Copy of section of Jane Austen's will from 1817 (catalogue reference: PROB 11/1596)

What are these records?

These records are country court death duty registers between 1796 and 1811. They form part of series IR 26 and contain over 66,000 personal names.

A 'country court' was any church court apart from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). We have digitised the country court registers, not the PCC registers.

In the period 1796-1811 only personal estates valued at £20 or more were liable to death duty - leases, freeholds and real estate were not liable and so will not appear in the registers.

How do I search the records?

You can search the records between 1796 and 1811 in Discovery, our catalogue, by filling in the form below.

You don't need to complete every field to find a record. Please note the date of probate might be as much as three or more years after the date of death.

Your results will show all instances of the term(s) you searched for within the record descriptions, as this is currently a keyword search.

Date of probate (yyyy):

What information do the records contain?

Details included in these records include:

  • date and place of death of the person who died (testator or testatrix)
  • value of the personal estate of the deceased
  • name and place of abode of the executor or executrix
  • names of the inheritors and their relationship to the deceased (the legatees and residuary legatee)
  • any special arrangements
  • the amount of tax that was paid

Further comments could be added to the registers for up to 50 years after the first entry and so they can include additional information such as:

  • date of death of spouse
  • dates of death or marriage of beneficiaries
  • births of posthumous children and grandchildren
  • change of address
  • references to law suits
  • cross-references to other entries

There are a few things to bear in mind when using death duties as a means of valuing an estate:

  • the digitised collection dates from the period when death duties related to personal estate only and excluded freehold property
  • the death duties do not deduct debts and expenses
  • the register may not be an accurate reflection of personal estate; the valuation figure only provides a record of the bequests described in the will
  • the value may not even be accurate
  • valuations were expressed in the form of a 'tax band', which changed periodically under legislation

What do the records look like?

You might see abbreviations in the registers, some of which have an obvious meaning, such as 'est' for 'estate'. For information on how to interpret the abbreviations, please consult our research guide.

Why can't I find what I'm looking for?

The digitised collection does not include Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) death duty registers, as these have not been digitised. However, you can search Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills 1383-1858 on our website, or browse these records using Discovery, our catalogue.

The whole collection of death duty registers in series IR 26 goes up to the year 1903. The registers for the period 1812-1903 have not been digitised, but you can find out how to access them using our guide Death duties 1796-1903.

Other reasons for unsuccessful searches may include:

  • the estate was not liable to death duty
  • the assets were valued at less than £1,500 (in these cases taxes were often not collected and the register entry was often not filled in with all the details)
  • alternative spellings of personal names and place names were used (English spelling had not yet been standardised in this period)

Related guidance

Death duties 1796-1903: further research

Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills 1383-1858