Find your ancestors in Buckinghamshire Probate Records, 1483-1660 and Buckinghamshire Peculiars, 1420-1660 Original Introduction

Introduction to Original Volume

Scope of the Index

This index seeks to embrace in one alphabetical sequence all the wills (both original wills and registered copies) and administrations of intestates (both loose documents and registered particulars) which survive among the records of the archdeaconry of Buckingham and those of the other local courts having probate jurisdiction within the boundaries of Buckinghamshire to 1660. 1 It also includes probate inventories and most other types of ancillary documents.

The index covers all the probate records now held in the Buckinghamshire Record Office (including those which relate to Oxfordshire) as well as probate records relating to places in Buckinghamshire among the records of local courts which are held in other repositories. The coverage may be summarized as follows:

  • Archdeaconry of Buckingham, 1483-1660, held in the Buckinghamshire Record Office. Its records account for by far the greatest number of entries in the index and they include many wills which were actually proved in peculiars but entered among the archdeaconry records.
  • All Buckinghamshire peculiars, sixteenth century-1660, comprising (i) records held in the Buckinghamshire Record Office and (ii) records held in other repositories.
  • The Oxfordshire parish of Newington, associated with the Buckinghamshire peculiar of Monks Risborough, the records of which are held in the Buckinghamshire Record Office.
  • The four Buckinghamshire parishes which were formerly detached outliers of the archdeaconry of St. Albans, 1420-1660, the records of which are held in the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies.
  • Probate records of the peculiars of Buckingham and Monks Risborough, 1554—65, which are entered among the records of the neighbouring archdeaconry of Oxford held in the Oxfordshire Archives, details of which are taken from the existing published index. 2
  • Probate records for Buckinghamshire residents which are entered among the records of the neighbouring archdeaconry of Bedford held in the Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Record Service, details of which are taken from the existing published index.

Probate jurisdictions

1. The Archdeaconry of Buckingham

Until 1845 the archdeaconry of Buckingham was a division of the medieval diocese of Lincoln. Its boundaries were virtually co-terminous with those of the historic county of Buckinghamshire and it also included the parish of Caversfield, a detached portion of Buckinghamshire now in Oxfordshire. 3 From around 1510 the archdeacon's official, who exercised jurisdiction in testamentary and other matters, also acted as commissary of the bishop of Lincoln so that the two jurisdictions were effectively combined. 4

The probate records of the archdeaconry of Buckingham were transferred to the Buckinghamshire Record Office in 1959, having previously been held for a century in the Principal Probate Registry at Somerset House, to which they had been removed from the local registry in Aylesbury under the 1857 Probate Act. At the Buckinghamshire Record Office they were reunited with the other, non-probate, records of the archdeaconry which had in the meantime been transferred from the Aylesbury registry to the Bodleian Library in 1914. 5

  • Registered Wills {D/A/We; D/A/C/l; D/A/V/l)

    The earliest extant wills, 85 of which date from before 1500, are all entered — often in an abbreviated form only — in general ecclesiastical court books, where they are interspersed among the records of court proceedings. 6 After 1505 fragments of separate will registers begin to be found also, but not until 1527 are the wills wholly separated from the other court business. Until 1527, too, the court records contain many notes of probate, a large proportion of which relate to wills which were apparently never entered and the texts of which have thus not been preserved, as well as some entries recording grants of administration of the goods of intestates and a few probate inventories. These have also been included in the index. 7 Notes of probate are indicated in the index by the letters PR against the appropriate reference (see Key to Document References and Abbreviations). It should be noted that the earliest wills which have been preserved do not have any notes of probate and that the probates of some extant early wills are entered in a separate place from the will itself.

