Lincolnshire 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.
Lincolnshire Probate Courts
The following ecclesiastical courts had some probate jurisdiction over the county of Cumberland prior to 1858. Click on a court name to learn more about its records, indexes and finding a probate for your ancestor. To determine which court, go to the Court Jurisdictions section below.
- Court of the Bishop of Lincoln (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Stow
- Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of Lincoln and of the Archdeacon in the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon
- Court of the Bishop of Peterborough (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Caistor
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Corringham
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Heydour
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Kirton in Lindsey
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Louth
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Bishop Norton
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Sleaford
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Stow in Lindsey
In addition, the Exchequer and Prerogative Courts of the Archbishop of York had jurisdiction over most of the Northern counties of England.
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:
Some Explanatory Notes on the Lincolnshire Probate Courts
Before the Reformation the diocese of Lincoln comprised:
- Archdeaconries of Lincoln and Stow in the county of Lincoln
- Archdeaconry of Leicester
- Archdeaconry of Northampton (including the counties of Northampton and Rutland)
- Archdeaconry of Oxford
- Archdeaconry of Bedford
- Archdeaconry of Buckingham
- Huntingdon (including the counties of Huntingdon and the county of Hertford except for the peculiar of St. Albans).
After the Reformation, the archdeaonries of Bedford, Buckingham and Huntingdon remained until the period 1837-1845 when they were transferred to other dioceses. Since court records of the Bishop's Commissaries for the various Archdeaconries tended to be kept with the records of these archdeacons there is only a relatively small number of wills at Loncoln relating to the counties other than Lincolnshire.
For most of the wills proved in all the courts down to 1532, printed abstracts will be found in C.W. Foster's Lincoln Wills published by the Lincoln Record Society volumes 5 (1271-1526) and 10 (1505-1530). There are further abstracts of selected items in Lincolnshire Wills: First Series A.D 1500-1600 (published in 1888) and Lincolnshire Wills: Second Series A.D. 1600-1617 (published in 1891) by Canon A.R. Maddison. The Family History Library has a copy of these volumes (FHL 942.53 P2ma; film 990132 Items 3-4).
Before 1858, every town and parish in Lincolnshire was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and one or more secondary courts.
To see a list of Lincolnshire places and the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over them, and instructions of what to do next, click on a link:
Probate Indexes Online
The Lincolnshire Wills Beneficiary Index covers the period approximately from 1383 to1900. It was compiled by Pam Baker from information submitted by members of the Lincolnshire Family History Society. It's an index to the names of people who appear in a will made by someone else. The Family History Library has a copy of this index on fiche numbers 6393728-6393730 and 6393718-6393720.
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 the Principal Registry and the District Registries for 1858-1925 are available on microfilm at the Family History Library.
- Camp, Anthony J. Wills and Their Whereabouts. London: published by author, 1974; page 66.