Engraving of registry of wills, Somerset House (Catalogue reference: ZPER 34/66/96)

This is a brief guide to researching death duty records between 1796 and 1903. Death duty records can be complicated and difficult to understand, so some patience may be required when researching these records.

The majority of the records which still exist can be found either online or at The National Archives in Kew.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out:

      • the name of the person
      • a geographical location to focus your search
      • an approximate date of death
  • What records can I see online?

Did you know?

Death duty was introduced in 1796.

Death duty registers can be complicated to interpret. Refer to the research guide Death duties 1796-1903: further research for more information on how to do this.

When searching the death duty registers, you may find:

  • a date of death
  • information about beneficiaries
  • the next of kin
  • their exact relationship to the deceased

From 1815, additional information is sometimes included, such as:

  • the date of death of the spouse
  • the dates of the death or marriage of beneficiaries
  • the births of posthumous children and grandchildren
  • the changes of address and references to law suits

After 1903, death duty registers were replaced with a system of individual files which were destroyed 30 years after being closed - there are therefore no registers after 1903.