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 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. The Probates After 1857 section below has a link to an article about probates after 1857.
Follow these steps 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 the Court Jurisdictions section below.
- Click a letter or span of letters for your place. This opens an article showing a table of places and the courts that had jurisdiction over them.
- Follow the steps at the top of the table to search for a will.
Court Jurisdictions by Parish
Before 1858, every town and parish in Cumberland was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. To start a search for a will, click on a letter or series of letters below.
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 Court Jurisdictions section above.
- 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
- 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.
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. A few indexes are mentioned here. Others indexes, especially if they only index the wills for one court, are mentioned on each court page.
Wills of Cumberland: Abstracts of Cumberland Probate Records pre-1858 contains for several parishes in Cumberland.
Printed or Filmed Indexes
Indexes are found in archives and in the Family History Library. Click here to see a list of the library's holdings for indexes and wills. Films can be viewed in the library or in a family history center.
Some Explanatory Notes on the Cumberland Probate Courts
The original probate records are housed in one of four record offices in the following cities: Barrow, Kendall, Carlisle, and Whitehaven. Links to these offices are found on the Cumbria Archive Service site.
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.