The guide to researching your family history.

Catherine Meades BSc DipGen QG
Cameo Family History

A series to lead you through the process of discovering your family’s story in simple steps, with some tips and tricks to help you through, round or over brick walls.

Part 9 – Wills and Administrations

Wills can be really interesting for family historians. They give us an insight into the mind of the person who wrote them – not to mention they can list most of the members of the person’s family.

1858 is the key date when looking for wills.

From 1858 onwards, probate became the responsibility of the state and copies of the original documents can be obtained via a government website for £10 each.

Before 1858, probate was the responsibility of the courts of the Anglican church – even for the wills of non-Anglicans.

These church courts were hierarchical so depending on the size and location of the deceased’s assets, there were typically a number of levels at which a will could be proved – the highest being the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC).

Luckily, most wills for the Diocese of Durham (which included Northumberland) were proved in the Durham Consistory Court.

The originals of these wills are kept in the Palace Green Library in Durham and images for many are available online.

Administration was the process by which someone was legal appointed to administer an estate in the absence of a will.

The associated records – often known as “Admons” – are much briefer than wills but may still provide useful information. Admons are obtained from the same sources as wills.

For more information on the registers of various non-conformist groups together with previous articles in this series, see the Cameo Family History Website:

Next month: Newspapers

Tel: 07855 556 384
Facebook: @cameofh



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Catherine Meades
My name is Catherine Anne Meades and Cameo Family History is the result of my love of telling the stories of ordinary people from the past. I have a degree in Chemistry and a career of over 35 years in the chemical information and chemical regulations sectors. I have been involved with online data searching since its earliest, pre-internet, days and I have massive experience in research across a range of subjects which I am now bringing to the field of genealogy. Following attending a five-week family history course at my local library in 2008, I discovered a passion for the subject and the process of finding out about people in the past which grows as I learn more about the subject and which led me to found Cameo Family History. I also have experience in presenting and training and, as my friends and family will testify, I love nothing more that talking about family history research and the discoveries I have made. Believing that proper training is the basis of professionalism, I have completed the Correspondence Course in Genealogy of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies and have achieved the Higher Certificate in Genealogy. I am an Associate of AGRA, the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives. ( ) I am a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG, )


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