Death Duty Information

Death duty information can be really helpful if you have a richer ancestor. Death duty registers began in 1796 in England and Wales.


The death duty information you will glean from the registers include:

  • date of death, address and last occupation of your ancestor.
  • date of the will.
  • the place and date of probate.
  • the names, addresses and occupations of the executors.
  • details of estates, legacies, trustees, legatees, annuities and the duty paid.

People who died in the service of their country did not pay death duties. Neither did those living abroad. In addition, unless the assets were worth £1,500 or more, the taxes were often not collected.

How is it useful?

Death duty registers are often overlooked. However, they can give useful information, particularly in certain cases:


This may be particularly useful if your ancestor died without a will (intestate). He or she will still have been eligible for death duties, if the estate was large enough. The information may clarify family relationships, which was vital for the correct apportioning of assets.

Finding wills pre-1858...

The death duty information may also he useful for finding wills. Before 1858, your ancestor’s will might have been proved in one of a number of courts. It can be difficult to find. If your ancestor had to pay death duties, a central record was kept. If you locate this record, you will be able to find out where your ancestor’s will was proved.


Don’t ignore the registers just because you already have the will. The registers are sometimes annotated for many years after the first entry, so can include additional information. This includes: death of the spouse; dates of death or marriage of beneficiaries; births of posthumous children and grandchildren; change of address; references to law suits or cross references to other entries