Cheshire Probate Records

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England Genealogy Gotoarrow.png Cheshire, England Genealogy

Getting Started[edit | edit source]

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 Cheshire. For a general description of England probate records, click here.

1858 to the Present[edit | edit source]

Beginning in 1858, the Principal Probate Registry had the authority for probating estates. Click on the link to learn more.

Before 1858[edit | edit source]

Before 1858, Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process. To search for a pre-1858 probate record in Cheshire, follow these steps:

Step 1. Search Indexes[edit | edit source]

Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Cheshire. Search these indexes first:

Cheshire's probate jurisdictions are well-covered with indexes.

1. First search each index (see below) to help you more quickly find the will, writing down each detail cited in the index entry.

2. Click on a court name above to learn more about the records.

3. Contact or visit the Cheshire Record Office, OR you may use their research service to obtain a copy of a record.

4. Visit the Family History Library, or one of its 4,500 satellite family history centers worldwide, and obtain a copy of the probate record from microfilm.

Before looking for a will, search the comprehensive and county-wide Wills index compiled by the Cheshire Record Office. This index covers the years 1492-1940 and contains 130,000 entries. It covers probate documents proved at Chester mainly for the County of Cheshire.

The following Website specifically covers the parishes of Disley, Lyme Handley; Taxal & Whaley in Cheshire:

A brand new Probate Index for Cheshire is available at Labs.FamilySearch The original will indexes for the Court of the Bishop of Chester (Episcopal Consistory) for 1545-1858 are available in print by both the Lancashire & Cheshire Record Society and the Chetham Society. These two large publication series cover both Cheshire and Lancashire counties. These series are available at many major archives in the United Kingdom such as at the British Library, and Guildhall Library, London, and other like institutions. The Family History Library likewise has most of these printed indexes in book form and/or on microfilm (see below).

Original handwritten indexes and calendars to the Probate Acts of Wills and Administrations (Admons) exist from 1492-1857, were created as the probate records were filed, and found with the records (see below).

Calendars are a kind of index (arranged by the first letter of each surname) to the probate records and admons (administrations).

The Family History Library has copies of Cheshire probate records, indexes and calendars for 1492-1858. Microfilmed copies may be circulated to any of its 4,500 satellite family history centers worldwide. To determine film numbers, go to 'Cheshire - Probate Records' and 'Cheshire - Probate Records - Indexes' in the Family History Library Catalog.

In particular, see:

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[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

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 Cheshire 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.


Before 1858, all of Cheshire was under the primary probate jurisdiction of the Court of the Bishop of Cheshire.  Secondary courts are also listed in the table below.  When looking for the will of an ancestor in Cheshire, search the courts in the order given.  Search indexes first. 

Pre-1541 -

Post-1540 -

Cheshire Probate Courts[edit | edit source]

Here is a list of the pre-1858 ecclesiastical courts that had some probate jurisdiction over Cheshire.  The whole of Cheshire was under the jurisdiction of the Court of the Bishop of Chester (Episcopal Consistory). Click on a court name to learn more about records.

In addition, the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury had jurisdiction over the whole of England and specifically in the following cases.

  • Wealthy individuals
  • Interregnum, 1649-1660, because the Prerogative Court was the only court.
  • Property in more than one diocese in the Province of Canterbury.
  • Property in both the Province of Canterbury and Province of York.
  • People who died outside England, including British citizens and others who held property in England.

Appeals Courts[edit | edit source]

Any probate that was disputed and could not be settled by the county courts could be sent to these higher appeals courts:

The Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury also served as an appeals court.

Some Explanatory Notes on the Cheshire Courts[edit | edit source]

1. Cheshire had no peculiar court jurisdictions in the county. There are several higher probate court jurisdictions which hold concurrent jurisdiction over Chesire. To identify and learn about these courts and their records, click on the "Cheshire Probate Courts" links above.

2. The Court of the Bishop of Chester (Episcopal Consistory) was sub-divided into basically two courts--a higher or what is termed, a "Supra" court and, a lower or "Infra" court. A majority of Cheshire wills and admons were probated in the "Infra" court.