Explore an index of more than 229,000 Lancashire wills and probate records. Reveal if your ancestor’s probate papers have survived through the centuries. The index will give you details about the type of material available, the probate year, and your ancestor’s occupation and residence.
The records in this collection have been created by Findmypast from the original records held at the Lancashire Record Office. There is also a small collection of records which were created by the Lancashire and Cheshire Records Society. These records include an image of the index books published by the society.
The detail in each record will vary, but most will include a combination of the following facts:
Status or occupation
Archive and reference
Document ordering link
Images are available for records created by the Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society. The images may provide you with additional information such as
Additional notes – Some entries will include more detail about the will. If the entry states ‘Supra,’ this indicates a will where the deceased's estate was valued at over £40. If the entry states ‘Infra,’ this indicates a will where the deceased's estate was valued at less than £40. Also, in some cases the different deaneries are abbreviated at the end of the description as A, F, K or L. The deaneries included are Amounderness, Furness, Kendal, and Lonsdale.
Type of document – The document type is abbreviated as follows:
Inv- Inventory, which is only inserted where no will or administration survives. Where there is a will, the inventory or document is not named.
Admon - Administration bond but no will
Acct - Account given by executors or administrators
MS – Manuscript
Tuon or Curon Bond – In other probate material, these can be found as Tuition Bond or Curation Bond. Both bonds refer to a guardianship for a testator’s young children. The testator may have set aside funds for the child’s education.
Until 1857, the Church of England was responsible for administering wills and probate cases. These wills would have been proved in ecclesiastic courts. The records cover Amounderness, Copeland, Furness, Kendal, and Lonsdale deaneries. This collection has been created by both Findmypast, which transcribed original records from the Lancashire Record Office, and the Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society, which provided index work.
The Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society published four volumes of wills indexes from 1884 until 1913. The four volumes include:
Volume 10 - Index to wills proved in the western deaneries of the Archdeaconry of Richmond 1457 to 1680, plus index to abstracts of wills from 1531 to 1652 proved in the Archdeaconry of Richmond (mainly in the deanery of Amounderness), where the original wills no longer survive. The index was originally published in 1884. Below is an excerpt from the original introduction to the wills written in 1884.
Volume 13 - The Lancashire wills proved within the Archdeaconry of Richmond from 1681 to 1748 was printed in 1886 and edited by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Fishwick, F.S.A. The introduction repeats the details found in Volume 10.
Volume 23 - A list of the Lancashire wills proved within the Archdeaconry of Richmond from 1748 to 1792 and a list of the wills provided in the Peculiar of Halton from 1615 to 1792 published in 1891 and edited by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Fishwick, F.S.A.
Volume 66 – A list of the Lancashire wills proved within the Archdeaconry of Richmond from 1793 to 1812 and a list of the wills proved in the Peculiar of Halton from 1793 to 1812 printed in 1913 and edited by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Fishwick, F.S.A.
The majority of the original wills are held at Lancashire Record Office, and many of the transcripts will provide you with an archival reference as well as a link to order the original document.
The British Library holds abstracts or summaries of wills from 1531 to 1652 proved in the Archdeaconry of Richmond (mainly deanery of Amounderness). These are listed in the index in Italics. Unfortunately, the original wills relating to these abstracts did not survive.
A list of Lancashire wills proved within the Archdeaconry of Richmond, from 1457 to 1689, and of abstracts of Lancashire wills in the British Museum, from 1531 to 1652, was edited by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Fishwick, F.S.A. The original introduction was written by Henry Fishwick, who details the history of the Archdeaconry of Richmond, explaining the changing jurisdictions, and provides a further explanation for wills missing from the collection.
Archdeaconry of Richmond
The following is taken from the original introduction written by Henry Fishwick. ‘The Archdeaconry of Richmond, as originally constituted, is of great antiquity, and was looked upon as the richest in England; it was erected by Thomas, Archbishop of York, in the year 1090, and included Allerdale and Cumberland, which were taken out of it by Henry I, in 1127, to establish the see of Carlisle. The authority of the Archdeacon of Richmond extended over eight deaneries, namely, Borobridge, Catterick, Richmond, Lonsdale, Kendal, Amounderness, Furness, and Copeland. Henry VIII, in 1541, abolished the office of Archdeacon of Richmond on the creation of the see of Chester, but a commissary appointed by the Bishop of Chester continued to exercise many of the powers formerly appertaining to the Archdeacon. Under this commissary the wills for the part of Lancashire north of the Ribble were proved, which includes the whole of the deaneries of Amounderness, and part of the deaneries of Kendal, Lonsdale, and Furness, i.e., the hundreds of Amounderness and Lonsdale, north and south of the Sands, and a small part of Blackburn hundred. It must be borne in mind that the deaneries and the hundreds are not exactly co-extensive, thus Ribchester and Chipping, though in Blackburn hundred, and Lancaster, although in the hundred of Lonsdale (except a small detached piece), are all in the deanery of Amounderness.
The wills, inventories, and the bonds from the five western deaneries down to 1748 were on 1 November in that year transmitted from Lancaster to Richmond by order of the Bishop, and thus it happens that they are found in London with the records relating to the eastern deaneries, but the wills for the western portion of the archdeaconry, which continued to be proved at Lancaster from 1748 until the Probate Act of 1857 came into operation, have never left that town. In 1861 the whole of the wills then in the Registry at Richmond (in Trinity Chapel) were removed to Doctors Commons, London, and in 1847 they were taken thence to the new Probate Registry at Somerset House. Since they reached London they have been admirably arranged and indexed, and it is from the indexed there compiled that the particulars contained in this work are mainly taken.’
‘There is a tradition that when the wills were removed from Lancaster to Richmond they were conveyed in open carts, and that in passing through Wensleydale great numbers of the documents were lost or destroyed. This may or may not be true, but the fact remains that many thousands of wills are missing. To trace these lost wills every effort has been made by private investigation and by letters in the local newspapers, but all trace of them appear to be gone.
Just as this volume went to press it was discovered that one of the volumes of the Towneley collection of MSS., lately acquired by the British Museum, consisted of abstracts of 2,279 Lancashire wills, almost all of which are for the deanery of Amounderness, ranging in date from 1531 to 1652, and on examination of these abstracts it is clear that they represent a portion of the missing wills. From a memorandum on the fly leaf of the volume it appears the original wills, in 1670, were delivered by Captain Brabent, of Preston, to Christopher Towneley, who made the abstracts, and it is not at all unlikely that the originals never again found their way to Richmond, and that this may account for at least part of the loss attributed to the carriers of Wensleydale.’
Description of the wills
‘The wills themselves are written on paper (or in some cases on parchment), and are not tied up in bundles of convenient size and are arranged under the various deaneries in alphabetical order. A very few, relatively, are registered in books. Many of them have suffered from damp and neglect, and in not a few cases only fragments remain.’