Gloucestershire Probate Records
- 1 Getting Started
- 2 Gloucestershire Probate Courts
- 3 Some Explanatory Notes on the 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 Gloucestershire. 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.
Forest of Dean Wills Index, 1858-1941, can be searched by testator. It covers about 7,000 out of the 40,000 probated in Gloucestershire during this time. A search can also be made by beneficiary or witness. You need to register on the site to search the index.
Before 1858, Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process. To search for a pre-1858 probate record in Gloucestershire, follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Gloucestershire. Search these indexes first:
- The Gloucestershire Archives/Record Office online index genealogical database to all known wills proven in the county between 1541 and 1858
- A database of Bristol Wills Indices 1781-1858 is available online.
- Early Gloucestershire Probate Records transcribed by Leslie Mahler are available for select parishes in the Bristol and Gloucester dioceses.
- Wiltshire and Swindon Archive Catalogue - Wiltshire Wills has 29 probate documents listed under Gloucestershire.
- The Wills of Gloucestershire: Abstracts of Gloucestershire Probate Records pre-1858 a contributor project to add abstracts of wills for those who lived in Cumberland.
- A Calendar of Wills Proved in the Consistory Court of The Bishop of Gloucester 1541-1660 
- A Calendar of Wills Proved in the Consistory Court of the Bishop of Gloucester 1660-1800 
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 Gloucestershire 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.
Before 1858, every town and parish in Gloucestershire was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and one or more secondary courts. To see a list of Gloucestershire parishes and the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over them, click on a letter link:
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.
Gloucestershire Probate Courts
Most of Gloucestershire was under the pre-1858 probate jurisdiction of the Court of the Bishop of Gloucester (Episcopal Consistory). The majority of probate searches will be in the records of this court and its superior courts. However, the following courts also had some pre-1858 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 Hereford (Episcopal Consistory), pre-1541
- Court of the Bishop of Worcester (Episcopal Consistory), pre-1541
- Court of the Peculiar of Bibury
- Court of the Peculiar of Bishop's Cleeve
- Court of the Peculiar of Child's Wickham
- Court of the Peculiar of Withington
- Great Orphan Books, Mayor of Bristol
- Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury >
Some Explanatory Notes on the Probate Courts
Parishes in Gloucestershire that lie west of the River Severn were under the jurisdication of the Bishop of Hereford before 1541. In that year the Diocese of Gloucester was formed and juridiction for those parishes was transferred to the Court of the Bishop of Gloucester. The following year, the Diocese of Bristol was formed and the city of Bristol plus sixteen parishes surrounding it and to the north of it came under the jurisdiction of the Court of the Bishop of Bristol (Episcopal Consistory).