Principal Probate Registry
Beginning in 1858, the civil 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.
Finding the Records
The records are available through the Probate Service, part of Her Majesty's Courts & Tribunals Service (Justice). To learn more, go to:
- The Probate service section of the Justice website - includes information on probate records for family history and how to obtain copies.
- The ancestor-search.info can help you obtain probate records through The Principal Probate registry of The Family Division which is the Principal Registry as well as through some of the local courts.
- The National Archives has a guide to these records.
The Principal Registry in London deals with personal applications, and the Leeds District Registry will supply copies of wills and administrations by post. See HM Courts and Tribunals Service Guide to obtaining copies of probate records for full details. The Family History Library has filmed copies of the wills for 1858-1925. Obtain a reference from the index (see below) before using these films. To determine the correct film, you will need the surname of the deceased, the month and year of probate, and the name of district where the will was proved. The arrangement of the films can be confusing. One series of films is for the London district or Principal Registry, and another series of films are for all the district registries. These are arranged in the following sequence:
- 1st Letter of the deceased's surname
- District where the will was proved
- Day of the month the will was proved
- Record copy wills for the Principal Registry, 1858-1925
- Record copy wills from the District Probate Registries, 1858-1899 - a tool to help you easily find which films you need www.haine.org.uk/wills/willsearch.php
- Record copy wills from the District Probate Registries, 1900-1925- a tool to help you easily find which films you need www.haine.org.uk/wills/willsearch.php
A country-wide surname index to the records is available, so it is much easier to look for post-1857 wills. The index gives:
- Name of the deceased
- Date of death and date of probate
- Address of last residence
- Name of the executor/executrix
- Amount of the estate. See Probate Fees and Valuations in England and Wales.
- Name of the district where the will was proved
The indexes are arranged by year then by surname and given name in alphabetical order. The indexes are to wills and administrations both, but only the wills have been microfilmed. The informative index gives about as much information as would an administration.
To locate a will once an index entry is found, you will need to note the name of the deceased, month and year of probate, and name of the district where the will was proved.
Principal Probate Registry of Wills and Administrations from 1861-1941 (with a few gaps) is at ancestry.com under 'Search Tax, Criminal, Land & Wills Records,' as England & Wales National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861-1966.
Some record offices and local studies centers in England have copies of the indexes. To see a partial list, click here.
Here is a link to the calendars or indexes in the Family History Library Catalog: