Discover your ancestor today in the Kent Wills & Probate Indexes. Explore four indexes created from probate cases in the English county of Kent from 1328 to 1890. You will find your ancestor’s occupation, probate date and other names included in the documents. Most records will include details to help you obtain the original document from the Kent History & Library Centre.
Each record includes a transcript for the original index. Records sourced from Kent Will Abstracts, 1328-1691 will include an image.
The transcripts may include a combination of the following information:
Status or occupation
Place – refers to either residence or location of property/estate
Other names – additional names found within the original record
The image is a typed or handwritten copy of the original will. The image will give you additional information about your ancestor and your ancestor's property and possessions.
The images may provide the following information:
Date of the will
Name of executor or executrix
Name of heirs and what they have inherited
Date of probate
The original probate documents are held at the Kent History & Library Centre. To obtain copies of an original will, administration or inventory you need to contact the centre by letter, fax or e-mail, giving full details and references. They will then send you details on obtaining copies plus cost. See the Kent History & Library Centre website for contact details.
Kent is a county in the south east of England and is one of the Home Counties. Known as the Garden of England, because of its many orchards and hop gardens, it is bordered by Greater London, Essex, Surrey and East Sussex. Historically it was a coal mining county.
The Kent Wills & Probate Indexes 1348-1890 is a collection of indexes from four separate sources:
West Kent Probate Index 1750-1890 - There are 6,304 records, which form a master index of wills and administrations to the two probate and peculiar courts of the Diocese of Rochester.
West Kent Probate Index 1440-1857 - This is a dataset of the wills proved in the Archdeaconry & Consistory Courts of Rochester and the Peculiar of Cliffe, covering the years 1440-1857. It represents the content of several card indexes formerly housed at the Centre for Kentish Studies, as well as the published “Index of Wills Proved in the Rochester Consistory Court Wills 1440 – 1561”, ed. Leland Duncan (Kent Records Vol. 9, 1924).
Kent Inventories 1571-1842 - 27,812 surviving paper inventories of Kent testators. It represents the contents of three card indexes formerly housed at the Centre for Kentish Studies, covering the following probate courts: Diocese of Canterbury, Archdeaconry Court; Diocese of Canterbury, Consistory Court; and Diocese of Rochester, combined Archdeaconry & Consistory Courts.
Kent Will Abstracts 1328-1691 - This dataset contains indexed abstracts (summaries) to wills proved in the Archdeaconry & Consistory Courts of Canterbury for people living in or near Faversham 1450-1642 & Thanet 1328-1691. The dataset also includes abstracts to a small number of wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. The Consistory and Archdeaconry courts intermingled and overlapped but basically covered Eastern Kent.
Most parishes east of the river Medway were under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Canterbury. Those living to the west were mostly within the jurisdiction of the diocese of Rochester apart from the 38 parishes within the Peculiar of the Deanery of Shoreham; such as, Bexley, Darenth, Farningham, Northfleet and Shoreham. After 1845, however, some of the parishes within the Deanery of Shoreham were transferred to Canterbury. Also included in the records is the Peculiar Court of the Rector of Cliffe, which only concerns the parish of Cliffe. The collection does not contain the Peculiar courts of Arches and Croydon.
If your ancestor owned property worth £5 or less and within one jurisdiction, the probate case was usually proved within that court. If your ancestor had more than one property and especially if the properties were across different jurisdictions, the will had to be proved in the highest court of those jurisdictions. A person of lower means would usually choose to go to the lowest permissible court to avoid excessive fees and expenses, but more wealthy persons may go to a higher court. The highest probate court in the land was the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.
For a better understanding of the Church of England court structure and the role of each court read The Church of England Courts available in the Useful Links and Resources.
The Kent Wills & Probate Indexes 1328-1890 include the following courts:
For a number of reasons there are some years missing from the records. We have provided a full breakdown of the year available and not available for each court in the Kent Wills & Probate Indexes Years Coverage article page.
Below is a list of the various types of documents found within the Kent Wills & Probate Indexes:
Account - An account, not necessarily a probate account
Act book entry - May refer to an admon and/or a will
Admon - Administration abstract
Baptism - Baptism records; generally from parish registers
Burial - Death/burial records; generally from parish registers
Grant - Some type of grant
Inventory - probate inventory
Letter - Any type of letter
Marriage - Marriage records; generally from parish registers
MI - Monumental inscription (gravestones, etc)
Misc.- miscellaneous document
Pedigree - Pedigree or family tree; often fragmentary, but sometimes very detailed
Will abstract - Will abstract
Will transcript - Full transcription of will (rare)
Visitation report - Abstract of visitation report
Will nunc. - Abstract of nuncupative will
To help guide you through probate records Findmypast has provided a Glossary of Probate Terms available in the Useful Links and Resources section.
The Thanet abstracts were originally created by Arthur Hussey, in the first few years of the 20th century. About a third of these abstracts (those for surnames beginning A to G) were subsequently typed up by Duncan Harrington. The versions here are digitised images of either Duncan Harrington's typed versions or of Hussey's manuscript originals.
The Faversham abstracts were all created and typed by Duncan Harrington, and digitised images of these are now online.
The Thanet and Faversham abstracts are made available on the National Wills Index by kind permission of Duncan Harrington.
The West Kent Probate Index 1750-1890 was created by Dr David Wright.