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Wills and probate

How to find a will or administration after 11 January 1858

Wills have been proved by civil probate courts since 11 January 1858, rather than by church courts.

The Court of Probates Act established the Principal Probate Registry based in London and divided the country into areas, each served by a district registry or sub-registry.

The Norwich Probate Sub-Registry covers Norfolk, but you should bear in mind that from about 1926 onwards, the executor’s place of residence became more significant than the residence of the testator in determining where a will was proved.

We hold registered copies of wills proved by the Norwich Probate Sub-Registry, 1858-1941. Wills between 1858 and 1925 are available on microfilm (also available at the NHC).

To find a will proved in Norwich, consult the will indexes, 1858-1941 (NRO and NHC). These indexes are organised by year and, within each year, by the first letter of the surname.

When you find the right surname, note the associated will number. Bear in mind that for some years, administrations and wills are indexed together, distinguished only by the reference ‘W’ for a will and ‘A’ for an administration.

For pre-1926 wills, please ask NRO or NHC staff to show you how to find the relevant microfilm number. For wills from 1926-41, you can see the original will registers in our searchroom. Neither NRO nor NHC holds administrations after 1858.

The NRO has indexes only to Norwich District administrations, 1858-1909 and 1914-41, which are included with the wills indexes.

Most of the information given in the administration is recorded in the National Probate Calendar.

This is an index of wills and administrations for England and Wales and has been created on an annual basis since 1858.

The index for 1858-1966 plus 1973-95 is searchable at Ancestry. This is a subscription website, but it is free to view at the NRO, NHC and King's Lynn Borough Archives.

The NHC also has the index on microfilm, 1858-1925, and in printed volumes, 1941-66.