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All of the parishes in Cheshire came under the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Consistory of Chester that was created in 1541 out of the Consistory of Lichfield. See Stafford for details of the pre-1541 probate records of the Consistory of Lichfield; however, it is thought that few if any records survive there for Cheshire. There was one tiny township, Wirswall, on the southern border of Cheshire that actually belonged to the parish of Whitchurch in Shropshire. Whitchurch was under the jurisdiction of Lichfield but the probate records of Wirswall may be found in both consistory courts. Chester was unusual in that its probate records were divided into two groups depending on the value of the testator's estate. Property worth $40 or more was classified as Supra and below that figure as Infra. To find the records on microfilm it is helpful to know whether the ancestral probate documents were grouped under the Supra or Infra series. If unknown, try the Supra series first.
For those who lived in Cheshire, search:
- Consistory of Chester (see also the Lancashire half of this court)
- Prerogative Court of York (see York for further details)
- Prerogative Court of Canterbury (see London: PCC)
- Court of Delegates, 1636- (see London: Delegates)
For those who lived anywhere in the county between 1653-1660, search:
- Prerogative Court of Canterbury (see London: PCC)
For those who lived anywhere in the county between 1812-1857, regardless of what is found in the probate records of any of the above courts, consider searching also the estate duty registers (see London: Estate Duty)
Online Index for the Consistory of Chester
The Chester Wills Database, 1492-1940, is located at Cheshire County Council. There you will find two search options, Basic and Advanced, for a free search of their indexes to the original Supra and Infra wills, inventories and administration bonds. The Advanced feature will allow you to search for all entries of a given place (county, town or cities such as Manchester and New York) or surname as well as combination searches of various types. Thus, if you type just Wirswall in the box for place and click on Submit, the Advanced feature will bring up on the screen 18 names of persons and their occupations from this township who left probate documents between 1604-1902. Typing in just a surname will bring up all persons listed under that spelling who ever had documents probated in this court. Be creative in spelling as the online index does not group surname spelling variants together. Once found, you can either pay to have a copy of the original sent to your home (including paying via credit card) or you can search the microfilms for it.
A similar index is now available on FamilySearch under Records. You might like to compare the two. The first will also refer you to Find My Past whose index stops in 1911. However, you can see the images of the documents on this last web site for free when using the computers at the FHL or in the Family History section at BYU.
Microfilmed Records for the Consistory of Chester
All of the surviving probate records for this court have been filmed, in some cases twice. The original Supra wills, inventories and administration bonds are arranged by year and then alphabetically on 370 reels of film starting with film number 2232730. Type this number into the Film/Fiche Search box from the menu of the FHL catalog at FamilySearch to find the entire collection. There is also a master index to the Supra collection on films 2326897, item 4, and 2326898. The Infra wills, inventories and administration bonds are on films 165266-165323. Try the same approach to find them in the FHL catalog. It might be easier to find the Infra collection for Chester (not to be confused with the Infra collection for Lancashire) by checking the county hand list on the register table of the British floor of the FHL or by checking pages 18-22 of David H. Pratt's Researching British Probates, 1354-1858 (FHL register table 942 P23p and BYU Religion/Family History Reference CS 434 .X1 P72 1992). The Supra probate act books can be found in a similar fashion by typing in the film number 2107179 and the copies of the modern wills, 1858-1940, start with film 395443. See Lancashire for the registered copy wills, 1838-1858, and limited administrations, 1824-1857, for this court.
- FHL film 165010 from the first filming of Supra original wills for 1756 brings out the fact that Caleb Ransted, gentleman of the city of Chester had connections with Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On the same film is the renunciation of Margery Dudley, wife of Thomas Dudley of New Cross near Deptford, Kent, involving the property of her father, Abner Scoles, upholsterer of the city of Chester.
- There is a collection of probate documents used as evidence in testamentary suits on films 166106-166148. There is a printed index to this collection as well as its counterpart filed under Lancashire as follows: FHL 942.7 B4Lc, volumes 33, 43 and 52. Volume 33 covers 1487-1620, volume 43 covers 1621-1700 and is also on film 823510 at BYU, and volume 52 covers 1701-1800. All 3 volumes are in the Ancestry.com system.
- Ann Cole's "Cheshire Wills Beneficiaries Index" in 3 volumes is on microfiche at the FHL. The initial fiche number is 6359911.
- Volume 28 of the new series of the Chetham Society (FHL 942.7 B4c) has a listing in the appendix for Cheshire and Lancashire wills proved at York or Richmond, 1542-1649.
- Consult Pratt's Researching British Probates, 1354-1858 mentioned under the section for Microfilmed Records for further miscellaneous information concerning both Cheshire and Lancashire. The index may also prove useful in finding individual names or places of interest.