    Because of the intermingling of wills with other court business, the first two volumes in the series of will registers .transferred from the Principal Probate Registry also contain a considerable amount of non-probate material. The earliest (D/A/We/1), covering the years 1483-1523 and 1530, is itself an amalgam of several incomplete volumes, while the next in the series (D/A/We/2) appears to be complete for the years 1523-27. Conversely, some probate material escaped transfer to the Principal Probate Registry after 1857 and was included in the non-probate records sent to the Bodleian Library in 1914. This material comprises a court book for 1492-95 (D/A/V/l), which contains several wills; a volume of draft court proceedings, 1519-21 (D/A/C/1), which includes some notes of probate; and a quantity of loose fragments of various will registers, 1526-1658 (also a few later items), since added to the series of wills registers and classified out of chronological sequence as D/A/We/154. Apart from the gaps within D/A/We/1 itself, it will be seen from the summary list in Appendix 1 to this introduction that there are numerous substantial gaps in the registers prior to 1632. It will also be noted that the dates of many of the registers of the 1540s and 1550s overlap. The series breaks off in 1650 and is not resumed until 1686.

    The full texts of D/A/We/1 (to 1523) and of D/A/V/l and D/A/C/1, incorporating some 250 of the earliest wills, together with six probate inventories, several hundred notes of probate and a few grants of administration, are printed in E. M. Elvey, The Courts of the Archdeaconry of Buckingham, 1483-1523 (Buckinghamshire Record Society, vol. 19, 1975). 8 In this index, references in the form D/A/We are abbreviated to We.

  • Filed Wills (D/A/Wf)

    The parallel series of unbound, filed, wills, most of which are signed or attested originals, begins in 1506. Fewer than twenty wills in this series ante-date 1538, but after this date the series is continuous and without obvious gaps. 9 To a considerable extent, therefore, the filed series makes good the numerous gaps in the registers (see Appendix 1) and indeed between 1650 and 1686 the filed series is the only one. All wills of the period 1653-59 are copies of those proved before the Commonwealth judges in London, but the total for the whole of the 1650s is sufficient to fill only one archive box. 10

    In this index, references in the form D/A/Wf are abbreviated to Wf.

  • Administrations

    As mentioned above, some early grants of administration are entered in D/A/We/1 and D/A/We/2. The earliest surviving register, or act book, of administrations covers the years 1633-45. There is then a gap until the series resumes in 1660 (D/A/We/149, 150). 11 Only 19 filed administration bonds survive, of which 16 are dated 1642 (D/A/Wf/125).

  • Probate Inventories

    No inventories have survived as a separate series, but some have either been included with the filed wills (D/A/Wf) or copied into the registers (D/AAVe). They total fewer than 150 in this period, of which 61 ante­date 1600, and are indicated in the index by the letters INV against the appropriate reference (see Key to Document References and Abbreviations).

  • Court Papers

    In the seventeenth century, and especially between 1643 and 1649, court papers relating to testamentary litigation, including court acts, bonds, depositions of witnesses and, more rarely, interrogatories, are occasionally found bundled with the relevant filed wills. As a group they are of interest not only because very few such documents for any type of litigation, probate or otherwise, survive in the records of the archdeaconry but also because of the light they throw on the way in which the court continued to function in the 1640s after its jurisdiction had in theory been abrogated. 12

    A list of filed wills identified as containing court papers of this kind is given in Appendix 2 to this introduction. Many other filed wills of this period have enclosed in them commissions to administer oaths to executors, bonds for the due execution of wills and other routine papers relating to the process of probate. These are not normally noted in the index.

  • Accounts and Miscellaneous

    Administrators' accounts have not survived as a class and only one filed example has been found. 13

    Copies of two non-probate documents not direcdy associated with wills or administrations (and so not originally indexed) were noted — a marriage settlement of 1628 which was exhibited in 1639 and a deed of gift of a free chapel at Chesham Bois dated 1640. 14

