Genealogy Researchers Guide to Probate

What is probate?
Probate is the process of administering a deceased person’s estate. The term is derived from the Latin word verb probo (to prove) – the validity of a will. The executor/administrator must apply to the court to be granted the legal right to wind up the estate. To do this they must provide supporting documents such as the death certificate, an inventory of assets, a copy of the will.

What information can I find?
Wills are rich information that’s especially valuable in genealogical research. You can find out where your ancestor lived, what they owned, who they left their possessions to, what they did for a living, and lots more. Aside from factual information it can give you a real personal insight into the life of your ancestor, who they favoured, religious preferences, their social standing, hobbies and interests. You’ll even get to see their signature.
What if my ancestor didn’t make a will?
Even if your ancestors did not make a will, there are still records produced during the probate process that can provide valuable information about your family history. Documents include the letters of administration – a formal document appointing a representative to administer the estate and an inventory of the deceased’s possessions. It will also contain names, places, addresses, dates, to further your search.
How far do records go back?
The Probate Registry took control of wills and administrations in 1858. At this time the principle registry was established in London, along with several district registries around the country.  Prior to this, 300 different church courts dealt with probate, therefore records are scattered.
How do I access probate records?
IWC offer a will finding service for genealogy researchers. Enter all the information you have into our form and we’ll trace your ancestors will on your behalf. Order probate records

Leave a Reply

Contact us


Call us for a quote, instant help or impartial advice on freephone
0800 612 6105 0800 calls are free - 0333 are local rate - Just click to Call

Or complete the form below