Hertfordshire Probate Records
The following article is about probate records in the county of Hertfordshire. 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.
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 Probates After 1857 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.
Court Jurisdictions by Parish
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:
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/Hitchen 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.)
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
- 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:
The Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury also served as an appeals court.
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
County-wide general will indexes exist for Hertford County, but there are none available online indexes at this time.
If the indexes on the Internet do not produce possible wills for your ancestors, look in the published indexes listed here.
Wills at the Hertfordshire Record Office:
- Beryl Crawley and Cliff Webb, ed. Wills at Hertford. London 2007, the British Record Society. (FHL book 942 B4b vol. 120. The Hertford County Record Office wills indexing project under the auspices of the above authors on behalf of the Index Library compiled by far the most comprehensive wills index for Hertfordshire; available at the British Record Society website.
Hertfordshire wills (a few) in the Essex County Record Office:
- Emmison, F. G., ed. [Index to] Wills at Chelmsford. London: s.n., 1961, the British Record Society. (FHL book 942 B4b vols. 78, 79 and 84; also on microfilms 0962739 and 0962740, and on microfiche 6073796, 6073797, and 6073802.)
Other printed indexes are found listed on the court pages. Click on the court name links above.
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.