2. The Peculiars

Situated within the boundaries of the archdeaconry were a number of parishes which for various historical reasons were, or formed part of, areas known as peculiars, which were exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop and archdeacon. The towns of Aylesbury (with the hamlet of Walton) and Buckingham (with the hamlets of Bourton, Gawcott and Prebend End) were peculiars of Lincoln Cathedral and had their own prebendal courts. Bierton, with the adjoining parishes of Buckland, Stoke Mandeville and Quarrendon, was a peculiar of the dean and chapter of Lincoln. Monks Risborough, with Halton and Newington (Oxfordshire), was a peculiar of the archbishop of Canterbury. Eton, with Eton Wick, was by virtue of the Eton College charter a peculiar of the provost of Eton. 15

The records of the Buckinghamshire peculiars, other than Eton, were transferred to the Buckinghamshire Record Office from the Bodleian Libraryon 1981, but because at different periods the records of peculiars in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire were administered together and their records physically intermingled in various combinations, it wa5 not possible to make a clear-cut division. For this reason some records of these peculiars are held in the record offices of counties other than those to which they relate. 16 Por the period covered by this volume the surviving wills and administrations for the peculiar of Bierton are now held in the Oxfordshire Archives and wills for Newington in Oxfordshire are in the Buckinghamshire Record Office. Both are included in this index. For the purposes of the index all retain their Bodleian Library shelf mark references. Records of Eton peculiar are held at Eton College Library Microfilm copies of all the probate records for the Buckinghamshire peculiars, except Eton, are available in the Buckinghamshire Record Office (Ref. M23).

Over 200 wills, all registered copies, exist for Eton, beginning in 1457, but very few probate documents of any kind survive separately for any of the other Buckinghamshire peculiars prior to 1660 and those which have survived are, with the exception of a few registered wills for Aylesbury, all loose documents (see also Appendix 1). Enclosed items in these include two probate accounts, 1615 and 1632. 17

Fortunately, from the early sixteenth century onwards many wills which were proved in the Buckinghamshire peculiars, except Eton, are found among those of the archdeaconry, both registered and filed. 18 More unexpectedly, some sixteenth-century wills for Buckingham (25) and Monks Risborough (10) peculiars have been entered among the probate records of the archdeaconry of Oxford. Taken together, these wills entered in archdeaconry records constitute the great majority of wills from peculiars which have survived for this period. Overall, however, as might be expected, probate records of the peculiars appear to be less fully preserved than for other places. The most striking example is Buckingham (with its hamlets), for which there are fewer than a hundred entries in the index. 19

3. The Archdeaconry of St. Albans

Until 1845 the four Buckinghamshire parishes of Winslow, Little Horwood, Aston Abbotts and Granborough, all of which had at one time formed part of the estate of the abbey of St. Albans, were included in the archdeaconry of St. Albans, which, as then constituted, comprised a total of 26 parishes in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. Although nominally in the diocese of Lincoln, it was in practice independent of episcopal surveil­lance until 1550, when it was annexed to the diocese of London. Probate records for the four Buckinghamshire parishes, dating from 1420, are now held in the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies among the other probate records of the archdeaconry. They comprise wills (both filed wills and registered copies), administration bonds (few) and probate inventories, the latter dating mostly from the 1540s onwards. There are also a very small number of notes of probate and administrators' accounts. The total number of wills for the four parishes is more than 500 and there are some 250-300 inventories, perhaps twice the total extant for the whole of the archdeaconry of Buckingham. 20

4. Buckinghamshire Probate Records not included in this Index

It is important to bear in mind that many wills and other probate documents relating to inhabitants of Buckinghamshire in this period are held among the records of non-local ecclesiastical courts having a wider, concurrent, jurisdiction. About 20-25 medieval wills relating to Buckinghamshire are included in the wills 1320-1547 entered in the registers of the bishops of Lincoln and are abstracted in A. Gibbons, Early Lincoln Wills (1888). A small number of Buckinghamshire wills, administrations and inventories are to be found in the records of the bishop's consistory court at Lincoln and are included from 1506 in published indexes (Index Library, vols. 28, 41, 52 and 57). There may also be a very few Buckinghamshire wills in the act books of the dean and chapter of Lincoln not covered by any index. The original records are all in the Lincolnshire Archives Office.

