Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury

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England Gotoarrow.png England Probate Records

Step By Step

1. First search each index (see below) to help you more quickly find the will, writing down each detail cited in the indexed entry.

2. Proceed then to the "Probate Records In This Archive" section (see below) to determine what original probate records exist for this court.

3. Contact or visit the Lancashire Record Office to hire a professional record searcher to view these records on your behalf, citing information obtained from the index[es]. Officials may send upon request a list of record searchers.

4. You can also visit The Family History Library, or, one of its 4,500 satellite family history centers worldwide and search indexes (see the Family History Library's cataloged entries providing the microfilms so you can have them circulated to the center near you for searching the wills). The information obtained from the index[es] will help you more quickly search the wills and admons which can also be circulated on microfilm via any family history .

Indexes

  • An index to the records of the Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury for 1384-1858 is available online through the Web site of The National Archives, Kew, in the out-skirts of London on DocumentsOnline.  When you find a reference to a will of interest, you can purchase it online through the Web site by clicking on 'See details' then on 'Add to shopping.'  The cost is a straight fee of 3.50 GBP, regardless of the length of the document.

Records

The original records are deposited at The National Archives. They include:

  • Original wills, 1513-1858 (with a few earlier)
  • Register copy wills, 1383-1858
  • Administration bonds, 16th-19th centuries
  • Various act books, 1526-1858
  • Inventories, 1464-1782 (with gaps; and some later records)

Jurisdiction

The Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury (PCC) had superior jurisdiction in all of England, Wales, Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands and sole jurisdiction where testators had bona notabilia (an estate valued at more than five pounds sterling) in two dioceses or in two peculiars in the province of Canterbury or within two provinces (i.e., York and Canterbury). The Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury also had jurisdiction over all those with property in England, Wales, Isle of Man, or the Channel Islands who dies at sea or overseas. Such persons are distinguished in the calendars by the entry "pts," abbreviation for " parts overseas." instead of the name of the place. During the Commonwealth period from 1653 to 1660 the court, in the form of a civil court, had sole testamentary jurisdiction over all of England and Wales. Since the Reformation it has been usual for the estates of men of wealth and position to receive grants of probate and letters of administration in this court. During vacancies in this court between 997 and 1590, some wills were proved in the Court of the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral (also known as the Court of the Prior and Chapter of Christ Church), Canterbury, Kent.