Wills, Administrations, Probate and Inventories
- Sylvia Murphy, "Some Sources of Probate and Estate Records for India," FIBIS Journal, No 8 (Autumn 2002). For details of how to access this article online, see FIBIS Journals.
The following information is available on the FIBIS Search database.
- Bengal Wills in the India Office Records 1780 to 1866 Complete, 1867-1909 surnames beginning ‘A’ only.
- Officers Wills in the India Office Records an index and extract from the IOR series L/AG/34/30/30. The wills of only 37 officers are included. They cover all three presidencies over the years 1831 to 1875
- Administration Act Books Administrations relating to India 1764 to 1857
- Limited Administration Act Books relating to India 1830 to 1839
Obtaining a copy of a will
If you want to obtain a copy of a will that you have found a reference for in FIBIS’s transcriptions, you will need to visit or contact the British Library, or order a LDS film (refer below) or LDS photocpy, details here. This India List post dated 3/2010 is in respect of obtaining a copy of a will from the British Library.
FIBIS members can also take advantage of the FIBIS research service to obtain a photocopy of a microfilmed will from the British Library (and, indeed, details from other records ) where a reference has been found on the website. A search can also be made for wills, probates and inventories which may not yet be listed on the site. Members should contact the research co-ordinator - firstname.lastname@example.org - for details of this service.
The records include Wills, probates, administrations and inventories of estates of persons who died in India and Burma IOR/L/AG/34/29 which include
- Bengal wills IOR/L/AG/34/29/4-184 Calcutta Supreme/High Court
- Madras wills and administrations IOR/L/AG/34/29/185-340 Madras Supreme/High Court
- Bombay wills and administrations IOR/L/AG/34/29/341-380 Bombay Supreme/High Court
Note that if you are searching for a person who lived outside of Calcutta and the other capitals, up-country, in the Mofussil, they will probably be found in the records of the District Courts, not the Supreme Courts. The District Court records start from 1865, as explained in this summary of L/AG/34 contents. This Rootsweb India List thread advises that the only information available in relation to wills proved in District Courts are the summaries of grants made which are contained in the District Court Calendars of Probate. Unlike wills proved in the Supreme Courts at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay, copies of the actual wills were not sent to the India Office in London. At this point (December 2009) it appears most likely that the Indian Courts, rather than Regional State Archives in India would be most likely to hold the probated wills, if copies still exist. Details of both these sources may be found in Indian Libraries and Archives.
Some wills proved in England relate to persons with links to India or, indeed, those who have actually died in India. Maybe property was held at home and abroad and, therefore, the will was proved in both places. Where this happened before 1858 a will held in the British Library may also be mirrored in the Documents Online section of the National Archives website – from where it can be downloaded at nominal cost. National Archives.
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861-1941 is now available through Ancestry.co.uk. Note there are a few gaps inrecords. If you wish to order a copy of a will or grant mentioned in this collection, you can do so for a fee from the Principal Probate Registry or any district probate registry, or you can make a request by mail. Read how to do this in the Guide to obtaining probate records from 1858 in England and Wales by Her Majesty’s Courts Service (HMCS) part of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
This India List post advises that contemporary newspapers are a good source of information, and mentions The Times (London}
Wills may be a means of tracing family links through the beneficaries named. This India List post says “I have a will from Bengal dated 1813 in which an ancestor of mine named his brother-in-law as a beneficiary. That is the only clue I have to his wife's identity”.
- Microfilms in the Family History Library - a list obtained by a keyword search ('probate, India') of filmed India Office records in the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library Catalogue.
- Wills and Where to find them in England and Wales by Gillian Stevens and Chad Hanna sog.org.uk upload 2013