Northamptonshire Probate Records
The following article is about probate records in the county of Northamptonshire. For general information about English probate records, click here.
Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his or her heirs. The term probate refers to a collection of documents, including wills, administrations (also called admons), inventories, and act books. The Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process until to 1858. This article explains about probates and how to get started to search for a will.
Beginning in 1858, authority over probate matters was taken from ecclesiastical courts and put under the civil authority of the Principal Probate Registry. The Probates After 1857 section below has a link to an article about probates after 1857.
Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his or her heirs. The Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process until to 1858. Beginning in 1858, authority over probate matters was taken from ecclesiastical courts and put under the civil authority of the Principal Probate Registry. The Probates After 1857 section below contains links to additional information about the records of this court.
To look for a probate record before 1858:
- Discover when and where your ancestor died. If you don’t know, use the approximate date and place where they lived.
- Go to Court Jurisdictions section below.
- Click a letter or span of letters for your place. This opens a jurisdictions table.
- Follow the instructions on the jurisdictions table page.
Northamptonshire Probate Courts
- Court of the Archdeaconry of Northampton
- Court of the Bishop of Peterborough (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Peculiar Parish of Banbury
- Court of the Peculiar of Gretton
- Court of the Peculiar of Nassington
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln
- Court of the Bishop of Lincoln (Episcopal Consistory)
In addition, the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury had jurisdiction over the whole of England and specifically in the following cases.
- Wealthy individuals
- People who owned property in more than one county
- Military and naval personnel
- People who lived or owned property outside England
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.
Court Jurisdictions by Parish
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.
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. Go to Northants Wills/Admons Proved 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.
- Administrations in the Archdeaconry of Northampton : now preserved in the District Probate Registry at Birmingham Contents: [pt. 1]. 1667-1710 -- pt. 2. 1711-1800 
Estate Duty Records
Starting in 1796, a tax or death duty was payable on estates over a certain value. Estate duty abstracts may add considerable information not found elsewhere. Estate duty indexes may help locate a will. For more information, go to Estate Duty Records.
Probates After 1857
Beginning in 1858, the government took over the settlement of estates and all wills are now probated through the Principal Probate Registry system. For more information, go to Principal Probate Registry.