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WILLS SINCE 1858|
In 1857, the Probate Act provided that jurisdiction over wills and administrations should be transferred to a new civil Court of Probate. Since 12 January 1858, applications for grants of probate or letters of administration have been made at either the Principal Probate Registry (PPR) in London (now the Principal Registry of the Family Division) or at a district office. If the application was made at a district office, that district office kept the original will or letters of administration and sent a copy to the PPR. The PPR therefore holds originals or copies of all Wills and Administrations for England and Wales since 1858.
WILLS FROM BEFORE 1858
Before 1858, grants of probate or letters of administration were dealt with by the church. In the organisation of the Church of England, a deanery was made up of a number of parishes, deaneries were grouped into an archdeaconry and a number of archdeaconries made up a diocese. Each diocese belonged to either the ecclesiastical province of York or that of Canterbury.
If a man's property lay entirely in one archdeaconry, his will was generally proved in that archdeacon's court. If, however, he owned property of more than £5 in value in another archdeaconry his will would be dealt with by the court of a bishop or archbishop. However, this is complicated by the existence of areas known as peculiers. Peculiers were parishes that were geographically within one archdeaconry or diocese but subject to the jurisdiction of another. Most peculiers had their own courts for granting of probate. Most parishes in Surrey were subject to the jurisdiction of the Archdeaconry of Surrey and the diocese of the Bishop of Winchester.
Very few wills of Surrey residents, prior to 1858, are actually deposited in Surrey. The records of the various courts dealing with Surrey Wills are deposited as below (the vast majority in the LMA):
Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) - Public Record Office (now The National Archives)
Consistory Court of the Bishop of Winchester - Hampshire Record Office
Archdeaconry Court of Winchester - Hampshire Record Office
Archdeaconry Court of Surrey - London Metropolitan Archives (LMA)
Commissary Court of the Bishop of Winchester in Surrey - London Metropolitan Archives
Court of the Peculier Deanery of Croydon - Lambeth Palace Archives
London Metropolitan Archives references for wills take the form of:
either DW/PA/5/1821/4, where DW indicates the Diocese of Westminster, PA indicates Probate in the Archdeaconry Court (PC would refer to the Commissary Court), 5 refers to the series of original wills, 1821 is the year the will was proved, and 4 is the number of the will in the bundle;
or DW/PA/7/1821/6 ff.282r-v, where DW and PA or PC are as above, 7 refers to the registers into which wills were copied by hand, 6 refers to the 6th register, ff.282 is page 282 of the register, and r-v indicates that the will continues on to the back (verso) of the page from the front (recto).
A small number of original wills are held by the Surrey History Centre.
Some wills do not appear in the archives - maybe probate was not sought. A few of these wills (where they relate to holding of copyhold land) are cited or appear, in part or full, in the records of the local manor courts.
Ancestral Trails, Mark D Herber, Sutton Publishing, 2000, ISBN 0-7509-2484-5
Index of Surrey Probate Inventories, Domestic Buildings Research Group (Surrey), 1986, ISBN 0 9511553 0 X
Index of Surrey Archdeaconry Court Wills 1660-1751, West Surrey Family History Society
Index of Surrey Wills proved in the Archdeaconry Court 1752-1858, West Surrey Family History Society, 1994, ISSN 0261-5681
Archdeaconry Court of Surrey Registered wills 1763-1777 (MF), West Surrey Family History Society
Index to Surrey Wills proved in the Commissary Court 1660-1751, West Surrey Family History Society
Index to Commissary Court of Surrey Wills 1752-1858, West Surrey Family History Society,
Surrey Wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 1650-1700, West Surrey Family History Society
Surrey Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 1782-1790, West Surrey Family History Society
Index of Surrey Wills and Administrations in the Peculier Court 1660-1751, West Surrey Family History Society, 1994, ISSN 0261-5681