Hertfordshire Probate Records
For an explanation of probate records in England. click here.
Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his/her heirs.
In order to find a probate record for your ancestor, you must answer two questions:
- When did your ancestor die?
- Where did your ancestor live or own property?
A key date is 1858, when probate authority was taken from the ecclesiatical courts of the Church of England and given to the civil government.
- If your ancestor died before 1858, his/her probate would have been proven by an ecclesiatical court and it is important to know where he/she lived, as that will determine which courts had jurisdiction.
- If you know where your ancestor lived before 1858, you should go to the Court Jurisdictions section below to determine what courts had jurisdiction over your ancestor's place of residence.
- Beginning in 1858, probate authority was vested in the Principal Probate Registry system. For more information, scroll to the Post-1857 Probate Records section at the bottom of the page.
Once you have answered the two questions and determined the courts, look for indexes. Indexes will be found on the individual court pages (when you click on a court name) or in the Probate Indexes section below.
Hertfordshire Probate Courts
The following ecclesiastical courts had some pre-1858 probate jurisdiction within the county. Click on a court name for information about records and indexes.
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Buckingham
- Court of the Archdeaconry of St. Albans
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Middlesex
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon (Herts div.)
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon (Hunts div.)
- Court of the Bishop of Lincoln (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Bishop of London (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's Cathedral
- Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of London (Essex and Herts div.)
Some Explanatory Notes on the Hertfordshire Probate Courts
Before 1858, every town and parish in Hertfordshire was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary ecclesiastical court and one or more secondary ecclesiastical courts.
To see a list of Hertfordshire places and the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over them, click on a letter link:
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. Between 1813-1858 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. The system consists of 11 district registry offices and 18 sub-district registries, located throughout England and Wales, and the principal registry office located in London. The records are available through the office of Her Majesty's Courts Service. To learn more, go to the HMCS website.
A country-wide surname index to the records is available, so it is much easier to look for post-1857 wills. The indexes for 1858-1957 and the records for 1858-1925 are available on microfilm at the Family History Library.