Saturday, August 19, 2006

wills before 1858

British Origins - English genealogy search, England ancestor records and England maps

Origins Network News: Prerogative & Exchequer Courts of York Probate Index on British Origins

The Prerogative & Exchequer Courts of York now available on British Origins (

Prior to 1858, wills were proved in an ecclesiastical court. Which court dealt with a particular will depended on where property was held.

Parishes of the Church of England were grouped into archdeaconries, and a group of archdeaconries formed a diocese (i.e the area of a bishop's jurisdiction). Each diocese belonged either to the ecclesiastical province of York or of Canterbury. The province of York had jurisdiction in the counties of Cheshire, Cumberland, Durham, Lancashire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Westmorland and Yorkshire; Canterbury had jurisdiction over the rest of England and Wales.

If a person's property lay wholly within one archdeaconry, the will was generally proved in that archdeacon's court. But if property worth 5 or more were owned elsewhere the will would be proved in a higher court, that of a bishop or archbishop.

The Prerogative & Exchequer Court of York Probate Index gives:
o testator's name
o places associated with person; usually the place of death, but sometimes other places where the testator lived are mentioned
o date of probate year & month
o type(s) of documents (there is often more than one document)
o court concerned
o Borthwick Institute reference to the original document(s)
o Reference to original index

The Origins Network in association with the Borthwick Institute for Archives are completing the computerisation of the indexes to the Prerogative & Exchequer Court of York probate material; only the Medieval part (1267-1500) of these indexes had previously been computerised. This work is being done in reverse chronological order, starting from 1858, and the first batch of index records, covering over 16,000 grants of probate for the period September 1853 to January 1858 is now available online exclusively on British Origins. About two thirds of the wills were proved in the Prerogative Court. This index complements the indexes to the York Medieval and York Peculiars probate material.

The original documents provide a great deal of valuable information to the family historian and copies of these can be ordered online


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