Dorset 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 Dorset. 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 Dorset, follow these steps:

Step 1. Search Indexes[edit | edit source]

Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Dorset. Search these indexes first:

Online Records

The place to start online searches is They have digitized and indexed Dorset's wills and administrations (1565-1858) (£). (Includes Bristol Consistory, Canford and Poole Peculiars, Corfe Castle Peculiar, Archdeaconry of Dorset, Milton Abbas Peculiar, Sturminster Marshall Peculiar, and Wimborne Peculiar).

Additional records are included in the Wiltshire probate index, 1540-1858.

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. 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. The Mills website includes records from this collection for Swanage, Langton Matravers, Worth Matravers, Studland, and Church Knowle parishes.

Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills (1384 - 1858) are available online for a fee.

Online Dorset Administrations Proved in the PCC Index 1559-1725 - free[1]
1559-1571 1621-1625 1653-1654 (G-O surnames) 1685-1690
1572-1581 (1583) 1626-1628 1653-1654 (P-W surnames) 1691-1693
1581-1586 1629-1631 (1633) 1655-1656 1694-1696
1587-1590 1631-1636 (1638) 1657-1658 1697-1700
1591-1595 1636-1640 1658-1659 1701-1704
1596-1599 1641-1646 1660-1666 1705-1708
1600-1604 1646-1647 1667-1670 1709-1711
1605-1610 1648-1650 1671-1674 1712-1715
1611-1614 1651-1652 1675-1679 1716-1720
1615-1620 1653-1654 (A-F surnames) 1680-1684 1721-1725

Books and Microfilm

  • A calendar of wills and administrations relating to the county of Dorset : proved in the Consistory court (Dorsetshire division) of the late diocese of Bristol, 1681-1792, and in the Archdeaconry court of Dorset, 1568-1792, and in the several peculiars, 1660-1799, all now preserved at the probate registry, Blandford. Digital versions at Google Books; FHL Book.
  • Church of England. Archdeaconry of Dorset. Court Probate records, 1568-1857 [1]
  • Indexes to Sarum peculiar courts 1462-1800 which cover Chardstock 1639-1799, Fordington 1660-1799, Lyne Regis and Halstock 1664-1799, Netherbury and Beaminster 1608-1799, Preston and Sutton Pointz 1761-1799, Yatminster and Grimston 1654-1799, and Gillingham 1658-1799 FHL Film 97430 Indexes to Sarum peculiar courts early to 1857 FHL Film 97429
  • Peculiar Court of Great Canford and Poole Probate records, 1650-1857
  • Peculiar Court Corfe Castle Probate records,1576-1846 Includes the Chapelry of Kingston
  • Peculiar Court of Sturminister Marshall Probate records, 1641-1857 Jurisdiction: Sturminister Marshall, Corfe Mullen, Hamworth and Lytchet Minister
  • Peculiar Court Wimborne Minster Probate records, 1603-1857
  • Wills at Salisbury 1464-1858 Contents: v. 122. A-K -- v. 123. K-Z.
  • Calendars of wills and administrations relating to the county of Dorset
  • The Genealogists' magazine - v. 5 (1929-1931) Miscellaneous Dorset Wills from the Episcopal Consistory Court of Sarum: A-B, 1550-1737 pages 140-141; C-F, 1550-1737, pages 172-173; F-Loc, 1555-1810, pages 209-210; Lon-RE, 1560-1805, Pages 248-249; Ri-W, 1556-1731, pages 278-280
  • Notes and queries for Somerset and Dorset - v. 27 (1955-1960) pages 229-233
  • Manorial Court of Frampton 1678-1755
  • Court books for the manor and liberty of Frampton, 1670-1881

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 Dorset 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-G    H-K    L-M    N-R    S-U    W-Y 

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:

  • Download the record from
  • Visit or contact the record office that has the original records in its collection.

Dorset Probate Courts[edit | edit source]

Most of Dorset was under the pre-1858 probate jurisdiction of the Court of the Archdeaconry of Dorset. 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.

Some Explanatory Notes on the Dorset Probate Courts[edit | edit source]

In 1836, the parish of Stockland and the Chapelry of Dalwood were transferred from the Court of the Archdeacon of Dorset to the  Court of the Archdeacon of Exeter and were united with Devon. At the same time, the parish of Thornecombe and part of the parish of Axminster were transferred from Devonshire to Dorset with a corresponding change in ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

The Salisbury prebends were inhibited triennually for six months by the Court of the Peculiar of the Dean of Salisbury.

It is known that probate records were kept for Fampton, 1678-1755, and evidently none were proved after this date; however, probates of people in this area may well be found in surrounding courts throughout the period, as well as after 1755.

It is said that Burton Bradstock was independent in probate matters, in which case there may be probate information in the Manorial Records which are still in the custody of the Lord of the Manor.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. George S. Fry, 'Dorset Administrations,' Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries, Vols. 2-6 (1891-1899). Digitised by Internet Archive and Google Books.