Buckinghamshire Probate Records
Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his or her heirs. The term probate refers to a collection of documents, including wills, administrations (also called admons), inventories, and act books. The Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process until to 1858. This article explains about probates and how to get started to search for a will.
Beginning in 1858, authority over probate matters was taken from ecclesiastical courts and put under the civil authority of the Principal Probate Registry. The Probates After 1857 section below has a link to an article about probates after 1857.
Follow these steps to look for a probate record before 1858:
- Discover when and where your ancestor died. If you don’t know, use the approximate date and place where they lived.
- Go to the Court Jurisdictions section below.
- Click a letter or span of letters for your place. This opens an article showing a table of places and the courts that had jurisdiction over them.
- Follow the steps at the top of the table to search for a will.
Court Jurisdictions by Parish
Before 1858, every town and parish in Buckinghamshire was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. Most of Buckinghamshire was under the primary jurisdiction of the Court of the Archdeaconry of Buckingham, hence the majority of genealogical searches will be in the records of that court and its superior (or secondary) courts.
For a list of Buckinghamshire parishes that were exceptions, click here.
Search the courts in the order given. Search indexes first. To see a list of indexes, click on a court name or go to the Probate Indexes section below.
Buckinghamshire Probate Courts
Most of Buckinghamshire was under the pre-1858 probate jurisdiction of the Court of the Archdeaconry of Buckingham. 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.
- Court of the Archdeaconry of St. Albans
- Court of the Bishop of Lincoln (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Bishop of London (Episcopal Consistory)
- Courts of the Bishop and Archdeaconry of Oxford (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln
- Court of the Peculiar of Aylesbury
- Court of the Peculiar of Banbury
- Court of the Peculiar of Bierton
- Court of the Peculiar of Buckingham
- Court of the Peculiar of Monks Risborough
- Court of the Peculiar of the Provost of Eton
In addition, the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury had jurisdiction over the whole of England and specifically in the following cases.
- Wealthy individuals
- People who owned property in more than one county
- Military and naval personnel
- People who lived or owned property outside England, including British citizens and others who held property in England.
Any probate that was disputed and could not be settled by the county courts could go to these high appeals courts:
The Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury could also serve as an appeals court.
Between 1483-1858, the Court of the Archdeaconry of Buckingham proved over 35,000 wills of ordinary people of Buckinghamshire. The Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies has an index to the records in its collection. The index includes wills and some administrations of people who may have died without leaving a will (administrations not complete).
Estate Duty Records
Starting in 1796, a tax or death duty was payable on estates over a certain value. Estate duty abstracts may add considerable information not found elsewhere. Between 1813-1858 estate duty indexes may help locate a will. For more information, go to Estate Duty Records.
Probates After 1857
Beginning in 1858, the government took over the settlement of estates and all wills are now probated through the Principal Probate Registry system. For more information, go to Principal Probate Registry.