Staffordshire Probate Records
The following article is about probate records in the county of Staffordshire. For general information about English probate records, click here.
Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his or her heirs. The term probate refers to a collection of documents, including wills, administrations (also called admons), inventories, and act books. The Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process until to 1858. This article explains about probates and how to get started to search for a will.
Beginning in 1858, authority over probate matters was taken from ecclesiastical courts and put under the civil authority of the Principal Probate Registry. The Probates After 1857 section below has a link to an article about probates after 1857.
Follow these steps to look for a probate record before 1858:
- Discover when and where your ancestor died. If you don’t know, use the approximate date and place where they lived.
- Go to the Court Jurisdictions section below.
- Click a letter or span of letters for your place. This opens an article showing a table of places and the courts that had jurisdiction over them.
- Follow the steps at the top of the table to search for a will.
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
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 and Coventry (Episcopal Consistory), but the county also had numerous concurrent smaller jurisdictions called "peculiars" courts as well (see the "Staffordshire Court Jurisdictions By Parish" section below to determine the correct court jurisdiction for the parish in which you may be searching for a will):
- Court of the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean of Lichfield
- Court of the Peculiar of Alrewas and Weeford
- Court of the Peculiar of Burton on Trent
- Court of the Peculiar of Colwich
- Court of the Peculiar of Eccleshall
- Court of the Peculiar of the Manor of Gnosall
- Court of the Peculiar of Hansacre and Armitage
- Court of the Peculiar of High Offley and Flixton
- Court of the Peculiar of Longdon
- Court of the Peculiar of the Manor of Pattingham
- Court of the Peculiar of Penkridge
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebend of Prees or Pipe Minor
- Court of the Peculiar of the Manor of Sedgely
- Court of the Peculiar of Tettenhall
- Court of the Peculiar of the Manor of Tyrley
- Court of the Peculiar of Whittington and Baswich
- Court of the Peculiar of Wolverhampton
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
- Interregnum, 1649-1660, because the Prerogative Court was the only court.
- Property in more than one diocese in the Province of Canterbury.
- Property in both the Province of Canterbury and Province of York.
- People who died outside England, including British citizens and others who held property in England.
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.
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.
There is a brand new index for 1650-1700 for Staffordshire at this link 
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 Lichfield. This 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.
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.
Registered wills and original wills, administrations and inventories, 1494-1860, and, act books, 1532-1638 for Diocese of Lichfield Episcopal Consistory Court.  These are calendars. They cover most of the county of Stafford.
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.
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.