The Court of Arches of the Archbishop of Canterbury
Step by Step
1. First search each index (see below) to help you more quickly find the will, writing down each detail cited in the indexed entry.
2. Proceed to "Records" (below) to determine what probate records exist for this court.
3. Contact or visit the Guildhall Library or, hire a professional record searcher to view these records on your behalf. Officials may send upon request a list of record searchers.
4. Or, visit The Family History Library, or, one of its 4,500 satellite family history centers worldwide and search indexes to probate records; then with the information obtained from the index[es] you can search more quickly the original wills and admons also on microfilm via any family history centers near you.
Printed and Published Indexes
The Court of Arches of the Archbishop of Canterbury probate records are well-covered with the following indexes: 1660 to 1913 published by the List and Index Society, London.
- A comprehensive will and admon index to London (including Greater L.) for the years covering 1750-1858 for surnames A-F, is Dr David Wright's London Probate Index on CDs and are available for purchase [online. He will provide a searcher service for those seeking surnames G-Z in his indexes at a set fee.
- The following published index found in the publications of the List and Index Society covers court cases in this court from 1660-1913--which includes probate records for the above-mentioned three City of London parishes: Indexof cases in the records of the Court of Arches at Lambeth Palace Library, 1660-1913. This volume and almost the whole set of volumes (well over 200 volumes) to the excellent series is likely to be found at many major academic (university) libraries throughout North America and in especially the U.S.
Original Handwritten Indexes:
There are "typed script" indexes at the Lambeth Palace Library.
Microfilmed Indexes at the Family History Library:
Outside of the above indexes the closest recourse to quick-finding wills of this court may be in the following two published works available at the Family History Library:
- Act Books (see below) covering years from *1635 to 1818
- Court of Arches - an Index of cases in the records of the Court of Arches, 1660-1913
- These are on 105 microfilms and may be viewed at the Family History Library and may be circulated to any one of its satellite Family History Centers.
Lambeth Palace Library
Lambeth Palace Road
London SE1 7JU
Tel: + 44 (0)20 7898 1400
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7928 7932
Post: The Librarian, Lambeth Palace Library, London, SE1 7JU, UK
These records may be accessed by contacting the record archives office at the above address. The records in their archives library include the following ones:
Testamentary records 1660-1913
Act books 1635-1818
Muniment Books 1554-1850
Black Book of the Arches - No date given
Assignation Books 1763-1875
Minute Books 1862-1883
Personal Answers 1661-1798
Family History Library Records
Although The Court of Arches of the Archbishop of Canterbury was an "appeals court" for the Province of Canterbury, it also held peculiar jurisdiction for the probating of wills and administrations (admons) in three London parishes within the City. These parishes were St Gregory by St Paul's (Cathedral), St Giles without Cripplegate and St Helen Bishopsgate. Records of this probate court date from 1635 to 1913, although most testators in this jurisdiction filed their wills with the Prerogative Court of Canterbury between 1750 to 1858. Be certain to check the Peculiar Court of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's, jurisdiction as well.
If no will is found in this court, then recourse should next be taken to search the wills and admons of the Peculiar Court of the Dean and Chapter of St Pauls (Cathedral).
- Cliff Webb, My Ancestors were Londoners: A Guide to London Sources for Family Historians (London: Society of Genealogists, 2009), 35.