Wiltshire 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/her heirs.
In order to find a probate record for your ancestor, you must answer two questions:
- When did your ancestor die?
- Where did your ancestor live or own property?
A key date is 1858, when probate authority was taken from the ecclesiatical courts of the Church of England and given to the civil government.
- If your ancestor died before 1858, his/her probate would have been proven by an ecclesiatical court and it is important to know where he/she lived, as that will determine which courts had jurisdiction.
- If you know where your ancestor lived before 1858, you should go to the Court Jurisdictions section below to determine what courts had jurisdiction over your ancestor's place of residence.
- Beginning in 1858, probate authority was vested in the Principal Probate Registry system. For more information, scroll to the Post-1857 Probate Records section at the bottom of the page.
Once you have answered the two questions and determined the courts, look for indexes. Indexes will be found on the individual court pages (when you click on a court name) or in the Probate Indexes section below.
Wiltshire Probate Courts
These courts had some probate jurisdiction in Wiltshire prior to 1858:
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Bishopstone
- Court of the Peculiar of the Treasurer of Salisbury in the Prebendal of Calne
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Castle Combe
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Chute and Chisenbury
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Coombe and Harnham
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prepetual Vicar of Corsham
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Durnford
- Court of the Bishop of Gloucester (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Bishop of Hereford (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Highworth
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Hurstbourne and Burbage
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Netheravon
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Salisbury
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean of Salisbury
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury
- Court of the Bishop of Salisbury (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Precentor of Salisbury
- Court of the Archdeaconry of the sub-dean of Salisbury
- Court of the Peculiar of the Lord Wardon of Savernake Forest
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Wilsford and Woodford
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Wiltshire
- Courts of the Bishop (Episcopal Consistory) and Archdeaconry of Winchester
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Canons of Windsor in Wantage
- Court of the Bishop of Worcester (Episcopal Consistory)
Some Explanatory Notes on the Courts in Wiltshire
All prebends of Salisbury Cathedral were inhibited for six months triennially by the Court of the Peculiar of the Dean of Salisbury Cathedral.
The Court of Arches of Canterbury was a court of appeal fo r the province of Canterbury. However, the royal peculiars and the peculiars of the Archbishop were exempt.
The Court of Delegates was also a court of appeal for the provinces of Canterbury and York, including their peculiars, royal peculiars, and the Irish probate courts.
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
This catalogue gives access to wills and other probate records of the diocese of Salisbury which used to cover not only Wiltshire but also Berkshire (under certain circumstances) and parts of Dorset and Devon. You can search for people by name, place, occupation and date. The collection covers 1540-1858. Searching the catalogue is FREE. In addition there are digital images for some of the documents (just over 25%) which can be viewed following on-line payment or free of charge by people visiting the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. Wills and inventories give useful information about people’s financial status and property, and also their family relationships and friendships, which make them a wonderful resource for family and local history.
This is a collection of about 1000 abstracts of probate documents relating to people residing in the neighbourhood of the towns of Hungerford and Wantage in Berkshire. Since Hungerford is on the County boundary there is some spread into Wiltshire and to a lesser extent into Hampshire and Oxfordshire.
The historical period which is covered is from about 1500 up to the establishment of the Probate Registry for England & Wales in 1858.
Names of all persons mentioned in the abstracts have been indexed and amount to over 6000 references.
Post-1858 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.