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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.

The index to over 22,100 wills recorded in the Consistory Court of Chichester 1482-1800 is now available to search on the National Wills Index. This index – originally published in 1915 as British Record Society Volume 49 – includes names of testator / testatrix, place, often occupation and document reference, which will help you locate the original document at West Sussex Record Office.

This supplements Chichester Consistory Administrations 1555-1800 which already forms part of the National Wills Index.

The National Wills Index is the largest online resource for pre-1858 English probate material, containing indexes, abstracts and source documents, most not available anywhere else online.

The value of wills to the family history researcher

Quite apart from the intrinsic interest of seeing what land or personal possessions belonged to an ancestor, wills are valuable documents because of the genealogical information they provide. And they are exceptional in the first-hand nature of their evidence.

At the most basic level, a will provides evidence of the death of an ancestor; the date on which the will is proved gives an approximate date of death. Where you have been unable to trace a death or burial record, the will may be the only evidence of death; or, in the case of a common name, it may confirm which of several burial entries in a parish register refers to a particular ancestor.

Unlike census records, which describe only an ancestor’s household, a will often provides evidence of the wider family, including nephews, nieces and grandchildren, and can be used to confirm family relationships deduced from records of birth or baptism. One of the great virtues of wills is they spell out the relationship to the testator of everyone mentioned. For example, bequests to a married daughter or her children should make it possible to identify the record of daughter’s marriage and the baptisms of the ancestor’s grandchildren.

Outside the gentry, who have sometimes left complete pedigrees, wills are almost the only independent source of confirmation for family relationships suggested by baptismal and marriage records. And if you are researching the period before parish registers, a will may be the only evidence for a lineage.

But the value of wills goes beyond the pedigree — they also provide information on theoccupation and social status of an ancestor, indicate the closeness or otherwise of therelationship to a spouse and children, and may allow you to identify in the present day ahouse or land owned by the family.

The National Wills Index is the largest online resource for pre-1858 English probate material.

See full details on Chichester Consistory Wills 1482-1800

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