Probate records are documents about how someone's estate is to be divided after they die. This is normally put together by a court, and usually includes the will.
A principal probate registry was set up in 1858 along with forty district probate registries, including one in our city. The probate indexes from 1858 to 1966, and 1973 to 1995 are on Ancestry, free access is available at any of our libraries.
Once you've found the record you want, you can order English and Welsh wills using Gov.uk.
1541 to 1858
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 (published by the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire) covers both Lancashire and Cheshire:
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 see 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
Not all of the wills listed in the indexes still survive.
Wills for Cheshire are at Cheshire and Chester Archives. There is an online index for 1492-1857.
If the deceased's property was in more than one diocese, the records are held at the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research (on behalf of the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of York).
If property was held in more than one province, the records are held at the National Archives (on behalf of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury).
Lancashire south of the River Ribble including Manchester was in the diocese of Lichfield. Any few surviving wills are at the Lichfield Record Office.
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