Northamptonshire Probate Records
For an explanation of probate records in England, click here.
Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his/her heirs.
In order to find a probate record for your ancestor, you must answer two questions:
- When did your ancestor die?
- Where did your ancestor live or own property?
A key date is 1858, when probate authority was taken from the ecclesiatical courts of the Church of England and given to the civil government.
- If your ancestor died before 1858, his/her probate would have been proven by an ecclesiatical court and it is important to know where he/she lived, as that will determine which courts had jurisdiction.
- If you know where your ancestor lived before 1858, you should go to the Court Jurisdictions section below to determine what courts had jurisdiction over your ancestor's place of residence.
- Beginning in 1858, probate authority was vested in the Principal Probate Registry system. For more information, scroll to the Post-1857 Probate Records section at the bottom of the page.
Once you have answered the two questions and determined the courts, look for indexes. Indexes will be found on the individual court pages (when you click on a court name) or in the Probate Indexes section below.
Northamptonshire Probate Courts
Most of Northamptonshire was under the pre-1858 probate jurisdiction of either the Court of the Bishop of Peterborough (Episcopal Consistory) or the Court of the Archdeaconry of Northampton. The majority of probate searches will be in the records of these two courts and their superior courts. However, the following smaller courts also had some pre-1858 jurisdiction within the county. Click on a court name to learn about records and indexes.
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Banbury
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Gretton
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Nassington
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln (Cathedral)
- Court of the Bishop of Lincoln (Episcopal Consistory)
Some explanatory notes on the courts in Northamptonshire
Since civil and ecclesiastical boundaries were not necessarily one and the same, it is important in pre-1858 probate searches to consider nearby courts including those situated across county boundaries. Also, ecclesiastical boundaries and rights were not always observed or may have been changed over the years.
Many peculiar courts closed before 1858. When this occurred jurisdiction reverted to the local archdeaconry and/or diocesan courts.
Before 1541 Northamptonshire was in the diocese of Lincoln, and from 1541 to 1858 (except for peculiars) was in the diocese of Peterborough. It appears that from 1541 to 1598 the court of the Bishop of Peterborough and the Court of the Archeacon of Northampton exercised concurrent Jurisdiction in the county.
The rolls of the Burgess Court of Higham Ferrers contain the texts of many wills which were registered in respect of property there (See Historical Manuscripts Commission Report xii, appendix part 9, page 530), but the wills were actually proved in the Archdeaconry of Northampton and are found in the records of that court.
The original records of the Court of the Bishop of Peterborough and the Court of the Archdeacon of Northampton are at the Northampton Record Office, Delapre Abbey, Northampton. Those for the Courts of the Peculiar Parishes of Gretton and Nassington are at the Lincolnshire Archive Office, The Castle, Lincoln.
Before 1858, every town and parish in Northamptonshire fell under the jurisdiction of a primary probate court and several secondary courts. When looking for the probate of the estate of an ancestor, you should search the primary court first then move on to the secondary courts in the order given. Search indexes first. Indexes are found by clicking on the court name above.
To see a list of the Northamptonshire parishes and the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over them, click on the letter the parish name begins with:
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
See coverage on website, but pre-1858 probate records.
The Northamptonshire and Rutland Probate Index has been created by Kay Collins, a volunteer at the Northampton Record Office, partially assisted by several others, from several of the earlier indices of probate records held in the Northampton Record Office. This composite index was commenced in 1997 and the records in this database include all work done up to 2005. The project is now largely complete (errors and omissions excepted) and this database may be updated at a future date with corrections and/or omissions.
A list of all wills proved in the Archdeaconry Court of Northampton for the years 1853-1857.
Church of England. Archdeaconry of Northampton. Court Probate records, 1467-1877 
A Calendar of wills relating to the counties of Northampton and Rutland : proved in the court of the Archdeacon of Northampton, 1510 to 1652 http://www.familysearch.org/eng/library/fhlcatalog/supermainframeset.asp?display=titledetails&titleno=231776&disp=A+Calendar+of+wills+relating+to+the+coun%20%20&columns=*,0,0
Administrations in the Archdeaconry of Northampton : now preserved in the District Probate Registry at Birmingham Contents: [pt. 1]. 1667-1710 -- pt. 2. 1711-1800 
Post-1857 Probate Records
Beginning in 1858, the government took over the settlement of estates and all wills are now probated through the Principal Probate Registry system. The system consists of 11 district registry offices and 18 sub-district registries, located throughout England and Wales, and the principal registry office located in London. The records are available through the office of Her Majesty's Courts Service. To learn more, go to the HMCS website.
A country-wide surname index to the records is available, so it is much easier to look for post-1857 wills. The indexes for 1858-1957 and the records for 1858-1925 are available on microfilm at the Family History Library.