Wills and Probate Records
1487 to present
Although only a minority of our ancestors left wills, they can provide valuable details about a person’s social status and family relationships. Wills vary considerably in both size and content, from virtually no detail to the extremely detailed (sometimes enabling you to construct a family tree of several generations). Up until the 1750s inventories listing the deceased’s property were often attached to the will, giving details of household goods and the tools of his or her trade.
When someone died without leaving a valid will, letters of administration (or ‘admins’) could be granted to the person’s next of kin. These are usually less informative, but may still include an inventory.
Until 1857 the church authorities were responsible for accepting the validity of a will (proving or granting probate), but in 1858 a new system of civil probate registries was established.
The Record Office holds over 70,000 original Cheshire wills and probate records proved in the Archdeaconry of Chester between 1487 and 1857, as well as 60,000 microfilm copies of wills proved at the Chester Probate Registry between 1858 and 1940.
Indexes to all these wills can be found by searching our databases.
More information about wills and related records can be found on The National Archives’ website.