Suffolk Probate Records
Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his or her heirs. Probate records include wills and administrations. This article is about probate records in Suffolk. For a general description of England probate records, click here.
1858 to the Present
Beginning in 1858, the Principal Probate Registry had the authority for probating estates. Click on the link to learn more.
Before 1858, Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process. To search for a pre-1858 probate record in Suffolk, follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Suffolk. Search these indexes first:
- http://www.familyhistoryonline.net/database/SussexFHGprobate.shtml -- compiled by the Sussex Family History Group which has transcribed the names of 12,300 individuals found in Sussex wills, including testators, executors, beneficiaries or witnesses. The information recorded includes name, date and place.
- The Sussex Record Society has published four volumes of indexes to Sussex wills, and these can be viewed on their website. They are arranged by parish then by surname.
- Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills (1384-1858).
Did you find a reference to a probate record?
- If yes, go to Step 4 below.
- If no, go to Step 2 below.
Step 2. Identify when and where your ancestor died
Determine when your ancestor died. If you aren't sure, use an approximate date.
Determine where your ancestor died. It is easier to find a probate record if you know whether the place where your ancestor lived or died is a parish. To learn whether it is a parish, look it up in a gazetteer. Here is a link to the 1872 Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales online:
The gazetteer will either tell you:
- A place is a parish, or
- What parish it is a part of, or
- What place it is near.
If the latter, look that place up in the gazetteer and see if it is a parish.
Once you have identified the parish, go to Step 3.
Step 3. Identify court jurisdictions by parish
Once you have identified the parish where your ancestor lived or died, learn which courts had jurisdiction over it then search indexes for those courts. Every town and parish in Suffolk fell under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. Click on a link below for the letter the parish begins with.
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 Archdeaconry 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
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.
Any probate that was disputed and could not be settled by the county courts could be sent to these higher appeals courts:
The Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury also served as an appeals court.
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, search an index. Try findmypast.co.uk for this index Suffolk Probate Indexes 1847-1857. The same was at familyhistory online.net as follows: 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