Lancashire 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 or her heirs. The Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process until to 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.
Probate records of Lancashire commence from as early as 1321 to 1857. The probate court jurisdictions listed below hold extensive probate record coverage not only for Lancashire but for Yorkshire, Cheshire, Durham, and Cumberland. There is only one peculiar or smaller court jurisdictions which pertain to Lancashire parishes.
If you know in which parish your ancestor may have died or lived, go to the "Lancashire Parishes and Their Probate Jurisdictions" section (below--or under whatever county you are searching) and search by parish name in order to determine the correct or most likely probate court to search, first.
Next, see the links (below) to each Lancashire probate court jurisdictions in order to obtain further information for researching in records of the prime probate court for a will.
If a search in the most likely probate court jurisidiction proves unsuccessful, then search the next court as listed in ranked order, i.e. "no. 2", and etc.
Lancashire Probate Courts
- Court of the Bishop of Chester (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Commissary of the Archdeaconry of Richmond Western Deaneries
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of York
- Court of the Chancery of the Archbishop of York
- Peculiar Court of Halton Manor
- Exchequer and Prerogative Courts of the Archbishop of York
In addition, the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury had jurisdiction over the whole of England. Wealthy individuals, people who owned property in more than one county or lower court's jurisdiction, people who died outside of the country but had property in England, and military personnel often had their estates proven through the Archbishop's court.
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.
There were two appeals courts within the Prerogative Court of Canterbury which heard disputes over the administration or probate of an estate. They were the:
- Court of Arches (records are at Lambeth Palace Library, London; an index from 1660-1857 was compiled by the British Record Society, vol. 85)
- The Court of Delegates was also a court of appeal for the provinces of Canterbury and York, including their peculiars, royal peculiars, and the Irish probate courts. This court is sometimes also referred to as the High Court of Delegates (records are held at The National archives); records are on microfilm (from 1662-1837) and microfiche with an index, which are available at The Family History Library; The Genealogist has compiled an index in vols. 11 and 12 covering the years from 1651-1857)
Before 1858, every town and parish in Lancashire was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and one or more secondary courts. To see a list of parishes (and chapelries) in Lancashire and the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over them, click on a letter link:
B. Nelson is creating an online index to Lancashire wills. This is an on-going project and the database will grow and become more complete with time. To access the index, go to: Lancashire Will Search.
The Prerogative Court of Canterbury (also known as the PCC) has an online index of wills and if a will is found it can be ordered online. Those from Lancashire have already been indexed in the Lancashire Will Search site mentione above. The advantage of the PCC site is that you can order the will directly for a small fee.
An index of wills and related documents for 1748-1858 has been prepared and covers Lancashire north of the Ribble River, and parts of Cumberland, Westmorland and Yorkshire. It indexes all surviving probate documents for the Western Deaneries of the Archdeaconry of Richmond, which include the deaneries of Amounderness, Copeland, Furness, Kendal and Lonsdale:
Starting Your Search in Indexes
1. First search each index which you will find listed under the name of the particular probate court jurisdiction (see the "London Probate Courts" listed above) to help you more quickly find the will, writing down all details cited in the indexed entry.
2. Once you have found the name of an ancestor and the probate jurisdiction in which a will or administration (admon) was probated, next proceed to the "Probate Records of This Court" (appears below this section) to determine what original probate records exist for this court and years appertaining.
3. You can also contact or visit the particualr London archives where the original records are held, or, hire a professional record searcher to view these records on your behalf. Officials may send upon written request a list of record searchers.
4. Visit The Family History Library, or, one of its 4,500 satellite family history centers worldwide and search indexes to probate records. Then with the information obtained from the index[es] you can more quickly locate the original wills and admons which are on microfilm, via any family history centers near you.
Probate Records of Lancashire Courts
- MISCELLANEOUS WILLS 1695-1855 Diocese of Chester. Consistory Court]]
- PROBATE RECORDS 1558-1858, Consistory Court of the Diocese of Chester, 1558-1858 Diocese of Chester. Consistory Court
- PROBATE RECORDS 1466-1860 Archdeaconry of Richmond. Consistory Court (Western Deaneries)
- PROBATE RECORDS, 1521-1858 Church of England. Diocese of Chester. Consistory Court
- PROBATE RECORDS, 1852 Church of England. Prebendal Court (Fordington and Writhlington)
- PROBATE RECORDS, 1374 to 1858 Court of the Exchquer of the Archbishop of York
- PROBATE RECORDS, early to 1858 Court of the Chancery of the Archbishop of York
- PROBATE RECORDS, Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of York
Estate or Death Duty Wills and Administrations
Beginning in 1796 a tax was levied on probates of estates valued over £10. Copies of the probate documents were filed with the Estate Duty Office in London when the tax was paid. These records are especially helpful for research in counties where local probate records have been destroyed.
For more information, see England Probate 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.