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|Poor Law Records|
- There were 3 major probate courts in Somerset: the Consistory of Bath and Wells handled probates for the Archdeaconry of Bath and had superior jurisdiction over the other 2 archdeaconries of Wells and Taunton. Additionally, there were some 53 places that came under peculiar jurisdictions tied to the Consistory of Bath and Wells. Use the map in the Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers to determine the area covered by the 2 archdeaconries and places under peculiar jurisdiction. Note in the lower left corner of the map the names of the peculiar courts and the parishes covered by each. The list is correct except for Wookey that should be added to the list of the Prebendaries of Wells.
Unfortunately, almost all of the original pre-1858 probate records for Somerset were housed at Exeter where they were destroyed by air raids in 1942. Some records plus copies and abstracts survived, especially the copies of wills sent to London for the Estate Duty, 1812-1857. Thousands of documents have survived but are found in many repositories besides the Somerset Record Office. Accordingly, the decision tables are designed to help you find (A) the surviving records, (B) the Estate Duty records, 1805-1857, and (C-D) the few places where original probate records were never housed at Exeter.
- If research involves one of the places listed below, match the designated letter in parentheses (C-D) with the subsequent heading in the decision table.
|Cockington||Consistory of Bristol (C)|
|Bedminster||1844-1858, Consistory of Bristol (C)|
|Writhlington||Prebendal of Fordington & Writhlington (D)|
For those who lived in (A) to compensate for the destruction, search:
- Sir Mervyn Medlycott's Somerset Wills Index: Printed & Manuscript Copies (FHL 942.38 P22m)
- Office Wills Index to wills in the various collections of the Somerset Record Office (A-B on FHL film 1702400, item 2, and C-Z on 1702401) This filming was done in 1991. To be more current go here and use their online catalog with Reference DD/X/MDT/7-10. Type DD/X/MDT/7 in the box labeled RefNo.
- Any printed indexes, abstracts, and other filmed records listed below pertinent to the court of interest
- Prerogative Court of Canterbury (London: PCC)
- Court of Arches (London: Arches)
- Court of Delegates (London: Delegates)
For those who lived in (B) the time of the Estate Duty records, search:
- For wills/administrations, 1805-1811, David T. Hawkings' "Index of Somerset Estate Duty Office" (FHL fiche 6344952-6344953)
- For wills after 1811, use the online "Index of Somerset Wills, 1812-1857" here. Select from the menu on the left "Online catalogue & indexes" to search the index. Hawkings' index to the same material is on FHL fiche 6344954-6344955. (Also check London: Estate Duty)
- Do steps 4-6 listed under (A).
For those who lived in (C) the Consistory of Bristol, search:
- Consistory Court of Bristol (Gloucester)
For those who lived in (D) the Prebendal of Fordington & Writhlington, search:
- Prebendal Court of Fordington & Writhlington (Dorset)
Pre-1858 Probate Records for the Diocese of Bath and Wells
You can see a list of all of the surviving probate records for the Consistory Court of Bath and Wells at the Somerset Record Office by going to the web site listed above under B2. Click on "Online Catalogue," then "Search Catalogue," and fill in the "Ref No" with D/D/ct. Click on the underlined number and then again on D/D/ct/1. Scan down the alphabetical listing to find the references under lower case ct through ctr. The peculiar courts are listed under lower case pat through pdc.
The Administrators' Accounts, 1577-1741, for the Consistory are listed by the name of the administrator on the above list under cta. These accounts have all been microfilmed. To see the film numbers, put 2186951 in the Film/Fiche box on the main menu of the FHL catalog at FamilySearch.
Court records for the Diocese of Bath and Wells provide other original references to Consistory probate records. The License Books (D/D/OL/1-102), 1558-1852, include records for the Consistory, the Archdeaconry of Wells, the Dean of Wells, and the Dean and Chapter of Wells. The actual license books have been microfilmed. Put 2186573 in the Film/Fiche box on the main menu to the FHL catalog at FamilySearch to see all of the call numbers in this series of records. Start with the detailed descriptions of each of the 102 books on the web site of The National Archives. Under the search box on the left, click on "Advanced search." Fill in the box labeled "this exact wording or phrase" with D/D/OL. Then use the down arrow for the Repository to select Somerset Archive and Record Service and press Search. Click on the first entry for License books. The first three items are actually administration act books, 1558-1578/
Deposition Books (D/D/Cd/1-137), 1530-1754, of the Consistory Court provide detailed information on witnesses involving cases over disputed probates. The initial film in this series is FHL 2106913. There is also an index to this series for 1695-1744 or covering mainly Cd/109-134 on FHL film 1702804.
