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Wills and probate

How to find probate records before 11 January 1858

Wills and administrations are dated according to the year probate or administration was granted, not according to the year a will might have been written.

Sometimes, wills were proved, or letters of administration were granted, many years after the decease of the person in question. Inventories were usually compiled soon after the death.

We hold wills, administrations and inventories which came before the Norfolk probate courts from the 13th century to 1858. The wills available to consult are usually registered copies, rather than original wills.

Registered copies were written up by a clerk into a volume containing many wills, once the court had proved the will.

Original wills are only produced in exceptional circumstances: for example, if there is no registered copy or in order to compare a signature.

You can see microfilm copies of these records at both NRO and NHC.

To find a Norfolk will, administration or inventory, start by searching our online catalogue. On the catalogue homepage follow the link 'Probate records- search for wills, grants of administration and inventories'. 

If a will, administration or inventory exists and was proved in Norfolk, you should find an entry for it in the catalogue, with a document reference and microfilm number.

Members of staff are on hand in the searchrooms at both the NRO and NHC to help you to locate the microfilm and the document on the film.

If you prefer, you can search the various printed name indexes to wills, administrations and inventories in the searchrooms. Probate indexes arranged by place and occupation are also available on the searchroom shelves.

Wills proved in the Court of the City of Norwich were entered on the city court rolls with the Norwich enrolled deeds. Very few wills were enrolled after the early 16th century and those which do occur are likely to be copies of wills proved first in church courts.

  • Name indexes to wills, 1286-1508, are included in the online catalogue and in the Indexes to Consistory Court Wills, 1370-1550 (Norfolk Record Society, XVI), available at NRO and NHC.
  • King's Lynn enrolled and deposited wills, 1276-1539, are available on microfilm in our searchroom (the originals can be seen at King's Lynn Borough Archives).
  • Some Great Yarmouth wills and extracts, 1280-c1500, are registered with the Yarmouth enrolled deeds and are available at NRO.
  • If the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) proved the will or granted the administration, the records are kept and are available at The National Archives (TNA). You can search the index free of charge, but will need to pay a small fee to download an image of the will itself.
  • You can also view and download PCC wills at Ancestry. This is a subscription website, but you can access it free of charge at NRO, NHC and King's Lynn Borough Archives.
  • There are also printed indexes to PCC wills, 1383-1700 and 1750-1800, in the NRO's searchroom. PCC administrations, with indexes to them, are available at TNA.