Surrey Probate Records
For an explantion 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.
Surrey Probate Courts
These courts had some probate jurisdiction over Surrey before 1858. Click on a court name to learn more about records and indexes.
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Surrey
- Court of the Commissary of the Bishop of Winchester in the Archdeaconry of Surrey
- Court of the Bishop of Winchester (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Bishop of London (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Bishop of Canterbury (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Deanery of the Arches of London, Croydon, Shoreham (Peculiar of the Archbishop of Canterbury)
In addition, the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury had jurisdiction over the whole of England. Wealthier individuals, people who owned property in more than one county or lower court's jurisdiction, people who died outside of the country but had property in England, and Naval personnel often had their estates proven through the Archbishop's court.
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.
Some Explanatory Notes About the Surrey Courts
Before 1858, every town and parish in Surrey was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary eccelsiastical court and one or more secondary courts. In order to find the will of a deceased person, you need to know what courts had jurisdiction over the place where he/she lived.
To see a list of Surrey places and the courts that had jurisdiction over them, click on a letter link:
Search the courts in the order given. Search indexes first. For indexes covering more than one court, see below. For court-specific indexes, click on the name of a court above.
If you do not know where your ancestor lived or owned property, search the indexes to each court if necessary. Lastly, search the index to the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
Surrey & South London Will Abstracts 1470-1856: http://www.originsnetwork.com/help/popup-aboutbo-surrwills.htm
- This collection, on the British Origins website, contains fully indexed abstracts of every Surrey will known to still exist, over 28,000 of them, dating from the 15th to 19th centuries. This is a subscription website.
The Surrey Plus Wills Index: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~engsurry/
- This website provides an index to names of all people appearing in the wills of testators residing in the county of Surrey (and nine other neighboring counties). Links are provided to transcripts of wills, where available.
For other indexes, click on a court name in the list above.
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.
An annual, 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.