Many of our records are not available online. To access these records you will either need to visit us and view the records at our site in Kew for free, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific document reference, order a copy (£).
Original Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills, 1484-1858
Original wills, as opposed to the registered copies held in PROB 11 (see online records section above), are what the executor brought to the court to have proved. They are either the will as drawn up and signed by the testator or a copy that was made before the notary of the court. Though they contain the same details as the registered copies, they can be easier to read.
Search for these original wills in PROB 10 by year/month of probate and (from around 1577) by the initial letter of the testator’s surname. Individual pieces cover ranges of months/years and ranges of surnames so their catalogue descriptions reflect this. For example, PROB 10/211 covers wills proved between June and August 1602 in surname ranges R-Y for June and A-W for July and August. Given these irregularities, it can be easier to browse through the series.
Administrations granted by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1559-1858
An application for administration would be made when a person died without leaving a will. Administrations ‘with will annexed’ were made if the original executors of a will died or refused to act.
The grants of administration are not very informative. They are registered in the Administration Act Books of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in PROB 6. These are the PCC’s own records of the letters of administration issued under the seal of the court.
To search for an administration, you must first consult an index to obtain a year and a folio number, and for later years, a county. There are several indexes, all available and held together in the Open Reading Room, and the one you use is determined by the year in question:
- 1559-1660: Published indexes
- 1661-1662: Copies of the original indexes (from PROB 12); 1661 partly indexed by a typescript index (the corresponding administration books in PROB 6 have not survived for 1661-1662 so the indexes are the only source of information)
- 1663-1664: Typescript index
- 1665-1700: Copies of the original indexes (from PROB 12)
- 1701-1800: Typescript index
- 1801-1858: Copies of the original indexes (from PROB 12)
Copies of the PROB 12 indexes on the shelves in the Open Reading Rooms at The National Archives in Kew. These are copies of the original indexes used by the court to locate individual administration act books and wills.
Original Prerogative Court of Canterbury inventories, 1417-1858
Up to 1782 every executor or administrator was required to send the court registry an inventory of the deceased’s goods. Inventories itemised the estate held by the deceased, and can (but do not always) include details of:
- all the deceased’s goods and assets, including values
- the contents of a deceased person’s home room by room
- a deceased trader’s stock
- the crops, livestock, and agricultural equipment owned by deceased farmers
- debts owed and owing
Not all inventories survive, but there are over 60,000 held across a number of series. Click on the series links below to search the respective series by name of testator or intestate and/or by place name (counties are sometimes expressed in abbreviated form so try, for example, Staffs or Stafford as well as Staffordshire) plus the word ‘inventory’, to locate inventories from the following year ranges:
Alternative searches could be by occupation or ‘at sea’.
Original Prerogative Court of Canterbury indexes, 1383–1858
Though largely replaced by the online indexes which allow you to search PROB 11 (see online records, above), the original indexes, also referred to as calendars, to wills and administrations used by the clerks of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury are still available to view. Each index lists the names of the testators and intestates of whose estates grants of probate and administration were made in that year. They are held in series PROB 12 and modern copies of these indexes are available in the open reading rooms at Kew, as described and illustrated above in reference to administrations (they are indexes to both administrations and wills).
Though limited in detail, the original indexes do sometimes provide useful alternatives to the online indexes because:
- names are sometimes spelt slightly differently
- the online indexes use the domicile of the testator at the time the will was written; the original indexes use the domicile of the testator at the time of death
In addition they can provide:
- limited information about testators’ and intestates’ places of residence. In the case of the English and Welsh testators’ and intestates’ the county of residence is usually given, generally in abbreviated form, for example Ches for Cheshire (or county of Chester). Southampton (variously abbreviated to South, Southt, Southton) denotes the county of Hampshire and not just the town of Southampton.
- names of towns or cities, other than county towns. This information is only occasionally included. The most common examples (with abbreviations in brackets) are Bath, Bristol (Brist.), Coventry (Cov.), Exeter (Exon.), Norwich (Norw.), and Salisbury (Saru.).
- occupations for certain people such as clerics holding high office and members of the nobility and doctors and physicians. Data about occupation and status is not given for the majority of testators and intestates.