Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of London (Essex and Hertfordshire Division)

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Return to the Essex Probate Records page.

Location of Records of This Court

Essex Record Office
Archives & Museums
Wharf Road
Chelmsford CM12 6YT
Telephone (01245) 244644
E-mail: ero.enquiry@essexcc.gov.uk 

Website: Essex County Record Office 

History and Background

The probate records of the Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of London (Essex & Hertfordshire Division) date from 1431 to 1858 and cover 104 parishes in Essex. The records were transferred to the Diocese of London in 1858 and held there until 1958 when they were transferred back to the Chelmsford County Hall, where they reside today.


Before looking for a will, be certain to search for available indexes. County Essex is well-covered with comprehensive indexes for most of its probate courts as listed below.


Starting Your Search in Indexes

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 "Probate Records of This Court" (below) to determine what original probate records exist for this court.
3. Contact or visit the Essex County 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.

Probate Indexes - General

 Online Indexes

A general will index for Essex County is available online.  (Choose 'Index Searches' then search by 'People' for the name of the deceased.)  This single index consolidates Essex county wills of the various probate court jurisdictions, including the various smaller Peculiar Court jurisdictions into one database.

Printed Indexes

If the indexes on the Internet do not produce possible wills for your ancestors, look in the published indexes listed here.

The Essex County Record Office compiled and published a complete surname index covering wills and administrations from eight Essex County probate courts including this court.  The index is available in three volumes at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City:

  • Emmison, F. G., ed.  [Index to] Wills at Chelmsford.  London: s.n., 1961, by the British Record Society.  (FHL book 942 B4b vols. 78, 79 & 84; also on microfilms 0962739 and 0962740, and on microfiche 6073796, 6073797, and 6073802.) 

NOTE:  Emmison's index is to the records of six courts including the Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of London, which is designated by the letter 'B' in the index references.  A second letter designation used is either 'R' for registered wills or 'W' for original wills.  Each index reference also includes two separate numbers.  The first is the item number of the will and the second is the number for the box or set in which the will is included.  A sample reference is:   

  • 1580 -- Abbott, George, gentleman, East Tilbury -- 43 BW 2

This means that George Abbott's original will is item 43 in box 2 of the wills for the Commissary of the Bishop of London.  If you use the collection of the Family History LibvrearyYou can then go to the FHL online catalog, to

Other handwritten indexes are listed below in the "Indexes" section.  Click on the court name links on the Essex County Probate home page.


Original Handwritten Indexes

Indexes to the Probate Acts of Wills and Administrations (Admons) exist as follows:

  • Registered Wills:                                    1496-1585; 1667-1726
  • Un-Registered Wills:                               1585-1725
  • Wills & Admininstrations:                        1688-1858
  • Calendars (first-letter of surname index)    1495-1858


In addition to the calendars, some of the original (unregistered) wills and the registered wills are alphabetically arranged at the Record Office and are likewise organized on the microfilmed probates for this court at the Family History Library. Visit the Essex County Archives or the Family History Library Catalog under Essex, England to determine availability of records.

Microfilmed Indexes at the Family History Library

Original (Unregistered) Wills and Registered Wills as well as extant indexes for this court are available on microfilm at the Family History Library and may be circulated to each of its satellite Family History Centers (see Court of the Archdeaconry of Essex), or go to Family History Library Catalog entry for this court.

Searching for probates in this court

CALENDARS (first-letter-of-surname index) of Wills and Administration Acts are divided in to four calendar books: 

  • Calendar  Vol. 1:  1495-1585
  • Calendar  Vol. 2:  1585-1621
  • Calendar  Vol. 3:  1621-1725
  • Calendar  Vol. 4:  1670-1726
  • Calendar  Vol. 5:  1688-1783
  • Calendar  Vol. 6:  1784-1858


In addition to the general index above, many of the earlier or pre-1585 filmed volumes also contain a separate index to the wills and administrations. For an index to the post-1585 period, search the online  county-wide index at the Essex County Record Office website.


REGISTERED WILLS Registered Wills with alpha indexes preceding the wills date from 1500-1585<br>

Registered Wills (un-indexed) 1667-1858

ORIGINAL WILLS 

Original Wills and Administration (Admons) - unindexed - 1583-1652; 1660-1858 <br>

ADMINISTRATIONS (at Essex County Record Office)

1678-1857

ACT BOOKS 

Probate and Admininstration Acts 1663-1858 

These records are located at the Essex County Record Office (see address above). For determining the Family History Library's microfilmed collection of the Archdeaconry Court of Colchester, see the Family History Library Catalog entry for this court.


Strategies, Tips, Other?

Administrations for the years 1678 to 1857 are available at the Essex County Record Office, Chelmsford, U.K. The Family History Library has on microfilm, many of the admininstrations (or Admons).

To view a list of parishes and their respective probate court jurisdiction, see the "Essex Parishes Parishes and Their Probate Jurisdictions" on the main page for Essex Probate Records.

Before looking for a will, you should search an index to more quickly find a probate record for an ancestor.