Oxfordshire Probate Records
The following article is about probate records in the county of Cumberland. 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.
Follow these steps 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 the Court Jurisdictions section below.
- Click a letter or span of letters for your place. This opens an article showing a table of places and the courts that had jurisdiction over them.
- Follow the steps at the top of the table to search for a will.
Court Jurisdictions by Parish
Before 1858, every parish was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary and several secondary courts. Most parishes were under the primary jurisdiction of the combined Courts of the Bishop (Episcopal Consistory) and Archdeaconry of Oxford and the secondary jurisdiction of the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury, however, there were exceptions. To see an alphabetical list of Oxfordshire exceptions, and the courts that had jurisdiction over them, click on the link for the letter that a parish name begins with:
Oxfordshire Probate Courts
Most of Oxfordshire was under the pre-1858 probate jurisdiction of the Courts of the Bishop (Episcopal Consistory) and Archdeaconry of Oxford. The majority of probate searches will be in the records of this court and its superior courts. However, the following courts also had some pre-1858 jurisdiction within the county. Click on a court name to learn about records and indexes.
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Buckingham
- Court of the Bishop of Gloucester
- Court of the Bishop of Lincoln
- Court of the Bishop of Worcester
- Court of the Bishop of Hereford
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Banbury
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Langford
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Dorchester
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Monks Risborough
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Thame
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln
- Court of the Manor of Sibford
- Court of the Chancellor of the University of Oxford
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.
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
- Index of Probate Inventories, Oxfordshire 1550-1590 -- three files, based upon an original document "Household And Farm Inventories In Oxfordshire, 1550-1590" published by the Historical Manuscript Society & H.M.S.O. (Editing By Dr. W. O. Hassall. Original transcription by M.A.Havinden, D.G.Vaisey & Jane E. Sayers. Computer transcription by M.Brewerton (c) Copyright 1994.)
- Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills (1384 - 1858)
See also indexes on the individual court pages.
Some Explanatory Notes on the Oxfordshire Probate Courts
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.