Buckinghamshire Probate Records
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 Buckinghamshire. For a general description of England probate records, click here.
1858 to the Present
Beginning in 1858, the Principal Probate Registry had the authority for probating estates. Click on the link to learn more.
Before 1858, Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process. To search for a pre-1858 probate record in Buckinghamshire, follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Buckinghamshire. Search these indexes first:
- http://www.familyhistoryonline.net/database/SussexFHGprobate.shtml -- compiled by the Sussex Family History Group which has transcribed the names of 12,300 individuals found in Sussex wills, including testators, executors, beneficiaries or witnesses. The information recorded includes name, date and place.
- The Sussex Record Society has published four volumes of indexes to Sussex wills, and these can be viewed on their website. They are arranged by parish then by surname.
- Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills (1384-1858).
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 Buckinghamshire 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.
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. Click on the court name link above to learn about the records.
For a list of Buckinghamshire parishes that were exceptions to the above, and the courts that had jurisdiction over them, click here. The list of courts is also listed below in the Buckinghamshire Probate Courts.
Always 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. 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 Buckingham
- 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, as the highest court in the country, the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury had jurisdiction over the whole of England. To learn more, click on the court name link.
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.
If you do not find a probate record in the primary or secondary courts, try the Appeals Courts.
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).