Court of the Bishop of Bristol (Episcopal Consistory)
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.
Step By Step
1. First search each index (see below) to help you more quickly find the will, writing down each detail cited in the indexed entry.
2. Proceed to the "Records" (below) to determine what probate records exist for this court.
3. Contact or visit the Bristol Record Office or, hire a professional record searcher to view these records on your behalf. Officials may send upon request a list of record searchers.
4. Visit The Family History Library, or, one of its 4,500 satellite family history centers worldwide and search indexes to probate records; then with the information obtained from the index[es] you can search more quickly the original wills and admons also on microfilm via any centers near you.
- A calendar of wills proved in the consistory court of the Bishop of Bristol, 1572-1792
- A calendar of wills in the great orphan books, 1379-1674
- Goucestershire Wills Index online
- The Bristol Record Office has an online index to wills for 1781-1858
Printed and Published Indexes:
Indexes at the Family History Library include:
- A calendar of wills, 1572-1792; and also a calendar of wills in the great orphan books, 1379-1674
- Index to wills, 1571-1858, 1874-1886
Click here for a list of other Bristol probate indexes at the Family History Library with links to their catalog entries.
The original records are deposited at the Bristol City Record Office.
- Original wills, 1546-1858
- Copy wills, 1677-1721 (about 70 total)
- Register copy wills, 1559-1572, 1767-1857
- Administration bonds, 1661-1857
- Registered administrations, 1767-1857
- Inventories, 1611-1643, 1660-1767
- Great orphan book, 1370-1612; recognizance of orphans, 1333-1700
Family History Library Records
Click here for a list of other Bristol records at the Family History Library, with links to their entries in the library catalog.
This court had primary jurisdiction over nineteen ancient parishes in the city of Bristol as well as the Gloucestershire parishes of Almondsbury, Alveston, Clifton, Compton, Greenfield, Elberton, Filton, Henbury, Horfield, Littleton-on-Severn, Mangotsfield, Olveston, St. George Bristol, Stapleton, Stoke Gifford, Westbury-on-trym, and Winterbourne St. Michael; and the parish of Abbots Leigh in Somerset.
Before 1542, Bristol was part of the Diocese of Worcester, except the parishes of St. Thomas, St. Mary Redcliffe, Temple or Holy Cross, and Abbots Leigh, which were in the Diocese of Bath and Wells. The Diocese of Gloucester was formed in 1541 and Bristol and the aforenamed parishes were incorporated to it.
Records for 1640-1660 may also be found in the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury.