England, Cheshire Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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This collection consists of probate records from the county of Cheshire for the years 1492-1940.

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England, Cheshire, probate records, 1492-1940 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Cheshire,  England
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Location of Cheshire, England
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Record Description
Record Type Probate
Collection years 1492-1940
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Archive
Cheshire Archives and Local Studies


What Is in This Collection?

This collection contains an index to probate records of many types. The original records are held at the Cheshire Archives.

Of the different types of probate record, wills are the most informative. Original wills were generally on loose pieces of paper, copies of which were entered into books. Act books are brief paragraphs telling that the executor appeared in court and was approved to distribute the goods as set forth in the will. Administrations are documents created when a person died without leaving a will. Older wills from 1492 through to the late 17th or early 18th century will have varying degrees of legibility. There will also be some Latin in the wills in the middle of the 17th century. Wills probated up to 1857 were handled and kept by the Consistory Court of the Diocese Chester; thereafter (1858-1940) they were handled by the District Probate Registry for Cheshire.

Until 1837 a male as young as 14 and a girl as young as 12 could make a will; thereafter one had to be 21 to make a will. Wills for married women before 1882 are rare because they were not allowed to have property. Those who had land or money, such as merchants, shopkeepers, farmers, or laborers, created wills. About 10% of the heads of households were probated before 1857, but as many as 25% left a will or was mentioned in one. There are about 143,000 names indexed in Cheshire Probate Record indexes.

The records are quite reliable because of their legal nature. Probate records document the transfer of possessions after a person dies. Wills, in particular, were written to ensure that the property and personal estate of a deceased person would be distributed according to his or her wishes. The court would then call in the next of kin and assign them the duty of distributing the goods. The administrator is usually the only person mentioned besides the court officials.

One of the 39 historic counties of England, Cheshire is a coastal county in northwestern England which shares its western border with Wales. For a list of the parishes which historically made up this county with links to more information about each of them, see the Cheshire Parishes page.

What Can This Collection Tell Me?

The following list indicates potential information provided in these records. It must be remembered that every record may not provide all the listed information, as record-keeping practices varied greatly over time.

Probate Records may contain:
Before 1858

  • Names of relatives receiving an inheritance
  • Names of executor(s)
  • Itemization of household goods and property
  • Date will was written
  • Date will was probated
  • Amounts of money and goods
  • Location where the deceased lived
  • Listing of any debt or funeral expenses to be paid
  • Property names

Included after 1858

  • Name of individual
  • Location where the deceased lived
  • Names of beneficiaries (usually surviving spouse and children)
  • Name of executor(s)
  • Names of witnesses
  • Date the will was probated
  • Place where will was probated
  • Relative or relatives present at the time of death

How Do I Search the Collection?

Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The name of the person
  • A general date range for the record

As you search, compare your results with this information to find a match.

Search the Index

  1. Go to the Collection Page.
  2. Enter the requested information into the search box.
  3. Click Search to return a list of possible matches.

What Do I Do Next?

I Found the Person I Was Looking for, What Now?

  • Copy down all the information from the index entry.
  • Cite the record. See below for assistance citing this collection.
  • Use the information which has been discovered to find more. For instance, use the estimated age given in a marriage or burial record to calculate an approximate year of birth, if that is yet undetermined.
  • Use the information you have found to find the individual in other records. Particularly useful for research in nineteenth-century Cheshire are the England Census, Civil Registration, and Parish Registers.
  • Continue to search the index to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives.

I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking for, What Now?

  • When looking for an individual with a common name, look at all the search results before deciding which is the correct person. Use other information, such as place of birth, age, occupation, or names of parents, to help with this decision. If listed, a personal title may be a clue to property ownership or occupation, either of which might be noted in other records.
  • Try variations of given names and surnames. An individual might appear under a different name in a record for a variety of reasons:
    1. An individual might have been listed under a middle name, nickname, or abbreviation of their given name.
    2. Spelling was not standardized for much of the period of this collection, so names were often spelled as scribes heard them. Pay attention to how the name should have been pronounced and try spelling variations that could have that pronunciation.
    3. Some women returned to their maiden names after the death of their husbands.
  • Vary the search terms. For example, expand the date range or search by either the given name or surname to return broader list results.
  • Search the records of nearby locations. While most people never lived more than 20 miles from their place of birth, moves within this range were common. For this collection,bordering locations could include the English counties of Lancashire to the north, Derbyshire to the east, Staffordshire and Shropshire to the south, or the Welsh counties of Denbighshire and Flintshire to the west.

For additional help searching online collections see FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

Citing This Collection

Citing sources correctly makes it easier to refer to information which has already been found, so proper citations can help to keep track of research. Correct citations also allow others to check completed research by helping them find and examine records for themselves.

Below are the proper citations to use for this whole collection as well as for individual records within it:

Collection Citation

"England, Cheshire Probate Records, 1492-1940." Database. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2017. District Probate Registry. Record Office, Chester.

Record (or Index) Citation

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for England, Cheshire, Probate Records, 1492-1940.


How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?

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Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.