London Probate Records
- 1 Getting Started
- 2 London Probate Courts
- 3 Historical Background
- 4 Websites
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 London. 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 London, follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
First search each index which you will find listed under the name of the particular probate court jurisdiction (see the "London Probate Courts" listed above) to help you more quickly find the will, writing down all details cited in the indexed entry.Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in London. Search these indexes first:
- London, England, Wills and Probate, 1507-1858 at Ancestry (£). Includes probate records from Consistory Court of London, Commissary Court of London, Archdeaconry Court of London, Archdeaconry Court of Middlesex, Peculiar Court of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s, Archdeaconry Court of Surrey, and Commissary Court of Bishop of Winchester. These are only partial records. Much more in the complete collection that is not indexed. [This group of Probate Records is listed on the Catalog through Family Search 
- Metropolitan Archives and Library Wills project (online) - London Signatures project currently includes 10,000 Archdeaconry Court of Middlesex Wills (AM/PW), covering the period 1609 -1810, and 23,500 Diocese of Winchester, Commissary for the Archdeaconry of Surrey marriage bonds (DW/MP), for the period 1673 - 1850.
- Surrey & South London - Will Abstracts 1470-1856. This extraordinary collection is one of the most valuable on British Origins. It contains fully indexed abstracts of every Surrey will known to still exist, over 28,000 of them, dating from the 15th to 19th centuries; nearly all the originals are held at the London Metropolitan Archives. The abstracts include all personal names (testator, beneficiaries, executors, witnesses, overseers, and others) with their relationships, place names, occupations, monetary and other bequests, and descriptions of lands. The indexes include the names of every person mentioned - over a half of a million names - places mentioned (many outside Surrey), subjects (eg occupations) mentioned in the wills, and of dates.
- Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section Indexes to Probate Inventories of the Peculiar Court of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral - The probate inventories of the Peculiar Court of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's date from 1660 to 1725. They are arranged in yearly (mostly) and half-yearly bundles. Within each bundle they are arranged chronologically by the date they were exhibited in the court. There are 77 bundles now numbered as Guildhall Library Ms 19504/1-77.
- Diocese of London Consistory Court Wills index - This index contains 31,000 entries of wills and letters of administration (granting authority to an executor when a person died intestate) compiled from the London Diocesan Court registers (DL/C/354-416). Near complete coverage is provided for the years 1514-1858 (please note there are no registers for the years 1521-1539 and 1642-1670).
- Rolled Inventories in Court of Orphans (Common Serjeant) 1500s-1700s. Inventories of freemen of London, often names relatives, number of orphans, etc.
- Indexes to the Ancient Testamentary Records of Westminster (1913) by Arthur Meredyth Burke. The extant testamentary records of Westminster indexed in this book consist of the testamentary records of the Peculiar Court, 1504-1700, the Westminster wills and administrations preserved amongst the records of the Consistory Court of London, 1540-1556, and the miscellaneous testamentary records preserved in the Muniment Chamber of Westminster Abbey, 1228-1700.
Also check indexed abstracts:
- London & Middlesex Will Abstracts 1700-1704 at Origins.net (£). Includes 2042 abstracts of original wills proved in the Archdeaconry Court of Middlesex, Archdeaconry Court of London, Commissary Court of London, Consistory Court of London and Peculiar Court of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral.
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
Prior to the year 1858, every town and parish in London fell under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. Identify the parish in which your ancestor lived or died. This enables you to learn which court[s] had jurisdiction over the parish so that you may then search for indexes and the actual probate records (i.e. wills) for those courts. Click on a link below for the letter the parish begins with. When you find the name of the parish, click the right-hand column[s] court links to obtain and search the original probate records of the pertinent probate court[s]:
|A-F||G-R||S-St C||St D-H||St I-S||St T-Z|
This list does not include parishes in the county of Middlesex. For those parishes, go to Middlesex Probate Records.
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 theFamily 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.
London Probate Courts
The following courts had some probate jurisdiction over London before 1858.
- Court of Husting
- Court of the Archdeaconry of London
- The Court of Arches of the Archbishop of Canterbury
- Court of the Bishop of London (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of London (London Division)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster (Abbey)
- Court of the Deanery of the Arches of London, Croydon, Shoreham (Peculiar of the Archbishop of Canterbury)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral
- Royal Peculiar Court of St Katherine's by the Tower
- Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury
Probate records of the City of London commence from as early as 1374 up to 1857. There are several probate court jurisdictions for the City of London, some of which hold extensive probate record coverage for the city and there are a few smaller court jurisdictions which only pertain to a small handful of parishes.
If you know in which parish your ancestor may have died or lived, go to the "London Parishes and Their Probate Jurisdictions" section (below) and search by parish name in order to determine the correct or most likely probate court to search, first.
Next, see the above links to each London probate court jurisdictions in order to obtain further information for researching in the prime probate court for a will.
If a search in the most likely probate court jurisidiction proves unsuccessful, then search the next court as listed in ranked order, i.e. "no. 2", and etc.
- Wills for London, Middlesex and Surrey Before 1858 (London Metropolitan Archives Information Leaflet)