Wiltshire 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 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.
Wiltshire Probate Courts
These courts had some probate jurisdiction in Wiltshire prior to 1858:
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Bishopstone
- Court of the Peculiar of the Treasurer of Salisbury in the Prebendal of Calne
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Castle Combe
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Chute and Chisenbury
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Coombe and Harnham
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prepetual Vicar of Corsham
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Durnford
- Court of the Bishop of Gloucester (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Bishop of Hereford (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Highworth
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Hurstbourne and Burbage
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Netheravon
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Salisbury
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean of Salisbury
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury
- Court of the Bishop of Salisbury (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Peculiar of the Precentor of Salisbury
- Court of the Archdeaconry of the sub-dean of Salisbury
- Court of the Peculiar of the Lord Wardon of Savernake Forest
- Court of the Peculiar of the Prebendal of Wilsford and Woodford
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Wiltshire
- Courts of the Bishop (Episcopal Consistory) and Archdeaconry of Winchester
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Canons of Windsor in Wantage
- Court of the Bishop of Worcester (Episcopal Consistory)
Some Explanatory Notes on the Courts in Wiltshire
All prebends of Salisbury Cathedral were inhibited for six months triennially by the Court of the Peculiar of the Dean of Salisbury Cathedral.
The Court of Arches of Canterbury was a court of appeal fo r the province of Canterbury. However, the royal peculiars and the peculiars of the Archbishop were exempt.
The Court of Delegates was also a court of appeal for the provinces of Canterbury and York, including their peculiars, royal peculiars, and the Irish probate courts.
Before 1858, every town and parish in Wiltshire was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. To find the will of your ancestor who lived or owned property in Wiltshire, see a list of Wiltshire parishes with the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over each. Click on the letter for a parish of interest.
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 in Wiltshire 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.
This catalogue gives access to wills and other probate records of the diocese of Salisbury which used to cover not only Wiltshire but also Berkshire (under certain circumstances) and parts of Dorset and Devon. You can search for people by name, place, occupation and date. The collection covers 1540-1858. Searching the catalogue is FREE. In addition there are digital images for some of the documents (just over 25%) which can be viewed following on-line payment or free of charge by people visiting the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. Wills and inventories give useful information about people’s financial status and property, and also their family relationships and friendships, which make them a wonderful resource for family and local history.
This is a collection of about 1000 abstracts of probate documents relating to people residing in the neighbourhood of the towns of Hungerford and Wantage in Berkshire. Since Hungerford is on the County boundary there is some spread into Wiltshire and to a lesser extent into Hampshire and Oxfordshire.
The historical period which is covered is from about 1500 up to the establishment of the Probate Registry for England & Wales in 1858.
Names of all persons mentioned in the abstracts have been indexed and amount to over 6000 references.
Wills at Salisbury 1464-1858 Contents: v. 122. A-K -- v. 123. K-Z. 
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-1858 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.