Essex Probate Records
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- 1 Getting Started
- 2 Essex Probate Courts
- 3 Some Explanatory Notes on the Courts in Essex
- 4 References
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 Essex. See England Probate Records for a general description of probate records in England.
1858 to the Present
Beginning in 1858, the Principal Probate Registry had the authority for probating estates. Click on the link to learn more.
An Essex Probate (wills) beneficiary index has been compiled, currently with over 156,000 names from 1505 to 1916, at findmypast.
- 1858-1957 - England and Wales, National Index of Wills and Administrations, 1858-1957 at FamilySearch — index
Before 1858, Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process. To search for a pre-1858 probate record in Essex, follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Essex. Search these indexes first:
County-wide general will indexes for Essex County are now available online, making Essex County one of the foremost in facilitating probate research in England.
The following sites index significant portions of Essex wills:
- Essex County Record Office's outstanding wills index from early to 1857 consolidates into one single index, the county's wills. Images have been uploaded up to 1720.
- Wills Proved at Chelmsford 1400-1858. Part of the National Wills Index.
- Essex Wills Beneficiaries Index online at findmypast: 1505-1916
The Essex County Record Office previously compiled and published a complete name index covering wills and administrations from the first eight Essex County probate court jurisdictions listed above (through the Liberty of Sokens). The index is available in three volumes online through the National Wills Index and in book form at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City:
- Emmison, F. G., ed. [Index to] Wills at Chelmsford 1400-1858. 3 vols. London: s.n., 1961, by the British Record Society. Digital versions online at National Wills Index ($); FHL Book 942 B4b v. 78, 79, 84; microfilms 0962739 and 0962740; microfiche 6073796, 6073797, and 6073802.
- Transcriptions of Essex wills from various probate court jurisdictions at
Always re-visit these websites as new, updated data may periodically be posted online.
If the indexes on the Internet do not produce possible wills for your ancestors, look in the published indexes listed here.
Other printed indexes are found listed on the court pages. Click on the court name links above.
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
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 are two outstanding topographical dictionaries online:
- Vision of Britain - the 1870 Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales online
- British-History - has Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of England
These gazetteers 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
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 Sussex fell under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. Here are links to an alphabetical list of Essex parishes containing a prioritized list of courts with jurisdiction over each. To see which courts to search for probates of persons living in or owning property in particular parish, click on the letter the parish name begins with.
Step 4. Obtain a copy of the probate record
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 theFamily 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.
Essex Probate Courts
The following ecclesiastical courts had some probate jurisdiction over the county of Essex prior to 1858. Click on a court name to learn about records and indexes.
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Essex
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Colchester
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Middlesex (Essex & Hertfordshire Division)
- Court of the Bishop of London (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of London (Essex & Hertfordshire Division)
- Court of the Peculiar of Good Easter
- Court of the Peculiar of Writtle with Roxwell
- Court of the Peculiar of the Deanery of Bocking
- Court of the Peculiar of the Liberty of the Sokens
- Court of the Peculiar of Havering-atte-Bower (or Hornchurch)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster (Abbey)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral
- Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury
Some Explanatory Notes on the Courts in Essex
Probate records for the first eight courts listed above are located at the Essex Record Office. The additional four courts' records are located in Greater London-based record offices (click links to view).
Records and indexes for each court are also available in the collection of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Search the FamilySearch Catalog for the title of the court or the court as an author.
- 'Where there's a will: major update to Essex Ancestors,' Essex Record Office Blog, 30 October 2014, http://www.essexrecordofficeblog.co.uk/where-theres-a-will-major-update-to-essex-ancestors/.