London and Middlesex Probate Records
General information on probate is given in the national GENUKI
page, including the locations of copies of the national indexes to
all wills proved in the civl probate courts from 12 January 1858. Prior
to that date probate was administered by the Church, and in order to find
the records it is necessary to identify which of the hierarchy of church
courts had jurisdiction over the place(s) where the deceased person's
property lay. If there was property worth more than £5 in more than one
jurisdiction, then the probate should have been granted in a superior
court. It is also possible that a higher court was used simply for
reasons of prestige or convenience.
"The city of London and the county of Middlesex were in the province of
Canterbury and the diocese of London. The various jurisdictions are
probably more complicated than anywhere else in the country and the
searcher is advised to examine all major courts, split though they are
between several record offices. P.C.C. was greatly used." (J Gibson &
E Churchill, Probate jurisdictions: where to look for wills, 5th
edition, FFHS, 2002, p.36.)
For details of which jurisdiction(s) a parish lay in see the above book
or the Phillimore Atlas and index of parish registers. We are
gradually adding details of jurisdictions to our parish pages as well. The process of proving a
will generated several different types of records retained by the court,
though not all of them survive. These include:
- The original will
- The court copy of the will, usually transcribed in a register book
- A grant of probate, usually copied into an act book
Where people died intestate (without a will), administrations of their
goods could be granted to their heirs or creditors. These were granted by
the same courts, but produced less in the way of useful documents for the
genealogist. The principal record is:
- Letters of administration, copied into an act book
Both court processes would in principle produce other documents, though
these survive less frequently:
- A bond, binding the executors or administrators to administer the
estate according to the grant or else forfeit a sum of money
- An inventory of the goods of the deceased (the use of these died out
during the 18th century)
- A probate or administrator's account
For London and Middlesex the relevant record offices and the court
records they hold are:
Archives. Information on tracing probate records is to be found in
Research Guide to Wills and Probate Records.
The Prerogative Court of
Canterbury (PCC) was the superior court for all other
jurisdictions in England and Wales. A full
index to wills is available online at the National Archives
with images of the court
copy of the wills downloadable for a fee. An independent index
with downloadable images is available at The
Genealogist website. Grants of administration
are less easy to find. For the periods 1559-1660, 1701-1749 and
1853-1858 there are a series of printed and microfiche indexes,
detailed in Gibson and Churchill. For 1750-1800 there is a card
index at the Society of
Genealogists. For other periods the manuscript calendars in
PROB 12 have to be used.
Until 1533 any appeal against a judgement of the PCC was to the
Papal Court in Rome. In that year Parliament
passed the Statute in Restraint of Appeals prohibiting appeals to
Rome, and there were then two courts of appeal from PCC: the
High Court of Delegates (whose functions
were taken over by the Judicial Committee
of the Privy Council in 1833), and the Court
The High Court of
Delegates existed from 1533 to 1833. It was succeeded as the
court of last appeal for church courts from 1833 by the Judicial Committee of the Privy
Council. The records of these courts relating to probate are in
classes DEL 9 and DEL 10, and continued in PCAP 1 and PCAP 3. There
is an index to wills and administrations 1651-1857 printed in
The Genealogist new series 11 and 12, and also 19th
century indexes in class DEL 11. The online catalogue for PCAP 1
and PCAP 3 appears to name the appellants and respondents for Privy
Council cases, as well as naming the testator.
A technical account of how the High Court of Delegates operated,
including its functions other than probate, is to be found in
Duncan, G.I.O., 1971 The High Court of Delegates,
Cambridge University Press.
The Papal Court in Rome was
the court of appeal from PCC until 1533. Calendars of these appeals
can be consulted at the National Archives.
London Metropolitan Archives have an
information leaflet describing their holdings and others relevant
to Greater London.
- The Archdeaconry Court of Middlesex (Middlesex
Division). Wills 1609-1810 are indexed in
London Signatures, and images of the original wills are
available to download for a fee.
The Consistory Court of London. LMA have made an
index available as a
series of pdf files. Abstracts for wills
1621-1630 have been prepared by Leslie Mahler.
The Court of Hustings.
Guildhall Library provides a
guide to using
its probate records.
records of both these courts are indexed by their catalogue on
Access to Archives (A2A) under
- The Deanery of Arches.
- The Deanery of Croydon.
City of Westminster
- The Royal Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of
There is also a London Probate
Index 1750-1858, "its 70,000 entries cover wills and administrations
for all London and Middlesex probate courts (except the PCC)", available
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[Created 28 Sep 2007 by Andrew Millard. Last updated 31 Aug 2013 by
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