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Wills & Probate Records

After 1858

In 1858 – the organisation of probate changed from being administered by the Church to the State (ie the system we have today).

Since 1858 – Probate has been administered by the Government via local Probate Registries.

To find a will or administration (admon) you will need an approximate date of death,  www.freebmd.org.uk (up to approx. 1960s); Ancestry & Find My Past (up to 2000+).

A calendar of wills which includes a short summary of the deceased, their address, the value of the estate and the name of the Executor is available on some websites, eg England & Wales National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations)  on www.ancestry.co.uk.

Wills can now be purchased from the Probate Registry for £10.00.  


There are three sections:

  • Wills & Probate 1996 to present;
  • Wills & Probate 1858-1996;
  • Soldier’s Wills

Wills & Probate 1858-1996 has a basic search only the other two categories have an Advanced search option where additional optional information can be added to narrow down the results.

Before 1858

Before 1858:   Probate was administered by the church courts according to a hierarchy of the value and location of the estate.  In Glamorgan the hierarchy is as follows:

  • Local Diocesan Courts – eg Llandaff, St Davids 
  • Archbishop (Prerogative) Courts – Canterbury (PCC) and York(PCY)
  • Some areas of the country also have additional courts called, Peculiars and Archdeaconries

Which Court?

Location of estate

Type of court that proved the will

Estate valued at less than £5 in one diocese

Bishop’s   (Diocesan) Court

If the goods were valued at more than £5 (or £10 within  London), in more than one diocese

Archbishop's prerogative - (PCC) Canterbury   or (PCY) York

Property in more than one Archbishopric

Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC)

Within one Archdeaconry

Archdeacon's court

NB 1942 – Many original copies of wills destroyed in bombing of Exeter Probate Registry – ie Somerset, Devon and Cornwall but some copies survive in local Record Office collections and are indexed online eg Devon Wills Project.

Diocesan (Bishop’s) Courts

Welsh Records - On line at National Library of Wales – free to view www.llgc.org.uk

English Records – Local Record Offices. Google ‘Online Probate Indexes’ for coverage.

Ancestry.co.uk - Digital copies of London & Gloucester Diocesan Wills

Find My Past - Cheshire, London indexes and some digital copies.

Find My Past now also includes PCY indexes etc from Origins.net – online maps of court jurisdictions and National Wills Index

Higher Courts

  • Prerogative Court of Canterbury

Covers southern part of England and Wales.   PCC is the higher court – if property owned in York and Bristol – will would be proved in the PCC.

www.nationalarchives.gov.ukindex available free to view Documents Online. Can be purchased and downloaded £3.50 each.   NB – Also includes Navy wills. **Digital copies of PCC wills now on Ancestry.co.uk.**

  • Prerogative Court of York

Records at Borthwick Institute, York, (indexes now online at Find My Past). Copies can be purchased from the Borthwick Institute.


Other Probate Records: Death Duty Registers 1796-1811 – National Archives: Documents Online and Find My Past


Other Probate Documents: Wills, Administrations & Inventories. Also Chancery Proceedings

Search Find My Past and Ancestry catalogues for Probate Indexes.



Text Box: Will order
Information about person   I ….. being of …………
Disposition of body ………to be buried in Christian ………….
Individual legacies listed:
Residuary legatee
Signature/mark of 
Probate granted date and place