version of Data: 03/08/01
2
Shropshire No. 30 0599221 vol. 30 (4 fiche)
Somerset No. 31 0599221 vol. 31 (1 fiche)
Stafford No. 32 0599221 vol. 32 (4 fiche)
Suffolk No. 33 0599221 vol. 33 (2 fiche)
Surrey No. 34 0599221 vol. 34 (1 fiche)
Sussex No. 35 0599222 vol. 35 (2 fiche)
Warwick No. 36 0599222 vol. 36 (3 fiche)
Westmoreland No. 37 0599222 vol. 37 (1 fiche)
Wiltshire No. 38 0599222 vol. 38 (2 fiche)
Worcester No. 39 0599222 vol. 39 (2 fiche)
Yorkshire No. 40 0599222 vol. 40 (4 fiche)
The film or fiche copies may be available at a Family History Center near you. If not, they can be
sent on loan to the center.

Family History Library • 35 North West Temple Street • Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3400 USA
England - How to Use District Registry Wills for 1858-
1925
Guide
Introduction
Starting in 1858, a civil court system called the Principal Probate Registry probated the estates of
deceased persons throughout England and Wales. In consists of a central court in London, called
the Principal Registry, and several District Probate Registries. The district registries send copies
of their records into the Principal Registry in London.
While the indexes to the Principal Probate Registry encompass the whole court system, the
records of the Principal Registry are filed separately from those of the District Probate Registries
and have been microfilmed separately.
This guide will teach you how to obtain a copy of a will from a District Probate Registry. If you
need a Principal Registry will, click this link.
For administrations, you must write to England.
For more information about the Principal Probate Registry, see Background.
What You Are Looking For
You are looking for a post-1857 will of one of your ancestors which was probated at a District
Probate Registry. The information you may find varies from will to will. The will may include:
• Names.
• Relationships.
• Residences.
• Property names.
• Witnesses.
• Other valuable information.
What You Need To Know
All you need is the information you found in the index, which includes the date of probate and the
name of the District Probate Registry where the will was proved.
Steps
These 7 steps will help you obtain a copy of a District Probate Registry will either from microfilm
or from original records.
England, How to Use District Registry Wills for 1858 to 1925
Research Guidance
Version of Data: 03/08/01
2
Step 1. Look in the Family History Library Catalog.
The District Probate Registry wills for 1858 to 1925 are available on microfilm at the Family
History Library. You will find a list of the microfilms in the Family History Library Catalog:
• For 1858 to 1899.
• For 1900 to 1925.
Step 2. Select the correct microfilm number.
The films are arranged by:
• Year.
• First letter of the surname.
• Month of probate.
Scroll down the list of microfilms until you match the year, letter, and month for the index entry
you previously found. Write the microfilm number on your research log.
Tip: If your month is divided between two films, be sure you select the film that covers the district
court you need.
Step 3. Obtain a copy of the microfilm.
The microfilmed wills of the District Probate Registries are available to you at several different
locations. See Where to Find It.
Step 4. Find the will on the microfilm.
On the film the wills are arranged by month, then alphabetically by the district court. Within the
court they are arranged by probate date. Turn through the film until you come to the will you want.
Step 5. Make a copy of the will for your records.
If possible, make a photocopy of the will for your records. If you are not able to make a
photocopy, handcopy the whole will, or carefully extract all of the details.
You may also request a photocopy of a will from the Family History Library.
You may also write to England for a copy of a will.
Step 6. Copy the information and note the source.
Copy the family information from the probate record onto the family group sheets and pedigree
chart for your ancestor. Be sure to note the source of the index and record you found. When you
note your source, you document the record. If you should ever need to find the source of the
record again, your documentation will show you where to find it. If others consult your research,
they will also see where to find the source.
Note your source on your research log, and include the library call number. Your research log will
serve as a guide to your research. When making a photocopy of a record, also note the source
on the copy.
For further tips on record keeping, see the Society of Genealogists' (London, England) leaflet
Note Taking & Keeping for Genealogists.
England, How to Use District Registry Wills for 1858 to 1925
Research Guidance
Version of Data: 03/08/01
3
Step 7. Analyze the information obtained from the probate
record.
Compare the information you found in the probate record with what you already know about your
ancestor. Does it:
• Support what you know?
• Add to what you know?
• Conflict with what you know? (If it does, use other sources to verify the information.)
Then ask yourself:
• Did the record have the information I wanted?
• Is the information accurate?
• Does the information suggest other sources to search?
Background
Description
Prior to 1858, the estates of deceased persons in England and Wales were probated by courts
under the jurisdiction of officials of the Church of England. In 1857 the British government created
a new civil system for probating estates, which went into effect on 11 January 1858. This system
is called the Principal Probate Registry.
In the beginning the Principal Probate Registry consisted of more than forty District Probate
Registries located throughout England and Wales and a Principal Registry in London. The
registries had territorial jurisdictions. Estates of deceased persons were probated within the
district where each person lived or owned property.
The Principal Registry served as the district registry for the London area as well as the central
registry for the whole probate system. The district registries sent copies of their records into the
central registry in London but kept the originals. If a person owned property within the jurisdictions
of more than one district registry, his or her estate would usually be probated at the Principal
Registry.
The territorial jurisdictions were abolished in 1926, and an estate may now be probated at any
registry regardless of where the deceased lived or owned property. As the indexes cover the
whole of the Principal Probate Registry system, this should not prevent you from finding a
reference in the indexes, but you should be aware that a will may not have been probated where
you expect.
DISTRICT PROBATE REGISTRIES
Bangor
Bedford (closed in 1865)
Birmingham
Blandford (closed in 1941)
Bodmin
Brighton
Bristol
Bury St. Edmunds (closed in
1928)
Canterbury (closed in 1928)
Exeter
Gloucester
Hereford (closed in 1928)
Ipswich
Lancaster
Leeds (relocated from
Wakefield in 1969)
Leicester
Lewes (closed in 1969)
Lichfield (closed in 1928)
Norwich
Nottingham
Oxford
Peterborough
St. Asaph (closed in 1928)
Salisbury (closed in 1928)
Sheffield
Shrewsbury (closed in 1941)
Taunton (closed in 1933)
Wakefield (moved to Leeds in
England, How to Use District Registry Wills for 1858 to 1925
Research Guidance
Version of Data: 03/08/01
4
Carlisle
Carmarthen
Chester
Chichester (closed in 1928)
Derby (closed in 1928)
Durham (closed in 1969)
Lincoln
Liverpool
Llandaff
Manchester
Newcastle upon Tyne
Northampton (closed in 1930)
1969)
Wells (closed in 1928)
Winchester
Worcester (closed in 1928)
York
Where to Find It
Family History Centers
Most Family History Centers will not have microfilmed copies of the records of the District Probate
Registries in their permanent collections, but centers can borrow microfilms from the Family
History Library. A small fee is charged to have a microfilm sent to a center.
Family History Centers are located throughout the United States and other areas of the world.
See Family History Centers for the address and phone number of the center nearest you.
Family History Library
The Family History Library has microfilmed copies of the wills for the District Probate Registries
for 1858 to 1925. There is no fee for using the microfilms in person.
You may request a photocopy of a will from the library for a small fee. You will need to fill out a
Request for Photocopies form, which you can obtain at all Family History Centers. Complete the
form using the film number you found in your search of the catalog. Send the form and the fee to
the Family History Library.
Only the wills have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library. You must
write to England for a copy of an administration or for wills later than 1925.
See Library Services and Resources for more information about using the Family History Library
or a Family History Center.
In England
Copies of the original records of the District Probate Registries are available at the Principal
Registry in London. You may visit the Principal Registry and obtain a copy of a probate record. It
is located at:
Probate Search Room
Fist Avenue House
42-29 High Holborn
London
You may also write to England to obtain a copy of a District Probate Registry will or an
administration. The address is:
York Probate Sub-Registry
Dunscombe Place
York YO1 2EA
England

