Devon Probate Records

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Getting Started[edit | edit source]

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 Devon. See England Probate Records for a general description of probate records in England.

1858 to the Present[edit | edit source]

Beginning in 1858, the Principal Probate Registry had the authority for probating estates. Click on the link to learn more.

Online Records[edit | edit source]

Before 1858[edit | edit source]

Before 1858, Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process. To search for a pre-1858 probate record in Devon, follow these steps:

Step 1. Search Indexes[edit | edit source]

The majority of the records of Devonshire courts were destroyed during World War II when the Exeter Registry was bombed. Because of this loss, dozens of projects have attempted to gather, abstract, transcribe and index any wills which could be located from any source, including solicitors' offices. Copies were obtained of any abstracts or transcripts made before the destruction of the records. Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Devon. Search these indexes first:

  • Devon Wills Project -- provides an online consolidated index of Devon wills, administrations and inventories, covering (and distinguishing between) original documents, probate copies, transcripts and abstracts. The project involves systematically transcribing information obtained from various "sources", i.e. numerous private publications of abstracts or transcripts, and various indexes, calendars, catalogues, etc. The period covered is up to 1858, and wills, etc., are taken as related to Devon if the testator is identified to be or can be assumed as being of Devon, even if the will was proved elsewhere. The index covers only testators, not other named individuals, and efforts to create a consolidated index which covers all individual sources is not yet complete.) Individual sources are linked to from the Devon Wills Project page.
  • The Wiltshire online will index includes Pre-1858 for CHARDSTOCK and UFFCULME parishes, and a few wills from other parishes from the diocese of Salisbury that used to cover not only Wiltshire but also part of Berkshire, Dorset and Devon.

Published indexes exist (except for the Archdeaconry Court of Totnes) as well as collections of abstract of some records. Most, if not all, of these sources are included in the online Devon Wills Project. Here is a list of published indexes available through the Family History Library:

  • Wills for the Diocese of Exeter (County of Devon), 1812-1857 The copies were made for the Legacy Duty Department of the Stamp Duty Office, and from 1848 on to its successor, The Estate Duty Office of the Inland Revenue Office. They consist of wills proved in the Principal Registry and Consistory Court of the Bishop of Exeter, and in the various Archdeaconry Courts.

Uffculme is a Peculiar Court and has indexes as follows: See Film 97429 18th court listed and 97430 17th court listed using following link. Wills, original and registered of the peculiar court of the Dean and parish of Sarum, Wiltshire, 1560-1857

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[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

Once you have identified the parish where your ancestor lived or died, learn which courts had jurisdiction over it then search indexes for those courts. Every town and parish in Devon fell under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. Click on a link below for the letter the parish begins with.

 A  B  C  D-E  F-H  I-K  L-M  N-O  P-R  S  T-V  W-Z

Step 4. Obtain a copy of the probate record[edit | edit source]

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 the  Family 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.

Devonshire Probate Courts[edit | edit source]

Manuscript Records
[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has Calendars of wills and administrations relating to the counties of Devon and Cornwall : proved in the Court of the principal registry of the Bishop of Exeter, 1559-1799. And of Devon only, proved in the Court of the Archdeaconry of Exeter, 1540-1799

Olive Moger Collection[edit | edit source]

A professional genealogist, she abstracted many probate records from most of the Devon courts prior to World War II. The Family History Library has Transcript of Devonshire wills, 1600-1800.

Oswyn Murray's collection[edit | edit source]

Includes abstracts of probate records from various courts about testators from Devon before the destruction in World War II. The Family History Library has Oswyn Murray collection of wills, abt. 1600-1800

Other collections in the Family History Library
[edit | edit source]