Devon Probate Records

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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.

Getting Started

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:

  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 Court Jurisdictions section below.
  3. Click a letter or span of letters for your place name. This opens a jurisdictions table.
  4. Follow the instructions on the jurisdictions table page.

Devonshire Probate Courts

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

Appeals Courts

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 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.

Court Jurisdictions

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.

   A B C D-E F-H I-K L-M N-O P-R   S T-V W-Z

Probate Indexes Online

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

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.)*[

Manuscript Records

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

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.