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Probate Records


A probate is the court process of dividing up a deceasedís estate.The records that result from this process are valuable genealogical records because generally the living relatives of the deceased inherit the property.Usually the documents indicate the relationship of each person receiving an inheritance.


When a person died there are two possibilities:they died with a will or without a will.When a person dies testate (with a valid will) then an executor (male) or an executrix (female) is appointed to carry out the provisions set forth in the will.When a person dies intestate (without a valid will) an administrator is appointed to divide the estate.


Prior to 1858 the court responsible for probates was the ecclesiastical court of the Church of England.Exactly which court had jurisdiction is a complicated topic with many exceptions.If you are going to search for a probate records you should generally consult a reference tool that will help you determine which court had jurisdiction over an area.Two possible reference tools are the probate keys in the Family History Library, or The Atlas and Index of Parish Registers by Cecil Humphery-Smith; however, these are the general rules:if a deceasedís property lied entirely within one archdeaconry then will would be proved in that arch deaconís court.If some of the deceasedís property was outside of the archdeaconry, but within one diocese, the Bishopís court had jurisdiction.If a person had property in more that one diocese either the Prerogative Court of York to the north or the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in the south had jurisdiction.The Prerogative Court of Canterbury always had jurisdiction if the deceased had property outside of England.For this reason the Prerogative Court of Canterbury may be useful for establishing a link to England for a person who emigrated from England.


Prior to 1733 probate records are written in Latin, so it is important to get a good Latin word list and a dictionary so that you will be able to read these documents.Before you decide that you can not read Latin, get yourself a good Latin word list and a small Latin dictionary.Then find an example of a translated will.Most of will language is Jargon so the words will be exactly the same thing each time.All you really have to do is be able to pick out the names and relationships rather than translate the entire document.


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© 2002 Jeffrey Wilde