Introduction


Probate records are court records dealing with the distribution of a person's estate after his or her death. They include:

Wills.
Testaments.
Administrations.
Codicils.
Inventories.
Guardianships.
Act books.
Bonds.

These records are very helpful in documenting ancestors because probate actions were recorded long before births (or christenings), marriages, and deaths (or burials).


Prior to 1858, the ecclesiastical courts of the Church of England probated the estates of deceased persons in England. This guide will teach you how to determine whether your ancestor left a probate record and how to obtain a copy.

For more information about probate records, including details of what may be found in the records, see Background.

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What You Are Looking For


You are looking for a pre-1858 probate record for one of your ancestors, which could be a will or an administration with related documents. The information you will find varies from record to record. The records may provide:

Names of heirs.
Other family members.
Witnesses.
Guardians.
Relationships.
Residences.
Property names.
An inventory of the deceased's personal property.


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Steps


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These 9 steps will help you find pre-1858 probate records.


Step 1. Select an ancestor.


Select an ancestor or other individual for whom you wish to find a pre-1858 probate record.


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Step 2. Determine your ancestor's year of death.


Determine your ancestor's approximate year of death from what you know about his or her life. See Tip 1.


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Step 3. Determine which probate court to search.


To find a probate record for an ancestor, you must determine which ecclesiastical court(s) had jurisdiction over the area where he or she lived and may have owned property. The jurisdictions of the pre-1858 probate courts were based on the organizational hierarchy of the Church of England. For an explanation of the hierarchy, see Pre-1858 Probate Courts in the England Research Outline.

When searching for probate records, you should start with courts of local jurisdiction and, if necessary, work up to courts of higher or broader jurisdiction. Several sources are available to help you determine which courts had various levels of jurisdiction over the many parishes and counties of England. For a list of these, see Tip 2.


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Step 4. Find an index for the court.


