Northamptonshire Probate Records
- 1 Getting Started
- 2 Northamptonshire Probate Courts
Probate is the legal court process by which the estate of a deceased person is distributed to his or her heirs. Probate records include wills and administrations. This article is about probate records in Northamptonshire. For a general description of England probate records, click here.
1858 to the Present
Beginning in 1858, the Principal Probate Registry had the authority for probating estates. Click on the link to learn more.
Before 1858, Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process. To search for a pre-1858 probate record in Northamptonshire, follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Northamptonshire. Search these indexes first:
- The Northamptonshire and Rutland Probate Index has been created 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.
- Probate Index 1469-1857 The Northamptonshire and Rutland Probate Index has been created from several of the earlier indexes of probate records held in the Northampton Record Office. The index contains 87,058 entries that cover the period 1469 to 1857.
- Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury
Filmed Indexes available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City:
- 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. Also online at The Genealogist.co.uk under wills probates and testaments
- Administrations in the Archdeaconry of Northampton : now preserved in the District Probate Registry at Birmingham Contents: [pt. 1]. 1667-1710 -- pt. 2. 1711-1800 
Did you find a reference to a probate record?
- If yes, go to Step 4 below.
- If no, go to Step 2 below.
Step 2. Identify when and where your ancestor died
Determine when your ancestor died. If you aren't sure, use an approximate date.
Determine where your ancestor died. It is easier to find a probate record if you know whether the place where your ancestor lived or died is a parish. To learn whether it is a parish, look it up in a gazetteer. Here is a link to the 1872 Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales online:
The gazetteer will either tell you:
- A place is a parish, or
- What parish it is a part of, or
- What place it is near.
If the latter, look that place up in the gazetteer and see if it is a parish.
Once you have identified the parish, go to Step 3.
Step 3. Identify court jurisdictions by parish
Once you have identified the parish where your ancestor lived or died, learn which courts had jurisdiction over it then search indexes for those courts. Every town and parish in Northamptonshire fell under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. Click on a link below for the letter the parish begins with.
Step 4. Obtain a copy of the probate record
Once you have found an index reference to a probate, obtain a copy of the record. Do so by one of these methods:
- Visit or contact the record office that has the original records in its collection.
- Visit the Family History Library or a family history center and obtain a copy of the record on microfilm. For more information, click on a court name below.
Northamptonshire Probate Courts
The names of the courts with jurisdiction over Northamptonshire are:
- 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)
- Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury
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.