Suffolk Probate Records
For an explanation of probate records in England, click here.
Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his/her heirs.
In order to find a probate record for your ancestor, you must answer two questions:
- When did your ancestor die?
- Where did your ancestor live or own property?
A key date is 1858, when probate authority was taken from the ecclesiatical courts of the Church of England and given to the civil government.
- If your ancestor died before 1858, his/her probate would have been proven by an ecclesiatical court and it is important to know where he/she lived, as that will determine which courts had jurisdiction.
- If you know where your ancestor lived before 1858, you should go to the Court Jurisdictions section below to determine what courts had jurisdiction over your ancestor's place of residence.
- Beginning in 1858, probate authority was vested in the Principal Probate Registry system. For more information, scroll to the Post-1857 Probate Records section at the bottom of the page.
Once you have answered the two questions and determined the courts, look for indexes. Indexes will be found on the individual court pages (when you click on a court name) or in the Probate Indexes section below.
Suffolk Probate Courts
The following ecclesiastical courts had some probate jurisdiction over the county of Cumberland prior to 1858. Click on a court name to learn more about its records, indexes and finding a probate for your ancestor. To determine which court, go to the Court Jurisdictions section below.
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Suffolk
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Sudbury
- Court of the Arhcdeaconry of Norfolk (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Bishop (Episcopal Consistory) of Norwich
- Court of the Bishop of Ely (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of St Edmunds
- Court of the Commissary of the Sacrist of St Edmunds
- Court of the Peculiar of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Peculiar Deanery of Bocking
- Court of the Peculiar of Isleham and Freckenham
Some Explanatory Notes on the Suffolk Probate Courts
Probate Court Jurisdictions
Before 1858, every town and parish in Suffolk was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary ecclesiastical court and one or more secondary ecclesiastical courts. To see a list of Suffolk places and the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over them, click on a letter for the name of a place:
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
Suffolk Probate Indexes 1847-1857
The Testator index records 1,124 wills and the people who made them. The Beneficiary index records 10,698 people, or other entities, who will benefit from those wills. The wills were proved during the years 1847-1857, that is the decade before the civil courts took over the probate of wills from the ecclesiastical courts in 1858.
The following indexes to probate records are available on www.ancestry.com (under the category of 'England Court, Land, Wills & Financial'):
- Ipswich Probate Inventories, 1583-1631
- Sudbury Archdeaconry Wills, 1439-1638
- Wills of the Archdeaconry of Sudbury, 1439-1461
- Wills of the Archdeaconry of Suffolk, 1620-1624
- Wills of the Archdeaconry of Suffolk, 1625-1626
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.