Cambridgeshire Probate Records
For an explanation of probate records in England, click here.
Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his/her heirs.
In order to find a probate record for your ancestor, you must answer two questions:
- When did your ancestor die?
- Where did your ancestor live or own property?
A key date is 1858, when probate authority was taken from the ecclesiatical courts of the Church of England and given to the civil government.
- If your ancestor died before 1858, his/her probate would have been proven by an ecclesiatical court and it is important to know where he/she lived, as that will determine which courts had jurisdiction.
- If you know where your ancestor lived before 1858, you should go to the Court Jurisdictions section below to determine what courts had jurisdiction over your ancestor's place of residence.
- Beginning in 1858, probate authority was vested in the Principal Probate Registry system. For more information, scroll to the Post-1857 Probate Records section at the bottom of the page.
Once you have answered the two questions and determined the courts, look for indexes. Indexes will be found on the individual court pages (when you click on a court name) or in the Probate Indexes section below.
Cambridgeshire Probate Courts
Here is a list of the courts that had some probate jurisdiction over the parishes of Cambridgeshire:
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Ely (Diocese of Ely)
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Norfolk (Diocese of Norwich)
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Sudbury (Diocese of Norwich)
- Court of the Bishop of Ely (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Bishop of Norwich (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of London (Essex and Hertfordshire Division)
- Prerogative Court of the Archibishop of Canterbury
Some Explanatory Notes on the Cambridgeshire Courts
Before 1858, probate of the estates of deceased persons was handled by eccelesiastical courts of the Church of England. Every parish was under the jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts.
Below is a list of Cambridgeshire towns and parishes beginning with the letter A and the pre-1858 courts that had jurisdiction over them. For other places, click on the link for the letter a parish name begins with:
|PARISH||PRIMARY COURT||SECONDARY COURTS - IN SEARCH ORDER|
|Abington Pigotts||Court of the Archdeaconry of Ely||2 - Court of the Bishop of Ely (Episcopal Consistory)|
|Arrington||Court of the Bishop of Ely (Episcopal Consistory)||2 - Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury|
|Ashley with Silverley||Court of the Archdeaconry of Sudbury|| 2 - Pre-1837: Court of the Consistory of Norwich
2 - Post-1836: Court of the Bishop of Ely (Episcopal Consistory)
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
CAMBRIDGESHIRE WILLS SURNAME INDEX pre-1858
Post-1858 Probate Records
Beginning in 1858, the government took over the settlement of estates and all wills are now probated through the Principal Probate Registry system. The system consists of 11 district registry offices and 18 sub-district registries, located throughout England and Wales, and the principal registry office located in London. The records are available through the office of Her Majesty's Courts Service. To learn more, go to the HMCS website.
A country-wide surname index to the records is available, so it is much easier to look for post-1857 wills. The indexes for 1858-1957 and the records for 1858-1925 are available on microfilm at the Family History Library.