Oxfordshire Probate Records
For an explanation of probate records in England, click here.
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.
Oxfordshire Probate Courts
Most of Oxfordshire was under the pre-1858 probate jurisdiction of the Courts of the Bishop (Episcopal Consistory) and Archdeaconry of Oxford. 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 Archdeacon of Buckingham
- Court of the Bishop of Gloucester
- Court of the Bishop of Lincoln
- Court of the Bishop of Worcester
- Court of the Bishop of Hereford
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Banbury
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Langford
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Dorchester
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Monks Risborough
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Thames
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln (Cathedral)
- Court of the Manor of Sibford
- Court of the Chancellor of the University of Oxford
In addition, the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury had jurisdiction over the whole of England, particularly in cases of wealthy individuals, people who owned property in more than one county or court's jurisdiction, people who lived or owned property outside of England, and military and Naval personnel.
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 Oxfordshire Probate Courts
Before 1858, every parish was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary and several secondary courts. To see an alphabetical list of Oxfordshire parishes and the courts that had jurisdiction over them, click on the link for the letter that a parish name begins with:
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
- Index of Probate Inventories, Oxfordshire 1550-1590 -- three files, based upon an original document "Household And Farm Inventories In Oxfordshire, 1550-1590" published by the Historical Manuscript Society & H.M.S.O. (Editing By Dr. W. O. Hassall. Original transcription by M.A.Havinden, D.G.Vaisey & Jane E. Sayers. Computer transcription by M.Brewerton (c) Copyright 1994.)
- Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills (1384 - 1858)
See also indexes on the individual court pages.
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 1858-1925 are available on microfilm at the Family History Library.