Cornwall 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 Cornwall was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. When looking for the will of an ancestor who lived or owned property in Cornwall, search the courts in the order given. Search indexes first. To find indexes, click on the name of a court.
Here is a list of the Cornwall parishes beginning with letters A and the pre-1858 courts that had jurisdiction over them. For other parishes, click on the link for the first letter of the parish name:
1. In the first column, find the place where your ancestor lived.
2. In the second column, click on the court name to learn where to find the records and indexes.
3. If the record isn't found in the primary court, search the records for the secondary courts in the order listed.
4. The last court to search is the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
If no will is found, your ancestor may not have left one.
Cornwall Probate Courts
The following probate courts had some jurisdiction over the county of Cornwall prior to 1858:
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Cornwall
- Episcopal Consistory Court of Exeter
- Court of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter Cathedral
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean of St. Buryan
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
Any probate that was disputed and could not be settled by the county courts could be sent to these higher appeals courts:
The Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury also served as an appeals court.
|PARISH||PRIMARY COURT||SECONDARY COURTS - IN SEARCH ORDER|
|Advent||Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Archdeaconry of Cornwall||2 - Court of the Bishop of Exeter (Episcopal Consistory)|
|Altarnon||Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Archdeaconry of Cornwall||2 - Court of the Bishop of Exeter (Episcopal Consistory)|
|Antony||Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Archdeaconry of Cornwall||2 - Court of the Bishop of Exeter (Episcopal Consistory)|
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
- http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~sterth/wills_by_name_ac.htm (Cornish Will Abstracts 1690 - 1859, for St. Erth and other places)
- http://webs.lanset.com/azazella/cornish_database.html (Cornish Genealogy Database, for surnames from the parishes in the south-west of Cornwall – the Penwith district and peninsula with its government seat in Penzance, and the Kerrier district and Lizard peninsula with its government seat in Camborne.)
- http://members.iimetro.com.au/%7erosewarne/probate1.PDF (Cornish Probate Records, selected surnames, A – M)
- http://members.iimetro.com.au/%7erosewarne/probate2.PDF (Cornish Probate Records, selected surnames, N – Z)
 Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills (1384 - 1858) These include many Cornwall people.
Court of the Archdeaconry of Cornwall
Original wills, administrations and inventories for the Consistorial Court of the Archdeaconry of Cornwall, 1579-1859 
Calendar of wills, administrations and accounts relating to the counties of Cornwall and Devon in the Connotorial Archidiaconal Court of Cornwall : (with which are included the records of the Royal Peculiar of St Burian) now preserved in the district probate registry at Bodwin Contents: Contents: v. 56. 1569-1699 -- v. 59. 1700-1799. 
Cornish probate records at Cornwall Record Office, 1800-1857
Index to Cornish probate records, 1600-1649 
Unproved Archdeaconry Court Wills are listed in this book 
Index to Cornish estate duty and Deanery of St. Buryan wills The Royal Peculiar of the Deanery of St. Buryan included the parishes of St. Buryan, St. Levan and Sennen.  See above v. 56 amd v.59
"The present list is an amalgamation of the main series of Archdeaconry of Cornwall wills and bonds with those of the Royal Peculiar of St. Buryan and the Estate Duty Office wills (the latter from 1812 to 1857)." 
Calendars of wills and administrations relating to the counties of Devon and Cornwall : proved in the Court of the principal registry of the Bishop of Exeter, 1559-1799. And of Devon only, proved in the Court of the Archdeaconry of Exeter, 1540-1799.  
Transcript of Devonshire wills, 1600-1800. This court also covered some Cornwall parishes and these abstracts may include wills of Cornwall residents. 
Index to wills, copies and related papers [of the County of Devon], 1200-1900's It may include persons from Cornwall 
Cornish wills in Prerogative Court of Canterbury Contents: v. 1. 1383-1558, A-J -- v. 2. K-Z -- v. 3. 1558-1583. 
Indexes Archdeaconry of Cornwall 1796-1811 Death Duty Registers 
Index to Cornish estate duty and Deanery of St. Buryan wills 
Wills for the Diocese of Exeter (County of Devon), 1812-1857 The copies were made for the Legacy Duty Department of the Stamp Duty Office, and from 1848 on to its successor, The Estate Duty Office of the Inland Revenue Office. They consist of wills proved in the Principal Registry and Consistory Court of the Bishop of Exeter, and in the various Archdeaconry Courts. 
Estate duty wills, Cornwall, 1811-1857 
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. 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.