The premier resource for tracing your British and Irish ancestors
Help & ResourcesHelp with collectionsNational Wills Index collectionsAbout Chichester Consistory WillsAbout Chichester Consistory Wills 1482-1800
About the indexThis is an index to wills proved in the Consistory Court of the Bishop of Chichester 1482-1800. The original index was published in 1915 as British Record Society Volume 49.
The jurisdiction of the Consistory Court extended over the whole of the Archdeaconry of Chichester, comprising the Deaneries of Arundel, Boxgrove, Midhurst, and Storrington, and thus covered the western part of the County of Sussex.
Locating the original documentsWhere are the originals held?
The original wills are held at West Sussex Record Office.
For information about ordering copies see: Using the West Sussex Record Office
Alternatively you can visit West Sussex Record Office personally, details of opening hours, etc, can be found on their website.
FamilySearch www.familysearch.org/#form=catalog has filmed the majority of these probate documents, a microfilm copy of which can be ordered and viewed via your local FamilySearch Family History Center. www.familysearch.org/eng/Library/FHC/frameset_fhc.asp
What information from the document do I need to locate the original?
Understanding the indexWhich court or courts are included?
Wills Registered in the Consistory Court of Chichester 1482-1800.
Which diocese is involved?
Sussex was in the Diocese of Chichester.
Note: During the civil war and after, the activities of the probate courts of the Church of England were interrupted, and from 1653 to 1660 there was by law only one probate court in England and Wales, the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). Thus wills for the period 1649-1660 will be found in the PCC index.
What does the index include?
Testator name and abode (place and county) plus incidental information such as occupation and status (eg widow), where found in the original documents, are included in the index.
Names in the index are according to the spelling used in the documents, usually based on the signature of the testator. Some documents can have the testator name spelled in different ways. Using NameX will usually ensure that you can find any record of interest.
Place names may be spelled in different ways in the original documents, and these spellings are usually shown in the index. However, in the place search most place names have been modernised.
Dates of pre-1752 wills are given in 'Old Style' or Julian Calendar. Thus, for example, the year 1725 extends from 25 March 1725 to 24 March 1726 "new style" year.
Document type: normally either registered will or original will, though both may be available for some testators. There are some unregistered wills. The index includes a few administrations ("admons"), though most Chichester admons are indexed in BRS vol. 64. There are also a small number of renunciations.
Document reference The document references identify whether the will is registered (series prefix "STC I"), or an original (series "STC II").
For registered wills, the reference includes the volume and the folio on which the first page of the will appears; eg STC I/14/358, STC I/23/100b, STC I/30/832
For original wills, the reference includes the file letter followed by the document number; eg STC II/B 276, STC II/J 103.
For some testators there can be more than one will reference, whether registered or original: eg Edward Saunder, Bury, 1586: 2 original wills and one registered will, refs STC II/K 84, STC II/L 99, and STC I/14/33. Multiple "originals" are not rare - they may be wills written at different times, or multiple copies of the same will - for there would often be two signed copies of a will made, one kept by the testator and one by the person who drew up the will.
Below are details of the volumes of Registered Wills at Chichester (all series STC I) from which the index has been compiled.
STC I/1-3, 5-6 1482-1555 These volumes overlap considerably and do not run in strictly chronological orderNotes:
STC I/13 Sep 1581-Feb 1585/6
STC I/14 Mar 1585/6-1598
STC I/15 Mar 1599-Mar 1605/6; Mar 1607-Dec 1610 The sequence of years in this volume is not well preserved, 1599 being followed by 1604, 1600-3. There are no registered wills for 1606, nor for 1611-17.
STC I/16 1618-20 There are no registered wills for 1621-25.
STC I/17 Mar 1626-Apr 1629
STC I/18 Apr 1630-May 1635
STC I/19 Mar 1636-Jan 1637/8; May 1637 & Jan 1644/5
STC I/20 Apr 1638-Apr 1639 There are no registered wills for 1640-43.
STC I/21 Jul 1644-Jan 1652/3 The years are not in strictly chronological order.
STC I/22 Sep 1660-Mar 1661/2
STC I/23 Apr 1662-Nov 1668
STC I/24 Nov 1668-Jan 1670/1
STC I/25 Mar 1671-Mar 1674/5
STC I/26 Aug 1674-Jan 1677/8, and wills without probates 1651-77
STC I/27 Apr 1678-May 1684
STC I/28 Jun 1685-May 1688, and wills without probates 1671-87
STC I/29 Jul 1688-Mar 1692/3
STC I/30 Apr 1693-Nov 1706
STC I/31 Dec 1706-Nov 15
STC I/32 Oct 715-Feb 1720/1
STC I/33 Feb 1720/1-Sep 1725
STC I/34 Oct 1725-Jan 1730/1
STC I/35 Jan 1730/1-Jan 1734/5
STC I/36 Jan 1734/5-Jul 1739
STC I/37 Jul 1739-Mar 1743
STC I/38 May 1743-Dec 1750 [1751??]
STC I/39 Sep 1750-Nov 1756
STC I/40 Aug 1756-Jan 1763
STC I/41 Jan 1763-May 1768
STC I/42 May 1768-Jul 1774
STC I/43 May 1774-Nov 1782
STC I/44 Nov 1782- Feb 1794
STC I/45 Mar 1794-Mar 1801
Besides the Registered Wills, there is a large collection of Original Wills ranging from about 1550 to about 1590. They are arranged in files lettered A to Z, and each document numbered.
Many of the Original Wills are in very bad condition, and this is little point in consulting those that are already registered. Some of the Original Wills are unregistered, in which case there is no reference to a registered will.
A set of Unregistered Wills fills up some of the gaps previously mentioned in the volumes of the Registered Wills, viz. 1606, 1611-17, 1621-25, and 1640-43. These are in the Original Wills series, STC II, and the reference identifies the deanery - "A Dean", "B Dean", "M Dean", or "S Dean", signifying Arundel, Boxgrove, Midhurst, and Storington Deaneries respectively, followed by the document number; eg: STC II/A Dean/9, STC II/B Dean/41, etc.