For the period from 1550 onwards some probate documents for those parishes formerly in the archdeaconry of St. Albans are in the records of the bishop of London's consistory court, now held in the London Metropolitan Archives.

A great many wills, administrations and inventories of Buckinghamshire residents are listed in the published indexes for the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (P.C.C.), which had jurisdiction throughout England and Wales. Records begin in 1383 and can be consulted on microfilm at the Public Record Office, Kew, and at the Family Records Centre, Myddelton Street, London. In theory the archbishop's court had jurisdiction only in cases involving personal property {bona notabila) worth more than £5 located in more than one diocese, but it would appear that in practice executors often preferred to use the P.C.C. even when these conditions did not obtain and so wills proved there are by no means confined to those of the wealthy.

Compilation of the index

Shortly after the transfer of the archdeaconry wills to the Buckinghamshire Record Office in 1959 work began on compiling a comprehensive card index and it was completed over a period of many years. The index is in two parts, the first of which covers wills to 1660 and the second wills 1661-1858. Cards for the period to c. 1630 in the first section, which form the bulk of the entries in this volume, were compiled by the late Mr E. J. Davis, then County Archivist of Buckinghamshire, in the intervals between his other duties, and the remainder were compiled by Record Office staff. The card index is arranged in strict alphabetical order of surname according to the spelling in the original documents and there are no cross-references. It gives the date of the will and the date of probate in full in each case and indicates whether the filed will is an original and whether there is an inventory. Other documents, including (post- 1600) court papers, enclosed in some filed wills, are not systematically noted. Aggregate values of missing inventories, where given, are recorded. The index also notes if a will was originally proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. It does not, however, differentiate those wills which were proved in the courts of peculiars but entered among the archdeaconry records (see above under Peculiars). Rank, occupation or status of the testator and place of abode are given. References used are those assigned in the Buckinghamshire Record Office. Wills were assigned numbers in the order of their occurrence within existing registers and boxes. This means that the numbering often diverges from the pre-existing manuscript numbering, which is normally in annual sequences, notably in the case of the many registers which contain wills for more than one year — a possible source of confusion when uncorrected microfilm copies are consulted. The original card index covers wills only and does not include administrations or notes of probate referring to missing wills. There is a separate card index to inventories.

When in 1981 the records of the Buckinghamshire peculiars (i.e. those of their records which could conveniendy be physically separated from the records of other courts) were transferred from the Bodleian Library, these too were indexed by Record Office staff in the same form, but retaining the Bodleian Library shelf marks, on distinctive yellow cards which were then integrated into the existing card index. They included the wills for Newington, Oxfordshire, which were among those of the Monks Risborough peculiar and had been transferred with it. The card index is thus a comprehensive index to all wills for local courts of probate actually held in the Buckinghamshire Record Office.

An edited version of the enlarged Buckinghamshire Record Office card index to wills for the relevant period forms the basis of the present index. Additional entries are taken from the sources indicated below.

  1. Archdeaconry administrations are taken from a nineteenth-century manuscript index volume to surviving registers and bonds 1598-1708 (D/A/We/155).
  2. Early archdeaconry notes of probate and administrations in D/A/We/1 and D/A/We/2 are taken from separate card indexes begun by Mr Davis and never made directly available to the public.
  3. Administrations in the records of peculiars held in the Buckinghamshire Record Office are taken from a manuscript index there.
  4. Wills, etc., for Buckinghamshire parishes in the records of peculiars held in the Oxfordshire Archives are based on the manuscript index to probate records of the Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire peculiars compiled by Ernest Cheyne at the Principal Probate Registry.
  5. Buckinghamshire wills and administrations in the records of the archdeaconry of Oxford held in the Oxfordshire Archives are taken from Ernest Cheney, revised by D. M. Barratt, Probate Records of the Courts of the Bishop and Archdeacon of Oxford, 1516-1732 (British Record Society, vols. 93 (A-K), 94 (L-Z), 1981, 1985).
  6. Wills, etc., for Buckinghamshire parishes formerly in the archdeaconry of St. Albans held in the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies are taken from a typescript index to the Buckinghamshire records compiled by R. Goss in 1984, with amendments by Mrs Beryl Crawley.
  7. Wills for the Eton peculiar held in Eton College Library are taken from the manuscript index there.
  8. Buckinghamshire wills and administrations in the records of the archdeaconry of Bedford are taken from A. E Cirket, Index of Bedfordshire Probate Records, 1484-1858 (British Record Society, vols. 104 (A-Kimnot), 105 (Kimpton-Z), 1993, 1994).

