Cornwall Probate Records
- 1 Getting Started
- 2 Cornwall Probate Courts
- 3 Probate Indexes Online
- 4 Probate Indexes
- 5 Estate Duty Records
- 6 Probates After 1857
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 Cornwall. 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 Sussex, follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Cornwall. 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 Cornwall fell under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. Click on a link below for the letter the parish begins withB, C, D-K, L, M-O, P-R, S, T-Z.
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
- Interregnum, 1649-1660, because the Prerogative Court was the only court.
- Property in more than one diocese in the Province of Canterbury.
- Property in both the Province of Canterbury and Province of York.
- People who died 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 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.