Devon Probate Records
The following article is about probate records in the county of Devon, also called Devonshire. For general information about probate records in England, click here.
- 1 Getting Started
- 2 Devonshire Probate Courts
- 3 Some Explanatory Notes on the Devonshire Courts
- 4 Court Jurisdictions
- 5 Probate Indexes Online
- 6 Manuscript Records
- 7 Estate Duty Records
- 8 Post-1858 Probate Records
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 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 name. This opens a jurisdictions table.
- Follow the instructions on the jurisdictions table page.
Devonshire Probate Courts
- Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Archdeaconry of Barnstable
- Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Archdeaconry of Cornwall
- Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Archdeaconry of Exeter
- Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Archdeaconry of Totnes
- Court of the Peculiar of the Bishop of Exeter (Episcopal Consistory)
- Peculiar of the Court of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebend of Uffculme
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean of Salisbury (secondary court of Uffculme)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Manor of Cockington
- Court of the Peculiar of the Manor of Templeton
- Peculiar of the Mayor of Exeter
- Court of the Peculiar of the Custos and College of Vicars Choral in Exeter
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean of Exeter
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Dorset
- Episcopal Principal Registry of Exeter
Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury
In addition, the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury had jurisdiction over the whole of England and specifically in the following cases.
- Wealthier 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:
- Court of Arches
- High Court of Delegates
- Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury also served as an appeals court.
Some Explanatory Notes on the Devonshire Courts
Many of the records of the courts in this county were destroyed during during World War II. Devon Wills and Probate Records contains information about probates and where they are located. The manuscript collections mentioned below and the Estate Duty Registers should be searched as an alternative to the original records.
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 below. Go to the jurisdiction tables by clicking a letter or series of letters below.
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
- Pre-1858 for CHARDSTOCK and UFFCULME parishes, and a few other wills from other parishes for the diocese of Salisbury that used to cover not only Wiltshire but also part of Berkshire, Dorset and Devon.
The aim of the Devon Wills Project is to provide a consolidated index of Devon wills, administrations and inventories, covering (and distinguishing between) original documents, probate copies, transcripts and abstracts. The project involves systematically transcribing information obtained from various "sources", i.e. indexes, calendars, catalogues, etc. The period covered is up to 1857, and wills, etc., are taken as related to Devon if the testator is identified to be or can be assumed as being of Devon, even if the will was proved elsewhere. (The index covers only testators, not other named individuals, and is initially just provided separately for each source.)*[
The Family History Library has Calendars of wills and administrations relating to the counties of Devon and Cornwall : proved in the Court of the principal registry of the Bishop of Exeter, 1559-1799. And of Devon only, proved in the Court of the Archdeaconry of Exeter, 1540-1799
Olive Moger Collection
A professional genealogist, she abstracted many probate records from most of the Devon courts prior to World War II. The Family History Library has Transcript of Devonshire wills, 1600-1800.
Oswyn Murray's collection
Includes abstracts of probate records from various courts about testators from Devon before the destruction in World War II. The Family History Library has Oswyn Murray collection of wills, abt. 1600-1800
Other collections in the Family History Library
- Index to wills, copies and related papers [of the County of Devon, 1200-1900's
- Devonshire wills, by Charles Worthy
- A calendar of inquisitiones post mortem for Cornwall and Devon, from Henry III to Charles I (1216-1649)
- An alphabetical register of divers persons, who by their last wills & grants have given towards the relief of the poor of the county of Devon
- Abstracts of wills of the Drew Family, proved in the Court of the Archdeacon of Exeter and other courts, 1550-1891
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-1858 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.