Printed Indexes/Abstracts of Wills for the Consistory of Bath and Wells
- Indexed Abstracts of Registered Copy Wills from the Consistory's volumes 1-2, 1528-1536, were compiled by the Rev. F.W. Weaver. (FHL 942.38/W2 S2w and film 824101, item 3)
- Abstracts of Registered Copy Wills from the Consistory, 1539-1541/2, in the Thomas Serel Collection were published in the Proceedings of the Somerset Record Society. (Volume 61, pages 54-104, on FHL film 1696641, item 6)
- Abstracts of Wills from the Archdeaconry of Wells, Books 8 & 12 for 1543-1546 and 1554-1556, were published by the Somerset Record Society. (FHL 942.34 B4s, volume 40)
- A calendar of wills for the Consistory from 1529, including to Registered Wills, 1573-1600, and Original Wills, 1543-1600, was published by the Somerset Record Society. (FHL 942.34 B4s, volume 62, pages 1-74) There are also brief extracts from wills in the 16th century found in the Holworthy Collection on pages 121-139. Start with the every name index.
Printed Calendars for the Archdeaconry of Taunton
- Wills, 1537-1799 (FHL 942 B4b) & (BYU CS 434 .B7), vol. 45
This is volume 45 of the Index Library Series (BRS). It indexes Registered Wills and Administrations, 1537-1593, on pages 1- 88; and only Original Wills, 1597-1799, from page 89.
- Administrations, 1596-1799 (FHL 942 B4b) & (BYU on fiche CS 43 .G46x LH 12298) volume 53
This is actually volumes 45a and 53 of the Index Library Series (BRS) bound together. Volume 53 refers to Dorset. Volume 45a comes at the end of the entries for Dorset and has its own pagination for the administrations of Taunton. The entries for Taunton are followed by those for the Royal Peculiar of Ilminster in Somerset. All of the above for volumes 53 and 45a is in the Ancestry.com system here. This is a subscription site but you have free access to it when searching at the FHL, using the computers in the family history section of the BYU library, and through FamilySearch Partner Access.
- H.R. Phipps' index is to 373 wills found at Taunton Castle and not listed in BRS 45 above. Phipp's work was published in the Genealogists' Magazine (FHL 942 B2gm volume 5:328-336) All of the wills found at Taunton Castle should be listed in Medlycott's book.
- Index to Inventories (FHL 942.38 P22i)
Adrian J. Webb's book was published in 1995. It indexes some 6,000 inventories for Somerset both in the Somerset Record Office and the National Archives. Most of the surviving inventories (4,180) are for Taunton as will be seen below.
Microfilmed Probate Records for the Archdeaconry of Taunton
Court Records for the Archdeaconry of Taunton (DD/SP/423-452) have been microfilmed. Put 2358239 in the Film/Fiche box of the main menu of the FHL catalog at FamilySearch.
The most important records here for probate research are documents:
- 423 for 1690-1694, that consists mainly of depositions for disputed probate cases. FHL film 2358239)
- 426-427 for 1645-1737, that include Tuition Bonds (FHL 2358240)
- 432 for 1632-1733, which is Letters of Administration (FHL 2358240)
- 433-437 for 1644-1749, which are Bonds and Renunciations of both executors and administrators (FHL 2358286)
- 438-439 for 1609-1715 and 1610-1765, which are some 200 wills and inventories (FHL 2358286)
- 440 for 1610-1777, which consists of 20 unindexed wills (FHL 2358287)
- 442 for 1637-1755, which consists of 75 administrators' accounts (FHL 2358287)
- 443 for 1609-1635, which consists of inventories of intestates (FHL 2358287)
- 443 continues for 1635-1755 for inventories of intestates (see FHL catalog for films)
- 448 for 1772, 1783-1794, which consists of Registrars' Papers listing the fees charged for a probate, including the name of the testator (FHL 1408726)
Royal Peculiar Court of Ilminster
Printed Index to Wills/Administrations, 1690-1857 (FHL 942 B4b) volume 53
See note 2 above under Printed Calendars for the Archdeaconry of Taunton.
Somerset Estate Duty Abstracts of Wills/Administrations, 1805-1811
The abstracts are listed by each of the courts in Somerset on four rolls of film (FHL 1485137-1485140). They were filmed at the National Archives (IR 26/289-293).
Estate Duty Wills, 1812-1857
An exact copy of the will was required for tax purposes starting in 1812. The records at the Somerset Record Office (DD/Ed) have been microfilmed on 97 rolls of film. They do not include the peculiar courts. (FHL 893265-893361) There are no administrations in this group of records. The wills are now online at Estate Duty Wills Search
Abstracts of Somerset Wills Proven in the PCC
- 1383-1558 (FHL 942.38 B4s) volumes 16, 19, and 21
This is the work of the Rev. F.W. Weaver as published by the Somerset Record Society. Volume 16 treats 1383-1500. Volume 19 adds 1501-1530, plus a list of wills preserved at Lambeth Palace, 1363-1491. Volume 21 is for 1531-1558. Each volume has an every name index.
The Rev. Frederick Brown also extracted Somerset wills mainly from the PCC for the 16th century through about 1730. Abstracts of some of the wills in Brown's collection were published in 6 volumes by F.A. Crisp. Each volume has an every name index. (FHL 942.38 S2b and BYU film 496913, items 1-6)
Moger Collection. Olive M. Moger abstracted wills for Somerset in the 1930s for different clients. These abstracts have now been published by the Somerset Record Society as Somerset Wills II. They cover from 1380-1859. (FHL 942.38 B4s, volume 94)