Cumberland Probate Records
The following article is about probate records in the county of Cumberland. For general information about English probate records, click here.
Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his or her heirs. The Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process until to 1858. Beginning in 1858, authority over probate matters was taken from ecclesiastical courts and put under the civil authority of the Principal Probate Registry. The Post-1857 Probate Records section below contains links to additional information about the records of this court.
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 Court Jurisdictions section below.
- Click a letter or span of letters for your place. This opens a jurisdictions table.
- Follow the instructions on the jurisdictions table page.
Cumberland Probate Courts
The following ecclesiastical courts had some probate jurisdiction over the county of Cumberland prior to 1858. Click on a court name to learn more about its records, indexes and finding a probate for your ancestor. To determine which court, go to the Court Jurisdictions section below.
- Court of the Bishop of Carlisle (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Richmond Western Deaneries - Copeland
- Court of the Bishop of Durham (Episcopal Consistory)
- Exchequer and Prerogative Courts of the Archbishop of York
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:
Some Explanatory Notes on the Cumberland Probate Courts
Cumberland has four record offices where probate material is kept. These are in Barrow, Kendall, Carlisle, and Whitehaven. Links to these offices are found on the Cumbria Archive Service site.
Before 1858, every town and parish in Cumberland was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. When searching for the will of an ancestor, find the name of the town or parish where he/she lived in the jurisdictions lists. Go to the list of places by clicking on a letter or series of letters below.
Before looking for a will, you should search a probate index. It will save time and give a reference to finding a copy of a will.
Wills of Cumberland: Abstracts of Cumberland Probate Records pre-1858 contains for several parishes in Cumberland.
Printed or Filmed Indexes
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.
Post-1857 Probate Records
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.