The arduous task of computerizing and standardizing the combined index was undertaken by Alison Toplis under the direction of Julian Hunt, now County Records and Local Studies Manager, Buckinghamshire, with the help of a grant from the British Record Society. Further editing of the completed text was undertaken by Roger Bettridge, Buckinghamshire County Archivist.

Hugh Hanley

Appendix I

A list of probate records indexed

Archdeaconry of Buckingham (held in Buckinghamshire Record Office)

  • Registers of wills, including some related inventories, 1483-1650 (D/A/We/1-38} {Note. Volumes 4—8, covering the years 1540-60, are partly concurrent and there are gaps in the registers for the following years: 1528-31, 1566-67, 1580-83, 1606-10, 1626-32,1651-[1685]).
  • Fragments of wills registers 1526-1612, 1658 p/A/We/154)
  • Court book 1492-95, containing some wills (D/A/V/l)
  • Draft court book 1519-21, containing some notes of probate (D/A/C/l)
  • Filed wills, including some related inventories and court papers, 1506-1660 (D/A/Wf/1-39)
  • Registers of grants of administrations 1633-45, 1660 (D/A/We/149-150)
  • Filed administration bonds (16 only) 1598, 1636, 1642 (D/A/Wf/125)
  • Miscellaneous stray inventories (4) 1621-52 (D/A/X/13)

Archdeaconry of St Albans: Buckinghamshire parishes only (held in Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies)

  • Registers of wills 1415-163 7 (ASA/AR)
  • Filed original wills, including some inventories and bonds, 1518, 1540, 1545—[1857] (ASA/AW) Filed inventories, including some accounts, etc. (ASA 25)

Peculiar furisdictions (filed documents, mostly wills, unless stated)

  • Aylesbury. All in Buckinghamshire Record Office (BRO) for this period. Filed alphabetically in one sequence 1624—[1800] (MS. Wills Pec. 25-27). Also one small court book 1533^0, containing six wills (MS. Archd. Pprs. Bucks, c.312).
  • Bierton. In Oxfordshire Archives. The records are integrated with those of Banbury and Thame peculiars of the dean and chapter of Lincoln and are filed together alphabetically in a single sequence 1547—[1800] (MS. Wills Pec. 32-56).
  • Buckingham. All in BRO for this period. Records arranged chronologically 1607~[1800] (MS. Wills Pec. 62).
  • Eton. In Eton College Library. Wills and related items, all in registered form, 1457-[1666J (ECR 60/14 [now 60/3/2], 60/15 [now 60/3/3], 60/341 [now 60/11/1/1]).
  • Monks Risborough with Halton and Newington (Oxon). In BRO. The records are all filed alphabetically in one integrated sequence 1624—[1800] (MS. Wills Pec. 79-80).

Note. Some stray Buckinghamshire items among the probate records of the archdeaconries of Oxford and Bedford are also included in the index. See Introduction.


1. Wills proved and administrations granted in the archdeaconry court 1 January to 24 March 1663 are also included in the index. This is because the original indexes were arranged according to 'old style' dating.

2. The archdeaconry of Oxford was in the diocese of Lincoln until 1542, when a new diocese of Oxford was established. I am grateful to Dr D. M. Barratt for drawing my attention to these strays which, one assumes, resulted from the same judge holding more than one appointment simultaneously.

