Posted by on 11 August 2010 in Record Collections

National Probate Calendar

Our biggest release of the year officially went online this morning. The National Probate Calendar will help you uncover details of your ancestors’ wealth, social standing and even their hobbies and interests, plus point you in the direction of further family members. It’s now available for everyone to search online for the first time.

We’ve put together a complete guide to using this comprehensive collection, complete with step-by-step instructions. However, I’ll sum up why it’s so important here.

Every time a person dies, a court appoints someone to distribute their property. This process is called probate, and since 1858 it has been the sole responsibility of the Principal Probate Registry.

For many years, the Registry kept summaries of all its cases in calendars. These calendars, for most years between 1861 and 1941, are the records that you can now search at our site. This means there’s an entry for the vast majority of people who died in that period.

Find an ancestor in these records, and you’ll discover their full name, their date and place of death, and the executor of their will – often another family member. Crucially, you’ll also find the value of their estate, revealing whether your family lived in luxury or squalor.

That’s not all. Once you’ve pinpointed a member of your family in the Calendar, you can use its information to order copies of all their other probate records, usually including a will, direct from the Probate Office. Find out more

I’ll be interested to hear how you get on with the records – please let me know in the comments below. I found three of my ancestors within five minutes of logging on this morning – I’m now trying to work out where all the money listed in their wills has disappeared to!


Caroline Gurney 

A great resource – thank you so much for putting it online. I have found 28 family members so far. A tip for FTM 2010 users – I filtered the name index for everyone with a death date after 1861 and then sorted the list by death date. I am now working my way down that list searching for each person in turn. On the downside, there are some real problems with the indexing. The place names indexed are frequently bizarre. Try leaving the name fields blank and search on death location = USA and you will see what I mean. That search turned up deaths in Guernsey and Burton on Trent amongst other weird results. Name indexing is not as bad but I have already submitted a correction for a Charles McCarthy indexed as Carthy late McCarthy. The name Carthy doesn’t feature at all in the actual entry and the word “late” only occurs in relation to his place of residence before death. Trying to find people with double-barrelled names is also very difficult. They are indexed under the double-barrelled name but the entry then directs you to the second part of the name. When you search on that, the first part of the double-barrelled name is not included in the indexed name, so finding the person becomes difficult. For example, my Corbould-Warrens are indexed under Corbould-Warren but the entries direct you to Warren. When searching for them under Warren, the index does not include the Corbould element of the name, even though it is clearly there in the Calendar itself. It would be really helpful if this two step process could be avoided altogether by linking the Corbould-Warren index entry directly to the primary Calendar entry under Warren.

11 August 2010 at 12:06 pm
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11 August 2010 at 12:08 pm
Caroline Gurney 

Another observation – the instructions on the Ancestry website about searching these records are WRONG. The first step reads:

“Simply enter a name plus, if you know it, the date and place where the probate court case took place. These won’t be the same as the date and place of death.”

In fact, the search only works if you enter the date and place of death, NOT the date and place of probate. An example from my own family is George Brown Clark, who died in Scotland in 1867 and whose probate was in London in 1868. Using an exact search for George Brown Clark, 1867, Scotland, turns him up. An exact search for George Brown Clark, 1868, London, produces no results.

11 August 2010 at 2:38 pm
Russell James 

Thank you Caroline – excellent spot. I’ll point out the error, and we’ll get it changed in the instructions as soon as possible.

11 August 2010 at 2:54 pm
Caroline Gurney 

Thanks for the prompt response, Russell. Lest I come over too critical, I should reiterate that this is a great resource and I am extremely grateful to Ancestry for putting it online. Ancestry have put so many valuable records online recently that I am actually having trouble keeping up with all the hints appearing against people in FTM 2010 – which is nice problem to have!

11 August 2010 at 3:18 pm
joyce jackman 

Well done, this is absolutely wonderful to have the National Probate Index online.
Within a few minutes I located a Will for an ancestor who’s death we have not been able to locate.
Carry on adding different records to this site.
thank you

11 August 2010 at 7:00 pm
nicola obrien 

Those of us with eessentials membership were able to access this collection when it first came out. This has now changed. My first response was great a new set of records available to everyone. Some of us can not justify the expense of the additional membership price as the other records have no connection to what we are generally researching. I was able to view some of the records and was going to acess some more. Now I have lost this wonderful oppotunity and feel you company have let a large majority of your membership down.

11 August 2010 at 7:11 pm
Marcia Watson 

Not happy about the great resource not being available to UK only subscription holders. Why do we bother indexing records for you???

