Hertfordshire Probate Records
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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 Hertfordshire. 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.
- 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 Hertfordshire, follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Hertfordshire. Search these indexes first:
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
Printed indexes to wills at the Hertfordshire Record Office:
- The Hertford Record Office hold manuscript indexes and calendars of probate records. Contact their office for further details regarding their collections
- Beryl Crawley and Cliff Webb, ed. Wills at Hertford. London 2007, the British Record Society. (FHL book 942 B4b vol. 120. The Hertford County Record Office wills indexing project under the auspices of the above authors on behalf of the Index Library compiled by far the most comprehensive wills index for Hertfordshire; available at the British Record Society website.
Printed indexes to Hertfordshire wills (a few) held in the Essex County Record Office:
- Emmison, F. G., ed. [Index to] Wills at Chelmsford. London: s.n., 1961, the British Record Society. (FHL book 942 B4b vols. 78, 79 and 84; also on microfilms 0962739 and 0962740, and on microfiche 6073796, 6073797, and 6073802.)
Other printed indexes may be 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 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
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 Hertfordshire fell under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. Click on a link below for the letter the parish begins Before 1858, every town and parish in Hertfordshire was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary ecclesiastical court and one or more secondary ecclesiastical courts.
To see a list of Hertfordshire places and the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over them, click on a letter link:
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 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.
Hertfordshire Probate Courts
The following ecclesiastical courts had some pre-1858 probate jurisdiction within the county. Click on a court name for information about records and indexes.
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Buckingham
- Court of the Archdeaconry of St. Albans
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Middlesex
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon (Herts/Hitchen div.)
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon (Hunts div.)
- Court of the Bishop of Lincoln (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Bishop of London (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's Cathedral
- Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of London (Essex and Hertfordshire Division)