Staffordshire Probate Records

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England Gotoarrow.png Staffordshire

The following article is about probate records in the county of Staffordshire. For general information about English probate records, 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 to 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. This opens a jurisdictions table.
  4. Follow the instructions on the jurisdictions table page.

Staffordshire Probate Courts

The following probate courts had some jurisdiction over the county of Staffordshire prior to 1858; note that most of Staffordshire was covered by its largest court jurisdiction, called--the Court of the Bishop of Lichfield (Episcopal Consistory), but the county also had numerous concurrent smaller jurisdictions called "peculiars" courts as well (see the "Staffordshire Parishes and Their Probate Jurisdictions" section below to determine the correct court jurisdiction for the parish in which you may be searching):

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 or diocese of the Church of England
  • Military and naval personnel
  • People who lived or owned property outside England

Appeals Courts

There were two appeals courts within the Prerogative Court of Canterbury which heard disputes over the administration or probate of an estate. They were the:

  • Court of Arches which held jurisdiction over 13 parishes in the City of London and concurrent jurisdiction over the whole of the provinces of York and Canterbury (records are at Lambeth Palace Library, London). 
  • High Court of Delegates or sometimes known as the Court of Delegates, also heard appeals cases regarding probates and administrations.

The Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury also served as an appeals court.

Some Explanatory Notes on the Courts in Staffordshire

Records and indexes for each court are also available in the collection of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  Search the Family History Library Catalog for the title of the court or the court as an author. 

Court Jurisdictions By Parish

Before 1858, every town and parish in Cumberland was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts.  When searching for the will of an ancestor, find the name of the town or parish where he/she lived in the jurisdictions lists. Go to the list of places by clicking on a letter or series of letters below.

To view each parish and to learn which court[s] to search first for probates of persons living in or owning property in that  parish, click on the letter the parish name begins with

A   B   C-G H-L M-S T-Z

Probate Indexes

Before looking for a will, you should search an index. It will save time and give a reference to finding a copy of a will.

Online Indexes

A general will index for the Diocese of Lichfield exists online, a scanned edition of P.W. Phillimore's publicationby the British Record Society in 1892,Calendars of wills administrations in the Consistory court of the bishop of LichfieldThis single index consolidates most Staffordshire wills of the various probate court jurisdictions from 1514-1652 for the Diocese of Lichfield and to 1790 for Staffordshire smaller peculiar courts. 

Printed Indexes

See the above online indexes available at Google.books which is copy of a printed will index for Staffordshire.

The Smethwick Local history Society has published the Probate inventories of Smethwick residents, 1647-1747 : in the Lichfield Joint Record Office.

Probate Calendars

Registered wills and original wills, administrations and inventories, 1494-1860, and, act books, 1532-1638 for Diocese of Lichfield Episcopal Consistory Court. [1] These are calendars.  They cover most of the county of Stafford.

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.