Court of the Bishop of Lincoln (Episcopal Consistory)
The Diocese of Lincoln (which has existed since before 1088 and was at that time one of the largest diocese in England) covers the whole of Lincolnshire and most of Nottinghamshire. After the Reformation [in the 1530's during the reign of Henry VIII], it was divided into the Archdeaconries of Lincoln and Stow in Lincolnshire, and the Archdeaconry of Nottingham. The Archdeaconry of Lincoln covered the largest portion of that county. The Court of the Bishop of Lincoln had primary probate jurisdiction in the Archdeaconry of Lincoln and secondary jurisdiction in the Archdeaconry of Stow (see also the Court of the Archdeaconry of Stow).
The Archdeaconry of Bedfordshire was in the Diocese of Lincoln until 1837. Therefore before that time, the Court of the Bishop of Lincoln (Episcopal Consistory) had secondary jurisdiction over the whole of Bedfordshire except the peculiars of Biggleswade and Leighton Buzzard.
Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire
This court also had superior jurisdiction over the peculiar courts of Aylesbury and Buckingham (Lincoln prebends in the county of Buckingham), and the peculiar courts of Banbury, Bierton, Thame, Cropredy, King's Sutton, and Horley and Hornton (in the county of Oxford), which were under the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln.
From 1479-1609, this court had superior jurisdiction over the parishes under the primary jurisdiction of the Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of Lincoln and of the Archdeacon in the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon, except for the prebends. It continued to have superior jurisiction over many Huntingdonshire parishes until the end of 1857.
The Lincolnshire Archives Office has an index to Lincolnshire wills, 1701-1800, in PDF format that can be searched online, and other indexes to probate records.
The Family History Library has indexes including:
- Indexes on the films with the records (see above).
- Various published indexes including:
- Calendars of Lincoln wills, 1320-1659
- Index of Lincoln Consistory Court wills and inventories, 1660-1700
- Lincolnshire Archives index of Lincoln Consistory Court wills, 1801-1858 (on microfiche)
- Calendars of administrations in the Consistory Court of Lincoln, 1540-1659
- A Wills beneficiary index
The library's holdings of probate records for Lincolnshire are listed in the Family History Library Catalog by using the Place Search for:
England, Lincoln - Probate records
England, Lincoln - Probate records - Indexes
The original records are in the collection of the Lincolnshire Archives Office in the city of Lincoln. The records include:
- Original and register copy wills, 1506-1858
- Act books, 1553-1701
- Administrations, 1540-1857
- Inventories, 1508-1831
For research assistance, contact the archives office.
The records have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library and through family history centers. These include:
Steps to Find a Will
1. If you do not have access to the Family History Library or a family history center, contact the Lincolnshire Archives Office and request a search of their index to wills for an entry for your ancestor. If they find a reference, they will inform you how to obtain a copy of the will.
2. If you have access to the Family History Library or a family history center, search (or order on microfilm and search) the indexes to the court with jurisdiction over your parish of interest. If you find a reference to your ancestor's will, go to the library's online catalog entry for the court's probate records (see above), and match the index reference to the film for the correct year and record. For instance, "Will index vol. 9-11, 1766-1857," on film #0198799, gives the following reference:
- 1784, Brumley, William - Barton
This indicates that William Brumley of Barton died and left a will proven in 1784.
3. Go to the library's online catalog entry for Wills and administrations of the Episcopal Consistory Court of Lincoln, England, 1506-1857 for the Court of the Bishop of Lincoln and view the film notes. Browse down the film notes until you come to (as in the case of our example) "Registered wills v. 263, 1784" on film #0199069. Go to the film cabinets and retrieve the film, put it on a film reader, and turn to the will in alphabetical order.
4. If you are using a family history center, use the library's catalog as before, and order the film into the center for your use.
5. The Family History Library and family history centers have copying facilities so you may make a copy of your ancestor's probate record.