Somerset Probate Records

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England Gotoarrow.png Somerset

For an explanation of probate records in England, click here.

Getting Started

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 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:

  1. Discover when and where your ancestor died. If you don’t know, use the approximate date and place where they lived.
  2. Go to Court Jurisdictions section below.
  3. Click a letter or span of letters for your place name. This opens a jurisdictions table.
  4. Follow the instructions on the jurisdictions table page.

Somerset Probate Courts

The following ecclesiastical courts had some probate jurisdiction over Somerset prior to 1858. Click on a court name to learn about records and indexes.


Some Explanatory Notes about the Somerset Probate Courts

"All probate records of the Diocese of Bath and Wells which had been deposited in the Probate Registry at Exeter were destroyed there in 1942.  The records destroyed were those of the Consistory Court of Bath and Wells, the Archdeaconry Courts of Wells and Taunton, the Consistory Courts of the Dean and Chapter and of the Dean [of Wells], the Peculiar Courts of the Precentor, the Chancellor and Sub-Dean of Wells, the Royal Peculiar Court of Ilminister, and the various Prebendary Courts."[1]

  1. Camp, Anthony J.Wills and Their Whereabouts, London: by the author, 1974. FHL book 942 S2wa, page 116.

Court Jurisdictions

Before 1858, every town and parish in Somerset was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary ecclesiastical court and one or more secondary ecclesiastical courts.  For a list of Somerset places and the ecclesiastical courts that had pre-1858 juridiction over them, click on a letter link:

AB,  C-D,  E-J,  K-M,  N-R,  S-T,  U-Z

Probate Indexes Online

Before looking for a will, you should search an index.

This site is concerned with family and social history in the Hundred of Frome. This consisted of the parishes of Beckington, Berkley, Cloford, Elm, Frome Selwood, Laverton, Lullington, Marston Bigot, Nunney, Orchardleigh, Rode (Road), Rodden, Standerwick, Wanstrow, Whatley and Woolverton. It also included the adjacent Liberties of East Cranmore, Leigh upon Mendip, Mells and Witham Friary and the Peculiar of Buckland Dinham (see map). 

Information about Somerset Probate Records:

Probate Indexes

Calendar of wills and administrations in the court of the Archdeaconry of Taunton, parts I and II, wills only, 1537-1799;[2]
Part III Administrations at Taunton 1596-1799 and Part IV Ilminster [3]

Somerset wills II pre-1858 extracted by Olive M. Moger ; edited by A. J. Webb. [4]

Somerset medieval wills Contents: v. 16 (1st ser.). 1383-1500 -- v. 19 (2nd ser.). 1501-1530, with some Somerset wills preserved at Lambeth -- v. 21 (3rd ser.). 1531-1558. "The Lambeth wills, from the archiepiscopal registers, are for 1363-1491." [5]
Medieval wills from Wells deposited in the diocesan registry, Wells, 1543 to 1546 and 1554 to 1556 [6]
Somerset wills from Exeter [7]
Abstracts of Somersetshire wills, etc. [8]
Wells wills : arranged in parishes, and annotated [9]
The Genealogists' magazine - v. 5 (1929-1931) has and alphabetical list of Somerset Archdeaconry Court Wills proved at Taunton. Missing from other published lists, almost all these wills are from the 1600's see pages 328-336 [10]

Index of Somerset Estate Duty Office wills and letters of administration, 1805-1811 [11]
Somerset estate duty wills index, 1813-1837, A - Z [12]
Somerset Estate duty wills 1812-1857 [13]
Somerset office wills index, A - Z Pre-1900 and not all of Somerset County[14]

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 1858-1925 are available on microfilm at the Family History Library.