Westmorland 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 Westmorland. 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 Westmorland, follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Westmorland. Search these indexes first:
- 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. (The full index, from the Institute of Local and Family History at the University of Central Lancashire, is only available to members and requires membership to view it. Surname only and place name only lists are available for free but do not give any information or help you locate a will.)
- Westmorland, England: Parish and Probate Records is a collection of parish and probate records in England and Wales, from the 1500s to the 1800s. It includes extracts of other types of records including will.
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 Westmorland 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.
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
- Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury
Some Explanatory Notes on the Westmorland Probate Courts
Westmorland was almost evenly divided between the jurisdiction of the Consistory Court of Carlisle and the jurisdictions of the Archdeaconry Court of Richmond and three manorial courts. Apparently, reference to part of the Westmorland belonging to the pr-Reformation Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry are unfounded.
The Archdeaconry of Richmond was part of the Diocese of York until 1541 and thereafter the Diocese of Chester. Evidently, the Diocese of Chester never exercised superior juridction over Richmond in probate matters. The probate granted by the Archdeaconry Court of Richmond were usually filed under the name of the deanery in which the testator resided.