Find your ancestors in Wills at Chelmsford (Essex and East Hertfordshire) Vol. III 1721-1858, Introduction to Original Volume

Wills at Chelmsford (Essex and East Hertfordshire) Vol. III 1721-1858

British Record Society Volume 84

Published 1998

Introduction to Original Volume

Volumes I and II, issued by the Society in 1958 and 1961 (Index Library, Volumes 78 and 79), covered the period 1400-1619 and 1620-1720 respectively.

This third volume completes the composite index of testators whose wills were proved in any of the eight probate courts, the records of which are housed in the Essex Record Office, County Hall, Chelmsford.

Essex thus becomes the first county to have a comprehensive printed index to all the pre-1859 wills in local custody, together with indexes of parishes and of trades, which for the first time make the wills available for local and economic historians and others.

In consequence of four Orders of the President of the Probate, Division of the High Court of Justice, the following archive groups of wills were transferred to the Essex Record Office in 1955. All are included in this volume:

  • Court of the Archdeacon of Essex covered 140 parishes in SW, S and SE Essex
  • Court of the Archdeacon of Colchester covered 107 parishes in NE Mid NW Essex.
  • Court of the Archdeacon of Middlesex (Essex and Hertfordshire jurisdiction) covered 39 parishes in W and N Essex and 25 parishes in E Herts
  • Court of the Bishop of London's Commissary (Essex and Hertfordshire jurisdiction) extended in theory to 101 parishes in all parts of Essex and to six parishes in E Herts, but in practice the court was; used for probate of wills in almost every Essex parish, not excepting the Peculiars.
  • Courts of the Peculiars of Writtle with Roxwell (New College, Oxford) and of Good Easter, which coincided with those parishes.
  • Court of the Peculiar of the Deanery of Bocking (Archbishop of Canterbury) covered Bocking, Borley, Little Coggeshall, Latchingdon, Southchurch and Stisted in Essex, and Hadleigh, Monks Eleigh and Moulton in Suffolk.
  • Court of the Peculiar of the Liberty of the Sokens covered Kirby-le-Soken, Thorpe-le-Soken, and Walton-le-Soken

Full calendars of (1) the Sokens wills and of (2) the Bocking, Writtle and Roxwell and Good Easter wills, compiled by Dr. E. A Wood and Mr. S W. Prentis respectively, have been presented by them to the Essex Record Office.

The wills of many Essex testators were proved in other courts, the records of which are in the following Repositories:

  • Prerogative Court of Canterbury (preserved at Somerset House). (Originally the jurisdiction of the Archbishop was limited to deceased persons with considerable personal estate in more than one diocese, and to those who died at sea or overseas. But in course of time, by gradual encroachment on the testamentary authority of his bishops, the Archbishop acquired a prescriptive right to make a grant of probate or administration in the estate of any person dying within dying within province. Consistory Court of the Bishop of London (now housed in the Greater London Record Office, County Hall, Westminster Bridge)*
  • Commissary Court of the Bishop of London (London Division) (now in the Guildhall Library, London)**
  • Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's (now in St Paul's Cathedral Muniment Room).***
  • Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster (now in the Westminster City Library Archives Department, Buckingham Palace Road, SW1)****

*Had concurrent jurisdiction with the Archidiaeonal Courts over the whose Diocese (except the Peculiars) as well as with both Divisions of the Commissary Court.

**Had jurisdiction over the following Essex parishes (in addition to many parishes m London and Middlesex) Chingford, Epping. Leyton, Loughton, Nazering, Waltham Holy Cross, Walthamstow and Woodford. As the result of a grant from the Corporation of the City of London the Society has begun work on an Index to the Wills in this Court. In view of the origin in different parts of the country of many citizens it has been decided to include such places. This will make the Index a great deal fuller, and, it is hoped, very much more useful than if the normal procedure of only noting the parish in the preamble of each Will had been followed.

***Had jurisdiction over Barling, Belchamp St Paul's, Heybndge, Navestock, Tillingham, and Wickham St Paul's in Essex, and Brent and Furneaux Pelham in Herts (as well ai several parishes m London and Middlesex.

****Had jurisdiction over St Mary, Maldon.

Note on Probate and Administration Act Books

Persons anxious to make further searches in original records not dealt with in Wills at Chelmsford, Vols. I-III, should consult the series of Probate and Administration Act Books, from 1559 (incomplete) onwards, especially in the case of intestacy. For details of MS indexes and other probate records, see F.G. Emmison (ed.), Guide to Essex Record Office (revd. edn., 1969). 73-78.