Kent, England Probate Jurisdictions
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. This article is about probate records in Kent. For a general description of England probate records, click here.
1858 to the Present
Beginning in 1858, the Principal Probate Registry had the authority for probating estates. Click on the link to learn more.
Before 1858, Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process. To search for a pre-1858 probate record in Kent follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Kent. Search these indexes first:
- http://www.familyhistoryonline.net/database/KentFHGprobate.shtml -- compiled by the Kent Family History Group which has transcribed the names of 12,300 individuals found in Kent wills, including testators, executors, beneficiaries or witnesses. The information recorded includes name, date and place.
- The Kent Record Society has published four volumes of indexes to Kent wills, and these can be viewed on their website. They are arranged by parish then by surname.
- Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills (1384-1858).
Did you find a reference to a probate record?
- If yes, go to Step 4 below.
- If no, go to Step 2 below.
Step 2. Identify when and where your ancestor died
Determine when your ancestor died. If you aren't sure, use an approximate date.
Determine where your ancestor died. It is easier to find a probate record if you know whether the place where your ancestor lived or died is a parish. To learn whether it is a parish, look it up in a gazetteer. Here is a link to the 1872 Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales online:
The gazetteer will either tell you:
- A place is a parish, or
- What parish it is a part of, or
- What place it is near.
If the latter, look that place up in the gazetteer and see if it is a parish.
Once you have identified the parish, go to Step 3.
Step 3. Identify court jurisdictions by parish
Once you have identified the parish where your ancestor lived or died, learn which courts had jurisdiction over it then search indexes for those courts. Every town and parish in Kent fell under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. Click on a link below for the letter the parish begins with.
Links to Kent places
Here is the list of Kent places from A to Z of the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over each.
The courts listed for each place are those that had jurisdiction over probating wills prior to 1858. To use this table, follow these steps.
1. Find the place where your ancestor lived in the first column.
2. Click on the court name in the second column to learn where to find the records and indexes.
3. Click on each name of the court in the third column if the record isn't found in the first court.
4. Search last the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
If no will is found, your ancestor may not have left one.