12 August 2010 at 4:50 am

Great research aid; thanks very much.

12 August 2010 at 1:09 pm

I agree with Nicola O’Brien. So disappointing to only be able to access a few records – no mention was made of it being a temporary resource for those of us who have only (!) paid for the basic membership. I don’t need the other information in the premium range and it’s a lot more money to pay. So only good so far, Ancestry. As time goes by, more and more of these resources are unavailable unless you pay the higher premiums. Very disappointing.

12 August 2010 at 1:51 pm

I have been trying to report a problem with the dataset. If I browse to 1930, surnames starting with Ri , I get 18 images. These are all odd numbered pages from the calendar, none of the even numbered pages (one of which holds the record I am looking for) have not been uploaded.
I am told by others that this also affects surnames starting with Q & S. Have no idea how many other sets are affected.
Can this be looked at and rectified please?

12 August 2010 at 3:25 pm

Great resource but very innaccurately transcribed. Virtually every person I’ve checked has their place of death wrong on the search results. Wether your from Leeds, Bradford, Dewsbury or Sheffield you died in York according to the search results! Makes it extremely hard to find anybody without trawling through every single image. Ancestry seems to have a problem with geography, hence why the predictive search only lists Leeds the tiny village in Kent rather than Leeds the massive city in Yorkshire.

13 August 2010 at 8:11 am

I agree with Nick – Being born in Leeds, West Yorkshire I search for many records here and always have to type my own details again and again as you only recognise Leeds in Kent!!

15 August 2010 at 12:17 pm

I also have had problems accessing the data with my 3 month subscription which came with my purchase of Family Tree Software.
I could access the data when it was first released, so why not now?

If you think, Ancestry, that allowing me to dip my toe in the water is now going to make me shell out for yet another membership when I already have one, think again!

15 August 2010 at 5:04 pm
Rachel Williams 

Not sure weather to bother upgrading my membership for this service as the Welsh transcriptions are appalling for census research alone, I can understand it may be difficult to get the grasp of a Welsh place name if you do not speak the language – however some ‘attempted’ translations are beyond a joke!

15 August 2010 at 8:32 pm

Have had a subscription with for several years now named “UK Heritage Package”. With the latest release of the National Probate Calender I assumed that with my subscription I would have access to the Probate Calendar, but it appears not! It “suggests” I need to upgrade my subscription! My current package no longer seems to exist and the suggested ones are double the price I currently pay! Have e-mailed their contact address with my query but had no response! Am not impressed!!

16 August 2010 at 1:20 am

This is a potentially useful resource. Unfortunately in FTM 2009 you just get an ‘error servicing this request’ in the web merge panel so you can’t merge the data in. Curiously the merge button has started working this morning and reports that it has merged the media. No idea where it thinks it has merged it to though 🙂

Ancestry do seem to release products without proper testing, and then often don’t fix them. For example, the 1916-2005 death records are still an awful mess and you often need to read the image yourself to find which quarter the data comes from.

16 August 2010 at 9:37 am
Valerie Alford 

I have read the comments by users with interest and
am concerned that you should employ more efficient
methods for your many resouces and test them properly, otherwise this would be a constant source of frustration which I can do without.

I await more favourable remarks before investing in your facilities.

Yours truly, Valerie Alford

16 August 2010 at 10:17 pm
Elaine O'Gorman 

This is a great research aid but there are some years that are missing; 1899-1902 incl, and 1911. Is this just an oversight which will be rectified soon?

19 August 2010 at 9:59 am

It is impossible to research a surname within a town or locality over the years available because the place of death for each entry has been captured and thus indexed at County level only.

Mick (Comment 12 above ) has noticed the same.

Even the keyword box doesn’t help at all in trying to filter the 100’s of Lancashire entries returned down to the few for Oldham or Rochdale that might interest me, for every surname I wish to research.

Verdict a great resource for known persons with known date of death. Usless for “collecting” data on potential relations from a given town or area unless having a very unusual surname. The indexing needs serious refinement.

19 August 2010 at 10:45 pm

This is an absolutely fantastic resource that has yielded unexpected information such as: the married names of daughters and proof of other family connections.
However, I agree with David that at present, the database only really works if you are already know the name & likely date of death of an individual. The indexing according to place of probate has to be rectified and until this is done, a warning needs to appear on the site. Lesser problems are the treatment of double-barrelled names.
All in all though a great resource, but how about letting all U.K. base subscribers have access – their input can only help make this an even better resource.

20 August 2010 at 9:19 am