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 office of Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS).
To learn more, go to:
- The HMCS Web site -- includes a list of frequently asked questions about obtaining copies of probate records.
- The National Archives has a guide to these records.
The Principal Registry in London and the York Probate Sub-Registry in the city of York have copies of the records. Find their addresses by clicking here.
The Family History Library has filmed copies of the wills for 1858-1925. The films can be viewed at the library or through family history centers. The records are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under one of the following titles:
- Record copy wills for the Principal Registry, 1858-1925
- Record copy wills from the District Probate Registries, 1858-1899
- Record copy wills from the District Probate Registries, 1900-1925
Principal Probate Registry of Wills and Administrations from 1861-1941 is at ancestry.com under 'Search Tax, Criminal, Land & Wills Records,' as England & Wales National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861-1941.
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
- Name of the office where the will was proved
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:
- Calendar of the grants of probate and letters of administration made in the Principal Registry : and in the several district registries of Her Majesty's Court of Probate
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.