Westmorland Probate Records
The following text has information about probate records in the county of Westmoreland. To read general information 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 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:
- Discover when and where your ancestor died. If you don’t know, use the approximate date and place where they lived.
- Go to Court Jurisdictions section below.
- Click a letter or span of letters for your place name. This opens a jurisdictions table.
- Follow the instructions on the jurisdictions table page.
Westmorland Probate Courts
The courts that had jurisdiction over the county were:
- Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Commissary of the Archdeaconry of Richmond Western Deaneries - Kendal
- Court of the Bishop of Carlisle (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Manor of Ravenstonedale
- Court of the Peculiar of the Manor of Temple Sowerby
In addition, the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury had jurisdiction over the whole of England and specifically in the following cases.
- Wealthier individuals.
- People who owned property in more than one county.
- Military and naval personnel.
- People who lived or owned property outside England.
Any probate that was disputed and could not be settled by the county courts could be sent to these higher appeals courts:
Some Explanatory Notes on the Westmorland Probate Courts
Court Jurisdictions by Parish
Before 1858, every town and parish in Westmorland was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. When looking for a will of an ancestor in this county, search the courts in the order listed. It's best to search an index first. Indexes are mentioned on the individual court pages. To link to the court page, you need to see the jurisdiction tables. Click on one of the following letters to go to a jurisdiction table.
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
Probate Index is an index of wills and related documents covering Lancashire north of the Ribble, and parts of Cumberland, Westmorland and Yorkshire, 1748-1858. Specifically, it indexes all surviving probate documents for the Western Deaneries of the Archdeaconry of Richmond, 1748-1858. The deaneries included are Amounderness, Copeland, Furness, Kendal and Lonsdale.
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 about these records go to the HMCS website, and the England Probate Records article in this Wiki.
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 in the Family History Library.