Berkshire Probate Records
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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 Berkshire. See England Probate Records for a general description of probate records in England.
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 Berkshire, follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
Here are some indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Berkshire. Search these indexes first:
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
- Berkshire Wills and Administrations 1508-1710. Part of the National Wills Index.
- Berkshire wills in Wiltshire This index is in Wiltshire, but has over 11,000 probate records in this online court index!
- Hungerford and Wantage. 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.
- Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills (1384-1858).
Berkshire Archdeaconry Probate Records 1480-1652 Contents: v. 15. Part 1, Index to personal names -- v. 16. Part 2, Index to place names -- v. 17. Part 3, Index to occupations.
Court of the Archdeacon of Berkshire An index to the surnames, other than those of testators ... occurring in the registered wills of the Archdeaconry of Berks ... : registers A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I & 19 and parts of register J (pp. 1-578) & register M (pp. 1-245), ca. A.D. 1480-1710
Index to wills proved and administrations granted in the Court of the Archdeacon of Berks, 1508 to 1652 The link takes you to a book version of the index. The book has been microfilmed several times but the copy on the Family History Library microfilm number 88088 has additional comments in it.
Index of the probate records of the Court of the Archdeacon of Berkshire : volume 2, 1653-1710
Registers of grants of admonitions, 1547-1857 Some of these films include indexes
Will index 1508-1653 for the parishes of Appleford and Sutton in Berkshire FHL Film 1278815 Item 5
Will index 1508-1652 for the parish of Drayton in Berkshire FHL Film 1278815 Item 8
Peculiar Court (Faringdon, Berkshire) The jurisdiction of this court included the parish of Faringdon which included Little Coxwell, Littleworth, Thrupp, Kindell Weare, Wadley, Port, Puckety, Westbrooke and Little Wickensham. This court is a Salisbury Prebend.
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 Berkshire fell under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. Most of the places in Berkshire were under the jurisdiction of the Court of the Archdeaconry of Berkshire. Click here to see an alphabetical list of Berkshire parishes that were the exceptions, and the courts that had jurisdiction over them.
Step 4. Obtain a copy of the probate record
Once you have found an index reference to a probate, obtain a copy of the record. Do so by one of these methods:
- Visit or contact the record office that has the original records in its collection. *Visit the Family History Library or a family history center and obtain a copy of the record on microfilm. For more information, click on a court name below.
Berkshire Probate Courts
Most of Berkshire was under the jurisdiction of the Court of the Archdeaconry of Berkshire. The majority of probate searches will be in the records of this court and its superior courts, which were the Court of the Bishop of Salisbury (Episcopal Consistory) until 1836 and the combined Courts of the Bishop (Episcopal Consistory) and Archdeaconry of Oxford from that time on. The courts should be searched in that order.
However, the following courts also had some pre-1858 probate jurisdiction within the county. Click on a court name to learn about records and indexes.
- Court of the Bishop of Bristol (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Bishop of Gloucester (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Peculiar of Banbury
- Court of the Peculiar of Faringdon
- Court of the Peculiar of Langford
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean of Salisbury (Sarum)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean of Windsor
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Canons of Windsor in Wantage
- Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury