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Revision as of 16:08, 23 October 2009
For a explanation of England probate records, click here.
- 1 Getting Started
- 2 Middlesex Probate Courts
- 3 Some Explanatory Notes on the Middlesex Probate Courts
- 4 Middlesex Parishes and Their Probate Jurisdictions
- 5 Probate Indexes
- 6 Estate Duty Records
- 7 Post-1857 Probate Records
Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his or her heirs. The Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process until to 1858. Beginning in 1858, authority over probate matters was taken from ecclesiastical courts and put under the civil authority of the Principal Probate Registry. The Post-1857 Probate Records section below contains links to additional information about the records of this court.
To look for a probate record before 1858:
- Discover when and where your ancestor died. If you don’t know, use the approximate date and place where they lived.
- Go to Court Jurisdictions section below.
- Click a letter or span of letters for your place name. This opens a jurisdictions table.
- Follow the instructions on the jurisdictions table page.
Middlesex Probate Courts
The following ecclesiastical courts had some probate jurisdiction over the county of Middlesex prior to 1858. Click on a court name to learn more about the records available and how to find the probate of your ancestor in the court's records.
- Court of Husting
- Archdeaconry Court of London
- Court of the Bishop of London (Episcopal Consistory)
- Archdeaconry Court of Middlesex (Middlesex Division)
- Deanery of the Arches (Peculiar of the Archbishop of Canterbury)
- Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of London (London Division)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster (Abbey)
- Deanery of the Arches of London, Croydon, Shoreham (Peculiar of the Archbishop of Canterbury)
- Court of the Deanery of the Arches of London, Croydon, Shoreham (Peculiar of the Archbishop of Canterbury)
- Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of London (Essex & Hertfordshire Division)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral
- Royal Peculiar Court of St Katherine's by the Tower
In addition, the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury had jurisdiction over the whole of England. Wealthier individuals, people who owned property in more than one county or lower court's jurisdiction, and Naval personnel often had their estates proven through the Archbishop's court.
Any probate that was disputed and could not be settled by the county courts could be sent to these higher appeals courts:
The Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury also served as an appeals court.
Some Explanatory Notes on the Middlesex Probate Courts
Probate records of Middlesex, incorporating Greater London and the whole of the ancient county of Middlesex commence from as early as 1258 up to 1857. There are several Middlesex County probate court jurisdictions, some of which hold extensive probate record coverage for the greater metropolis and there are a few smaller court jurisdictions which only pertain to a small handful of parishes.
The complexity of probate research in this most populous region of England resides in the fact that Greater London's layout is likewise complex, incorporating the whole of Middlesex and London counties, as well as portions of northwest Kent, northeast Surrey, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire. Several courts held concurrent jurisdiction with one another thus requiring searching multiple probate courts.
If you know in which parish your ancestor may have died or lived, go to the "Middlesex 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 Middlesex 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.
Middlesex Parishes and Their Probate Jurisdictions
Before 1858, every parish was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. For an alphabetical list of Middlesex parishes and the courts that had jurisdiction over them, click on the link for the letter that a parish name begins with. This list does not include London city parishes. For those, go to London Probate Records.
1. First search each index (see below) to help you more quickly find the will, writing down each detail cited in the indexed entry.
2. Proceed to the "Probate Records of This Court" (below) to determine what original probate records exist for this court.
3. Contact or visit the Westminster City Archives, or hire a professional record searcher to view these records on your behalf. Officials may send upon request a list of record searchers.
4. Visit The Family History Library, or, one of its 4,500 satellite family history centers worldwide and search indexes to probate records then with the information obtained from the index[es] you can search more quickly the original wills and admons also on microfilm via any family history centres near you.
- A comprehensive will and admon index for most all of London and Middlesex's probate jurisdictions is found in Dr. David Wright's will index for 1750-1857 on CDs for sale for surnames A-F; enquire with him for lookups for surnames beginning with G-Z at a set fee.
Several printed indexes exist for the various courts of Greater London, but not all. Look in this ("Printed Indexes") section under each Probate court for indexes and the locations for accessing same.
Original Handwritten Indexes
Indexes and claendars to the Probate Acts of Wills and Administrations (Admons) exist from 1258-1857. Calendars are a kind of index (of the first letter of each surname) to the probate records and admons (administrations).
In addition to the calendars, a majority of the original (unregistered) wills and the registered wills are alphabetically arranged for but a few courts; most are only arranged chronologically, making will searches without indexes, fairly complex and challenging at best and are likewise organized on the microfilmed probates for these courts at the Family History Library.
Microfilmed Indexes at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has many will and admon (Administration) indexes and calendars which are available on microfilm at the Family History Library covering the years as above mentioned 1258-1858 and may be circulated to each of its satellite Family History Centers (see Court of the Archdeaconry of Essex), or go to this Family History Library Catalog page
Estate Duty Records
Starting in 1796, a tax or death duty was payable on estates over a certain value. Estate duty abstracts may add considerable information not found elsewhere. Between 1813-1858 estate duty indexes may help locate a will. For more information, go to Estate Duty Records.
Post-1857 Probate Records
Beginning in 1858, the government took over the settlement of estates and all wills are now probated through the Principal Probate Registry system. The system consists of 11 district registry offices and 18 sub-district registries, located throughout England and Wales, and the Principal Registry Office located in London. The records are available through the office of Her Majesty's Courts Service. To learn more, go to the HMCS website.
A country-wide surname index to the records is available, so it is much easier to look for post-1857 wills. The indexes for 1858-1957 and the records for the Principal Registry and the District Registries for 1858-1925 are available on microfilm at the Family History Library.