Wills and other Probate Records
is a written instruction
by an individual as to the disposal of their property after their
Letters of Administration, also known as
Admons, are grants of probate to the next of kin
to administer the property of a person where there was no will.
Inventories are lists of personal and household
goods left by the deceased.
Wills are an invaluable source of information for the family
historian giving details about the testator and his or her
relatives. Obviously not everyone made a will and an administration
was not taken for everyone who died intestate. However, where there
is a will, it supplies information which cannot be found in
other documents such as detailed information of a person's
possessions and how they were to be distributed on their death.
Apart from the very early ones, wills are nearly always
written in English. Letters of administration were in
Latin before 1733.
Up to 1858 probate business for West Sussex was transacted in
church courts which dealt with the following areas:
The archdeaconry of Chichester, which contained
most parishes of the pre 1974 county of West Sussex, with the
exception of the peculiar jurisdictions described below and a small
group of parishes on the eastern border.
The Dean's Peculiar of the City of Chichester,
comprising of the parishes of St Andrew, St Bartholomew, St Martin,
St Olave, St Pancras, St Peter the Great, St Peter the Less, the
Close, New Fishbourne and Rumboldswhyke.
The Archbishop's Peculiar Jurisdiction of Pagham and
Tarring, comprising the parishes of South Bersted,
Chichester All Saints, Durrington, Heene, East Lavant, Pagham,
Patching, Slindon, Tangmere and West Tarring, together with
Plaistow chapelry in Kirdford and a small area of Horsham called
Those persons whose wills were proved in the local courts were
mainly tradesmen, farmers, the middle classes and lower gentry. The
rich proved their wills in London, in the Prerogative Court of
Canterbury; the poor rarely had possessions that needed a will.
Those wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury can be
obtained online for a fee from the National
Archives Documents Online facility.
In 1858 the civil authorities became involved and since that
date all wills and administrations for England and Wales have been
proved in the Principal Probate Registry, London or locally at a
District Probate Registry.
Wills in West Sussex Record Office
Original wills for the archdeaconry of Chichester, and the peculiar
jurisdictions within it up to 1858 together with those for the
Chichester District Probate Registry, which covered most of West
Sussex, up to 1928. Microfilm copies of wills for the archdeaconry
of Lewes, 1518-1858, the Archbishops Peculiar of South Malling,
1588-1858 and Royal Peculiar of Battle 1531-1616, 1657-1730 are
Microfiche are available for all the main series of pre 1858
probate records and microfilm for probate records 1858-1900.
Readers are asked to use them to save wear and tear on the
originals. For Chichester District Probate Registry wills
1900-1928, the originals are available for research.
Numerous printed and card indexes are available for use. The
Record Office also holds a microfiche of national probate calendars
1858-1943 which each provide an alphabetical list, with abstracted
details of wills proved and administrations granted.