The following article is about probate records in the county of Norfolk. For general information about English probate records, click here.
Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his or her heirs. The term probate refers to a collection of documents, including wills, administrations (also called admons), inventories, and act books. The Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process until to 1858. This article explains about probates and how to get started to search for a will.
Beginning in 1858, authority over probate matters was taken from ecclesiastical courts and put under the civil authority of the Principal Probate Registry. The Probates After 1857 section below has a link to an article about probates after 1857.
Follow these steps 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 the Court Jurisdictions section below.
- Click a letter or span of letters for your place. This opens an article showing a table of places and the courts that had jurisdiction over them.
- Follow the steps at the top of the table to search for a will.
Court Jurisdictions by Parish
Before 1858, every town and parish in Norfolk was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary ecclesiastical court and one or more secondary ecclesiastical courts.
To see a list of Norfolk places and the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over them, click on a letter link:
Norfolk Probate Courts
These courts had some pre-1858 jurisdiction over the county of Norfolk. Click on a court name for more information. See also the Indexes section below. Click on a court name to learn more about the records available and how to find the probate of your ancestor in the court's records.
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Norfolk
- Court of the Bishop (Episcopal Consistory) of Norwich
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Norwich
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean & Chapter of Norwich
- Court of the Peculiar of Castle Rising
- Court of the Peculiar of Great Cressingham
- Court of the City of Norwich
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.
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.
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
All the indexes of pre-1858 probate records are included in the Norfolk Record Office's online catalogue, NROCAT. Some pre-1858 wills were proved by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and these can be searched via The National Archives documents online web page. 
An index to probate records for 1800-1857 is found at:
Probate Indexes at the Family History Library
- Index to Norfolk (England) wills, 1838-1858 
- Norfolk peculiar jurisdictions, Index to probate records, 1416-1857 
Some Explanatory Notes on the Norfolk Probate Courts
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. Estate duty indexes may help locate a will. For more information, go to Estate Duty Registers.
Probates After 1857
Beginning in 1858, the government took over the settlement of estates and all wills are now probated through the Principal Probate Registry system. For more information, go to Principal Probate Registry.