The records of all of the pre-1858 ecclesiastical probate courts have been indexed to some extent. An index will indicate whether your ancestor left probate records and will give you a date and/or a reference number to use to locate a copy of the records. For more information about indexes, see Background.

You will find the indexes listed in the England Probate Guides mentioned in Tip 2, or you can look in the Family History Library Catalog. Go to What to Do Next and select the catalog. Find your county of interest. Look through the list of probate records for indexes pertaining to your court of interest. Make note of the library call numbers for the index(es) for your needed time period.


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Step 5. Obtain a copy of the index.


Obtain a copy of the index for your court of interest. See Where to Find It.


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Step 6. Search the index.


Search the index for a reference to a probate record for your ancestor. Search several years if needed.

An index reference may give:

Name of the deceased.
His or her residence.
Date of probate.
Whether the probate is for a will or an administration.
Folio number.
Estate value.

If you find a reference to a probate record for your ancestor, record all of the information, including the library call number of the index, on your research log.


Tip: If the wills and administrations of the court are indexed separately, search both.


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Step 7. Obtain a copy of the probate record.


With the index reference, you are now ready to obtain a copy of the probate record of your ancestor.

Start with the collection of the Family History Library. Go to What to Do Next and select the Family History Library Catalog. Find your county of interest. Look through the list of probate records of your court of interest. Find any records that cover the date of probate. Most records will be available on microfilm. If the index gave a volume number, match the volume number to the correct microfilm number. Make note of the microfilm number on your research log.

To obtain a copy of the probate record, see Where to Find It.


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Step 8. Copy the information and note the source.


Copy the family information from the probate record onto the family group sheets and pedigree chart for your ancestor. If possible, make a photocopy of the record in addition to extracting the information.

Be sure to note the source of the record you found. When you note your source, you document the record. If you should ever need to find the source of the record again, your documentation will show you where to find it. If anyone else should consult your research, they will also see where to find the source.

Note your source on your research log, and include the library call number. Your research log will serve as a guide to your research. When making a photocopy of a record, also note the source on the copy.

For further Tips on record keeping, see the Society of Genealogists' (London, England) leaflet Note Taking & Keeping for Genealogists.


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Step 9. Analyze the information obtained from the probate record.


Compare the information you obtained from the will to what you already know about your ancestor. Does it:

Support what you know?
Add to what you know?
Conflict with what you know? (If it does, use other sources to verify the information.)

Then ask yourself:


Did the source have the information I wanted?
Is the information accurate?
Does the information suggest other sources to search?

Introduction


Whether your ancestor died testate (leaving a will) or intestate (without leaving a will), the indexes to the Principal Probate Registry will provide valuable information that will help you continue your family history research. The Family History Library has microfilmed indexes for 1858 to 1957. More recent indexes are available only in England.

The indexes cover all of England and Wales in one annual series so you do not need a locality. They are arranged simply and are easy to use.

For additional information about the indexes, see Background.

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What You Are Looking For


You are looking for an index entry referring to a post-1857 probate record for one of your ancestors.

An index entry includes:

Name of the deceased.
Residence.
Occupation.
Date of death.
Value of the estate.
Name of the executor or administrator.
Date and place of probate.


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What You Need to Know

You only need to know the name and approximate date of death of your ancestor.


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Steps


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


These 5 steps will teach you how to use the indexes to the Principal Probate Registry.

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Step 1. Select an index to search.


In the Family History Library Catalog record for the indexes, the microfilms are arranged by:

Year.
First letter of the surname.

Scroll down the list of microfilmed indexes until you come to the year you want your search to begin with. Make note of the film number(s) for your surname of interest. You may search as many years as needed.


Tip: If the wills and administrations are indexed separately, make note of the film numbers for both.


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Step 2. Obtain a copy of the index.


The microfilmed indexes are available to you at several different locations. See Where to Find It.


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Step 3. Search the index and note the information given.


On the microfilm, the entries are arranged in strict alphabetical order. Turn through the film until you come to your ancestor's name. If you find a likely entry, record all of the information in your notes.

When recording the information from the index in your notes, take particular notice of:

Whether the entry is for a will (sometimes identified in the index as a Probate) or for an administration.
The date and place of probate.

Tip: The wills and administrations may be indexed in different places on the film. If so, be sure to check both.


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Step 4. Note in particular the place of probate.


The place of probate will be given as:

London.
The Principal Registry.
One of the District Probate Registries, such as Bristol.

If the place of probate was London or the Principal Registry, a hand-written number will be found beside the index entry. This is a folio number, and it will help you find the will. Write the number down in your notes.


The information in the index can lead you to other valuable research sources. See Tip 1.

For suggestions of what to consider if you do not find a likely index reference, see Tip 2.


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Step 5. Locate the will on microfilm.


With the information from the index, you are now ready to locate a will on microfilm.

For information on how to locate a will for the Principal Registry or London, click this link.

For information on how to locate a will for the District Probate Registries, click this link.

The administrations are not available on microfilm and you will have to write to England for those records. For the address, see Where to Find It.