Wiltshire Probate RecordsEdit This Page
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The following article is about probate records in the county of Wiltshire. 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.
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 Wiltshire. 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 Wiltshire, follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Wiltshire. Search these indexes first:
- http://www.familyhistoryonline.net/database/WiltshireFHGprobate.shtml -- compiled by the Wiltshire Family History Group which has transcribed the names of 12,300 individuals found in Wiltshire 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 Wiltshire 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 Wiltshire 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.
Court Jurisdictions by Parish
Before 1858, every town and parish in Wiltshire was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. To find the will of your ancestor who lived or owned property in Wiltshire, see a list of Wiltshire parishes with the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over each. Click on the letter for a parish of interest.
Search the courts in the order given. Search indexes first. For indexes covering more than one court, see below. For court-specific indexes, click on the name of a court above.
If you do not know where in Wiltshire your ancestor lived or owned property, search the indexes to each court if necessary. Lastly, search the index to the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Wiltshire Probate Courts
These courts had some probate jurisdiction in Wiltshire prior to 1858:
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Salisbury
- Court of the Archdeaconry of the Sub-Dean of Salisbury
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Wiltshire
- Court of the Bishop of Salisbury (Episcopal Consistory)
- Courts of the Bishop (Episcopal Consistory) and Archdeaconry of Winchester
- Court of the Bishop of Gloucester (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Bishop of Hereford (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Bishop of Worcester (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Bishopstone
- Court of the Peculiar of the Treasurer of Salisbury in the Prebendal of Calne
- Court of the Peculiar of Castle Combe
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Chute and Chisenbury
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Coombe and Harnham
- Court of the Peculiar of the Perpetual Vicar of Corsham
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Durnford
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Highworth
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Hurstbourne and Burbage
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Netheravon
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean of Salisbury
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury
- Court of the Peculiar of the Precentor of Salisbury
- Court of the Peculiar of the Lord Wardon of Savernake Forest
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Wilsford and Woodford
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Canons of Windsor in Wantage
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.
This catalogue gives access to wills and other probate records of the diocese of Salisbury which used to cover not only Wiltshire but also Berkshire (under certain circumstances) and parts of Dorset and Devon. You can search for people by name, place, occupation and date. The collection covers 1540-1858. Searching the catalogue is FREE. In addition there are digital images for some of the documents (just over 25%) which can be viewed following on-line payment or free of charge by people visiting the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre.
This is a collection of about 1000 abstracts of probate documents relating to people residing in the neighbourhood of the towns of Hungerford and Wantage in Berkshire. Since Hungerford is on the county boundary there is some spread into Wiltshire and to a lesser extent into Hampshire and Oxfordshire. These wills cover from about 1500 up to 1858. Names of all persons mentioned in the abstracts have been indexed and amount to over 6000 references.
Wills at Salisbury 1464-1858 Contents: v. 122. A-K -- v. 123. K-Z. 
Some Explanatory Notes Wiltshire Courts
All prebends of Salisbury Cathedral were inhibited for six months triennially by the Court of the Peculiar of the Dean of Salisbury Cathedral.
The Court of Arches of Canterbury was a court of appeal fo r the province of Canterbury. However, the royal peculiars and the peculiars of the Archbishop were exempt.
The Court of Delegates was also a court of appeal for the provinces of Canterbury and York, including their peculiars, royal peculiars, and the Irish 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