Containing over 500,000 records, the Probate Calendars of England & Wales 1858-1959 record the details of wills lodged with the National Probate Registry. Until 1858, matters of probate were dealt with by the ecclesiastical courts of the Church of England. After 1858 the civil government took over the settlement of all estates and all wills were now probated through the Principal Probate Registry system. There were 11 district registry offices with 18 sub-district registries located around England and Wales, with the principal office located in First Avenue House, London. The calendars can reveal if your ancestor left a will,  the size of the estate in question and list the will’s executors or administrators. The executors/administrator may have been a bank, solicitor, beneficiary or a family member, providing you with links to other branches of your family tree and new avenues to explore. Once you’ve found your ancestor in the index you can use the information listed to request a copy of the will from the National Probate Registry.

Each record contains an image of the page containing the entry. The amount of information can vary. Records can include the deceased’s name, date of death, their address at death, occupation, marital status, the name of their spouse, the size of their estate, the names of any beneficiaries and their occupations.