The Estate or Death Duty registers are among the most important genealogical records in England and Wales. They are little known and often overlooked as a source for locating information about people.<br>
Several legacy, residue, and succession duty acts between 1796 and 1858 required that a duty (tax) be paid on all bequests and succession to property over a certain value. The amount levied varied over time and according to the relationship of the beneficiary to the deceased. Duties were deposited with the Legacy Duty Department of the Stamp Office. Very small estates, and those who died serving their country, were excluded from paying the required duty.<br>
The records are especially helpful for counties Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, since many of the records for the probate courts in those areas were destroyed during World War II.
==Understanding the Records ==
The problem facing a researcher looking for probate material before 1858 is knowing which one of the more than 300 courts administered the desired probate. Records were housed in many places throughout England, and there was no central index. The Estate duty indexes and registers provide a solution by allowing you to search across many courts at one time. A register could be annotated for many years, possibly listing date of death of the spouse, marriage and death dates of beneficiaries, births of children or grandchildren born after the duty was paid and have cross references to other entries.
==Information In the Records ==
Estate Duty abstracts can add a lot to what was found in an original will or administration. They can show:
These death duty registers cover both Wills and Administrations.
Search the index first before attempting to locate an abstract. The indexes for the country courts from 1796 to 1811 can be [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/browse-refine.asp?CatID=14&searchType=browserefine&pagenumber=1&query=*&queryType=1 searched online], with the actual register also available online for a fee (as of
Oct 2009, £3.50). After 1811, one index covers all courts and may be viewed on film through the Family History Library, or online with a paid subscription to [http://www.findmypast.com/DeathDutyStartSearchServlet findmypast]. <br>
==Finding the Records==