Bedfordshire Probate Records
- 1 Getting Started
- 2 Bedfordshire Probate Courts
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 Bedfordshire. 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 Bedfordshire, follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Bedfordshire. Search these indexes first:
- Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills (1384 - 1858)
- Index of Bedfordshire probate records, 1484-1858 This includes indexes for the Court of the Archdeacon of Bedford, the Peculiar Court of Biggleswade and the Peculiar Court of Leighton Buzzard. Digital version at National Wills Index ($)
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Bedfordshire. FHL films 88007-88009
- English wills, 1498-1526 which are transcribed and many from the Archdeacon of Bedford
- Bedfordshire wills, 1480-1519
- The Peculiar Court of Leighton Buzzard : persons named in wills proved 1701-1846
- Index of Bedfordshire probate records,1484-1858 The Peculiar Court of Leighton Buzzard
- Wills and administrations, 1624-1858 See FHL fims 95109 and 95100
- Prebendal Court (Leighton-Buzzard) Probate records, 1537-1842 Index 1736-1846
- Index to records of Lincoln Peculiar Courts with Peculiar of Biggleswade
- Probate records for the Commissary Court of Lincoln for the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon, 1559-1857, 1559-1857 The Act books contain some Admon Grants from the Peculiar Court of Biggleswade
- Some transcripts of Bedfordshire Wills at Lambeth and Lincoln 1387-1570 v. 14
- Bedfordshire wills 1601-1652 at probate registry Lincoln, England, all name index
- Everton and Swineshead parishes have some references in the following court record Probate records for the Commissary Court of Lincoln for the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon, 1559-1857, 1559-1857
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
Majority of the County
Before 1858, every town and parish in Bedfordshire was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. The court that had primary jurisdiction over most of Bedfordshire, with just six exceptions (see next heading), was the Court of the Archdeaconry of Bedford.
There were six Bedfordshire parishes that were exceptions to this--Biggleswade, Billington, Eggington, Heath and Rich, Leighton Buzzard, and Stanbridge. To see the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over these parishes, click here.
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.
Bedfordshire Probate Courts
Most of Bedfordshire was under the pre-1858 probate jurisdiction of the Court of the Archdeaconry of Bedford. 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 Lincoln (Episcopal Consistory) before 1837, and the Court of the Bishop of Ely (Episcopal Consistory) starting in 1837. The courts should be searched in that order. The Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury (and the appeals courts if necessary) should be searched last.
However, the following courts also had some pre-1858 jurisdiction over certain parishes within the county. Click on a court name below to learn about the parishes they cover and their records and indexes.
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln
- Court of the Peculiar of Aylesbury
- Court of the Peculiar of Biggleswade
- Court of the Peculiar of Leighton Buzzard