Wills, Administrations, Probate and Inventories
- 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
- 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.
Obtaining a copy of a will
To obtain a copy of a will indexed in the above FIBIS resources you have the following options:
- Copies of British India Office Wills & Probate 1774-1948 are available from findmypast
- Contact the British Library
- Order a LDS film (refer below) See Family History Centres. However, for most people findmypast would be more convenient.
- 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 online. Members should contact the research co-ordinator - email@example.com - 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
These records, with images, are available for download on the findmypast website.
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. 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. These records do NOT appear to have been digitised by FindMy Past. 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. Both Ancestry and findmypast contain databases relating to wills prior to 1858. In Ancestry the databases are located in the collection Wills, Probates, Land, Tax & Criminal, while in findmypast the databases are located in Birth, Marriage, Death & Parish Records/Wills & probate.
For the period from 1858, England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995 is available through Ancestry.co.uk. Note there are a few gaps in records.
Findmypast also has two related datasets of these Index records called "Probate Calendars Of England & Wales 1858-1959" and "Probate Calendars Of England & Wales 1858-1959 - Browse", located under Birth, Marriage, Death & Parish Records/ Wills & probate.
If you wish to order a copy of a will or grant mentioned in this collection, you can do so for a fee, online from Find a will: GOV.UK, where you can search for the will or probate of any person in the UK who died between 1858 and 1996, and then order a copy online. Currently (March 2016) the website is a “Beta” (not finalized) version, and the Search appears inadequate. It is recommended that you find details from findmypast or Ancestry, then use the details to locate the record on GOV.UK, from where you can complete the details for an online request for the will.
Keep in mind that men who retired in India, and their families, could remain in India, or return to the UK (England, Scotland Wales, and Ireland), or relocate to, and eventually die, anywhere in the world, including Australia, New Zealand etc. Areas close to the UK which were popular with retirees include France and the Channel Islands including Jersey.
- 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.
- Society of Genealogists: Guide Four: Probate Records Edited and updated by Else Churchill and Geoff Swinfield 2015.
- Wills and Where to find them in England and Wales by Gillian Stevens and Chad Hanna sog.org.uk from upload 2013. Note: some information may have changed, see 2015 link, but some information is still valid.
- Wills & Testaments ScotlandsPeople scotlandspeople.gov.uk. Free to search, pay to view. Scottish wills.
- Calendars of Wills and Administrations 1858 – 1920 National Archives of Ireland. Irish wills. Free records.
- Jersey Heritage: Archives & Collections Online Includes wills for persons with connections to India. Download of an image requires either an annual subscription, or pay per view.