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Libraries Family history

Probate Records

Before 1541

Lancashire south of the River Ribble including Manchester was in the diocese of Lichfield. Any few surviving wills are at the Lichfield Record Office.


From 1541 Manchester was in the Diocese of Chester. Wills for the Archdeaconry of Chester in Lancashire, which was the area south of the River Ribble including Manchester, are held at the Lancashire Record Office. Indexes to these wills have been published by the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire. They cover both Lancashire and Cheshire and they are as follows:

Supra series (where the estate was valued at over £40)

  • 1545-1620 Vol.2
  • 1621-1650 Vol.4
  • 1660-1680 Vol.15 and 63
  • 1681-1700 Vol.18
  • 1701-1720 Vol.20
  • 1721-1740 Vol.22
  • 1741-1760 Vol.25
  • 1761-1780 (A-M) Vol.37
  • 1761-1780 (N-Z) Vol.38
  • 1781-1790 Vol.44
  • 1791-1800 Vol.45
  • 1801-1810 (A-L) Vol.62
  • 1801-1810 (M-Z) Vol.63
  • 1811-1820 (A-L) Vol.78
  • 1811-1820 (M-Z) Vol.79
  • 1821-1825 Vol.107
  • 1826-1830 Vol.113
  • 1831-1833 Vol.118
  • 1834-1837 Vol.120

Infra series (where the estate was valued at less than £40)

  • 1590-1665 Vol.52
  • 1660-1837 as supra series

Diocesan series (where the probate was disputed and legal action taken)

  • 1487-1620 Vol.33
  • 1621-1700 Vol.43
  • 1701 -1800 Vol.52

It is important to note that not all of the wills listed in the indexes still survive.

Wills for Cheshire are at Cheshire and Chester Archives. There is an on-line index for 1492-1857.

If the deceased's property was in more than one diocese, the will would be proved in the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of York. These records are at the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research. The Prerogative Court of Canterbury took precedence if property was held in both provinces and its records are held at the National Archives.

From 1858

A Principal Probate Registry was set up in 1858 along with forty District Probate Registries, including one at Manchester. The probate indexes from 1858-1966 on now available at Free access to Ancestry Library Edition is available at any City of Manchester Library.

Copies of wills for England and Wales can be obtained by post for a small fee from the Leeds District Probate Service or by contacting your local Probate Registry. The Manchester District Probate Registry is based at Manchester Civil Justice Centre, Ground Floor, 1 Bridge Street West, PO Box 4240, Manchester M60 1WJ (0161 240 5701,

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