3. Boundary changes post-1660 include the transfer of Linslade to Bedfordshire and of Nettleden, a former hamlet of Ivinghoe, to Hertfordshire, while Stokenehurch and Lillingstone Lovell (both archdeaconry of Oxford) were transferred from Oxfordshire to Buckinghamshire.

4. See introduction to E. M. Elvey, The Courts of the Archdeaconry of Buckingham, 1483-1523 (Buckinghamshire Record Society, vol. 19, 1975).

5. Reunion was a condition of deposit. See report in Records of Buckinghamshire, vol. 16 (1953-60), pp.297—98.

6. E. M. Elvey pp.xx-xxii.

7. M. FJvey, pp. xxii, xxvii Of some 60 administrations entered in D/A/We/2 ten relate to administrations granted following renunciation of office by executors named in a will made by the deceased person.

8. The foliation given there for D/A/We/1 is the modern (arabic) one which differs from the earlier (roman) foliation usually cited in the present index in the references to notes of probate and administrations. Elvey supplies a key in an appendix (pp.414—15).

9. The texts of four filed wills arc included in E. M. Elvey Courts, pp.315-21.

10. See Christopher Hitching, 'Probate during the Civil War and Interregnum. Part II: The Court for Probate, 1653-1560' inJournal of the Society of Archivists, vol. 5, no. 6 (October 1976), pp. 346-56.

11. The contemporary heading to D/A/We/149 states that it contains 'accounts not rendered and administrations granted'. D/A/We/150 has suffered considerable loss of text on most folios. At the front are notes of administrations (and of some probates) granted at London, 1653-60; these appear to have been indexed by the date of entry in the register, which in some cases is post-1660. Details given in both registers include the amount of the inventory of the deceased's goods.

12. Christopher Kjtching, 'Probate during the Civil War and Interregnum. Part I: The survival of the Prerogative Court in the 1640s', JSA, vol. 5, no. 5 (April 1976), pp.283-93; Hugh Hantey, 'Probate and the Church Courts in Buckinghamshire in the Civil War Era' in Records of Buckinghamshire, vol. 40 (2000), pp.91-106.

13. D/A/Wf/36/75, w21 of Robert Felpe [Felep], 1646.

14. D/A/We/33/60 and WE/33/245, marriage settlement of John Kinge of Thornborough, smith, and Alice, daughter of Nicholas Samon of Padbury clerk, 14 May 1628; D/A/We/34/64 and Wf/33/246, Francis Cheine [Cheyne] of Chesham Bois, esq., to Holland Brandreth, clerk, deed of gift of free chapel of Chesham Bois.

15. Nominally at least, the provost's authority extended to the wills of College tenants, wherever dispersed.

16. See Dr D. M. Barratt's introduction to D. M. Barratt, Joan Howard-Drake and Mark Priddey, Index to the Probate Retards of Oxfordshire 1733-1857 and to the Oxfordshire Peculiars 1547-1856 (Oxfordshire Record Society vol. 61, 1997). This source has been used for information about the records of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire peculiars generally.

17. Wills of Joan Hill of Monks Risborough, 1615, and Roger Wiggington of Berrick [Prior] (Oxon), 1632.

18. A few wills are also found for the peculiars of Hornton and Horley in Oxfordshire and Kings Sutton in Northamptonshire.

19. The incidence of such wills during the period covered seems to be uneven. In the case of Aylesbury, for example, they are relatively numerous in the 1540s and 1550s, doubdess in part a reflection of high mortality from epidemic diseases such as the 'new ague' of 1557-59. No fewer than fifteen of the Buckingham references in the Oxford archdeaconry records relate to the years 1558 and 1559.

20. The Buckinghamshire parishes are also included in Beryl Crawley (ed.), Probate Rttords at Hertford (British Record Society forthcoming). I am grateful to Mrs Crawley for supplying background information.