Derbyshire Probate Records

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England Gotoarrow.png Derbyshire

The following article is about probate records in the county of Derbyshire. 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.

Getting Started

Follow these steps to look for a probate record before 1858:

  1. Discover when and where your ancestor died. If you don’t know, use the approximate date and place where they lived.
  2. Go to the Court Jurisdictions section below.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 Derbyshire was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary ecclesiastical court and one or more secondary ecclesiastical courts. Most of the county was under the primary jurisdiction of the Court of the Bishop of Lichfield (Episcopal Consistory) and the secondary jurisdiction of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, which also was the highest court in the country.  However there were some exceptions.

Click here for an alphabetical list of the parishes of Derbyshire that were exceptions to the norm, with the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over them.

Derbyshire Probate Courts

Before 1858, probate of estates of deceased persons was handled by ecclesiastical courts of the Church of England. The following ecclesiastical courts had some probate jurisdiction over Derbyshire before 1858:

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.

Appeals Courts

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.

Probate Indexes and Calendars

Registered wills and original wills, administrations and inventories, 1494-1860, and, act books, 1532-1638 for Diocese of Lichfield Episcopal Consistory Court [1] These are calendars that cover most of county Derby.

Probate Indexes Online

Before looking for a will, you should search an index. 

A general will index for the Diocese of Lichfield exists online, a scanned edition of P.W. Phillimore's publicationby the British Record Society in 1892,Calendars of wills administrations in the Consistory court of the bishop of Lichfield. This single index consolidates most Staffordshire wills of the various probate court jurisdictions from 1514-1652 for the Diocese of Lichfield and to 1790 for Staffordshire smaller peculiar courts  [2]

  • Derbyshire WILLS, 1525-1928 (browse 35,066 Wills and 5,093 different surnames; pertaining to much more than just people from the parish of Wirksworth):

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 you locate a will. For more information, go to Estate Duty Records.

 Probates After 1857s

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.