Posted by Heather Erickson on August 12, 2010 in Website

AUTHORED BY RUSSELL JAMES (FROM ANCESTRY.CO.UK)’s biggest release of the year officially went online. 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.

We’ll be interested to hear how you get on with the records – please let us 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!

Heather Erickson

Heather Erickson is Head of Global Communications for and has been with the company since 2009.


  1. susan miller

    On 11 August I was able to access the index and download the relevent pages which was great.On 12 August this was altered and only names came up and an index to names up to continue I was asked to pay more subcription.I would like to know why this has been altered form one day to the next.
    Susan Miller

  2. Michael Thomas

    Incredibly valuable and underused resource.

    Relatively cheap to order wills and now with this index much easier to find. I’ve spent ages trawling through the big manuals at the archives and whilst that is fun this index should save loads of time.

  3. PamDj

    Great addition! When these probate records are searched via the FTM websearch function, I can find the records ok. However when I highlight a particular record, the details are not shown in the ‘search result detail’ pane for merging. I get an ‘error servicing request’ message instead.
    I assume this is something to do with the way that the fields have been indexed or is it just me? Help please…

  4. Pam,

    It would appear from messages on some message boards that there are several newer functions that don’t play well with the websearch feature of FTM.

    Have you tried the same thing without using FTM to see if there is a difference?

  5. PamDj

    Andy (#6)
    Thanks for your response. Yes, without going through the FTM interface I can view and download the images perfectly. Of course, I then have to manually load the facts, sources and media within FTM.
    In FTM (2010) I can see the index listings and even load the images in the main websearch window (top right-hand side) but it’s just the search result window (bottom right-hand side) that the details don’t load into, so I can’t merge them automatically.
    Aside from that, I’m really pleased that these records are now available.

  6. arlene miles

    Like Andy Hatchett said earlier, it would be ‘Marvelous’ to have a similar database for all of the United States and their possessions.
    I have every confidence that you will see the importance of this and make it happen, Real Soon, please?

  7. Jade

    Arlene, re: your #8, note this is only 1861-1941 for England and Wales. Before 1861 estate matters were handled through some 600 Church jurisdictions, and before the 1680s through myriad other entities.

    In the USA, especially after 1776, estate matters were and are handled through each County as well as through a number of special courts, not to mention appeals to District, Superior or Chancery courts. Let’s see; Georgia alone has some 153 counties, if memory serves. That is, no central registry exists such as was established in England in the 19th century.

    Just one State, MD, has made some of its estate records pre-1776 available on the internet. These are records of the Prerogative Court — not the numerous separate County records 😉

  8. Jan Marshall

    This is great! Using the National Probate Calendar on, within minutes I found my g-grandfather’s date of death, for which I’d been searching for ages, and also that of one of his brothers, and one of his daughters! Now I’m looking forward to its extension beyond 1941!
    Thank you!

  9. Atreegrowsinbrooklyn

    As always, whenever I see “England and Wales” I do a search that might have some Ireland results. Lo and behold, this has many Ireland results. Glad I looked further.

    For newbies, I suggest that you not stop and skip a search for Irish records in these kinds of databases. Even if Ireland is not mentioned in the body of the article and/or the title, there just may be Irish records as well.

  10. ks

    Wonderful new addition but I’m having a problem with the application form:
    1. Can I send an international money order in USD equivalent to England pounds or does the international money order have to be made out in pounds?
    2. Do I send 5 pounds for a Copy of the Will and 5 pounds additional for Grant of Probate or 5 pounds total?
    3. I need four wills. Can I send one international money order for the total amount?
    4. What is “Your ref.?” Is that the volume and page from the death index? Thanks!

  11. PamDj

    ks #13
    1. You’d need to send it in pounds, Your bank would advise.
    2. £5 will buy you a copy of the probate, and the will if there is one (a will doesn’t necessarily exist), but make sure you check the box on the form to say that you want the will too.
    3. One money order for the total amound would be fine.
    4. “Your ref” is any reference that you want to use to identify your order – more relevant where, for example, you might be a business ordering things on behalf of clients. It doesn’t mean the probate number or anything like that.

  12. clsands

    I am subscribed to the entire world collection, however ancestry does not let me access this information!!

  13. David S C Wilson

    Its wonderful to use this search facility, which is long overdue. Already I may have found a distant Aunt, who may have died in France, which I knew nothing about.
    However I would like to hear from users as to which kind of Source definition would they use to link the various bits of info, which are to be found at the end page of each particular page when you find the person you have been looking for.
    I currently use TMG and wonder if a MILLS or LACKEY source type would be best.
    Regards from here in the UK David

  14. Lulu

    I am having the same problem as PamDj #5 and #7. Is anyone at Ancestry looking at this problem please?

  15. If your relatives have any connection with England or Wales, it is worth having a look here. Wills are often probated in other countries if there are connections to that country. So you may find the probate of a person who was born, lived and died in Australia in the indexes, give it a try, you never know.
    As for your wish Jan I suspect that 1941 is the legal cutoff point. In Scotland the records to 1901 are available on line but from 1901-2000 you need to go to the National Archives and for the last ten years Edinburgh Sherriff Court.

    Wills are magic, they contain all sorts of stuff, find them if you can.

    Cheers from Scotland

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