About Inheritance Disputes Index 1574-1714
What do these records tell you?
This dataset is an index to over 26,000 lawsuits in the English Court of Chancery concerned with the inheritance of money or real estate. These cases typically involved several members of the same family so are of particular value to family historians.
The Index to Inheritance Disputes identifies whose estate the case is concerned with, where that person lived, the parties to the dispute, the date the case started, and The National Archives (TNA) reference(s) to the original documents. (The original documents, which are all written in English, can provide a very great deal of valuable information.)
Examples of the index records
Gwynn, Ellen (ie Nell Gwynn); St Martin in Fields, Middlesex;
St Albans v. Rochester 1691; C8/423/57
This tells us that [the Earl of] St Albans commenced a suit against [the Earl of] Rochester in 1691 concerning property of Nell Gwynn in the parish of St Martin in the Fields, Middlesex [London]
Johnston, Benjamin; Literary estate, Middlesex; Walkely v. Benson 1640; C8/90/28
This refers the a dispute between Messrs Walkely and Benson, commenced in 1640, concerning the estate of Ben Jonson, the playwright.
Parkin, John & Ralph; Liverton, Yorkshire; Parkin v. Robinson 1677; C10/131/67, 189/53
The case between Parkin and Robinson, commenced in 1677, involved property owned by John & Ralph Parkin in Liverton, Yorkshire; from the surnames fairly clearly an intra-family dispute. This record gives TNA references to two separate documents concerned with the case.
More information on Inheritance Disputes in the Court of Chancery
This database, compiled by Peter Coldham, makes available for the first time, and exclusively on British Origins, a comprehensive index to over 26,000 lawsuits instituted in the Chancery Court of England relating to inheritance of money or real estate. The index covers the wills, bequests, grants of administration, descent of property, identity claims and other testamentary disputes tried in the Chancery Court in London.
Most, though by no means all, of these suits arose because the ecclesiastical courts, where wills were normally proved and grants of administration were made, had no jurisdiction over bequests of freehold property.
The source documents are held at The National Archives.
The suits indexed embrace every level of society during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries though chiefly, of course, the property-owning and mercantile classes; and cover every variety of testamentary procedure and process from nuncupative wills to grants made or withheld in the various central or regional jurisdictions. The entailing of property by will, though usually accepted and adhered to by executors and administrators, was by no means beyond challenge by surviving relatives and by any claimant who could pretend a relationship to a testator and had funds to pursue his claim in the lawcourts, as will be evident from the abundance of litigants in the database.
Properties in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, New England, the American and West Indian Plantations all figure here. Some of the disputes relating to estates in the Americas have already been abstracted.