Placing a tax on estates in 1796 forced the central government to take an interest in probate records in order to make the correct assessment. The tax or duty at first was collected only on estates worth over £10. Registers were made containing an abstract of the probate document and the amount due. The registers list who received what and may mention people not mentioned in the will, and flesh out the sparse details given in an administration bond. Starting in 1812, a copy of the will was required in addition to the abstract. The duty was increased until the majority of probate records were covered by 1815. The indexes and registers are at the National Archives and are classified as IR 26-27. The copies of the wills were not retained except for the counties in the southwest whose probates were lost due to enemy action during World War II. Those copies are now housed at the respective county archives and have been microfilmed. The indexes and registers have also been filmed at the National Archives as outlined below.
Go to Find My Past NOTE: this is a fee site but it is available free to those using the computers at the FHL and in the family history section of the BYU library.
(PCC stands for Prerogative Court of Canterbury, all other courts for pre-1858 are referred to as Country, and PPR is the Principal Probate Registry for post-1857)
For an overview of all the films, see the binder, “Estate Duty Office Death Duty Registers, 1796-1903,” (FHL 942 S2ha 1998) in the FHL reference area on the British Floor. The article by Jane Cox, “A Note on the Death Duty Registers” in the Genealogists' Magazine 20(December, 1981): 261-263 provides further details including samples of what the registers contain and a list of the records not microfilmed. This periodical can be found at the FHL as 942 B2gm and is at BYU under CS 410 .S61.