Northumberland 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 or her heirs. Church of England ecclesiastical courts had authority for this process until 1858. Beginning in 1858, authority over probate matters was taken from the ecclesiastical courts and put under the civil authority of the Principal Probate Registry. The Post-1857 Probate Records 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 the Court Jurisdictions section below.
- Click a letter or span of letters for your place name. This opens a jurisdictions table.
- Follow the instructions on the jurisdictions table page.
Northumberland Probate Courts
The following ecclesiastical courts had some probate jurisdiction over the towns and parishes of Northumberland before 1858:
- Court of the Bishop of Durham (Episcopal Consistory)
- Court of the Chancery of the Archbishop of York
- Exchequer and Prerogative Courts of the Archbishop of York
- Court of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of York
- Court of the Peculiar of the Archbishop of York in Hexham and Hexhamshire
- Court of the Predendary of Thockrington
In addition, the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury had jurisdiction over the whole of England. Wealthier individuals, people who owned property in more than one county or lower court's jurisdiction, and Naval personnel often had their estates proven through the Archbishop's court.
Any probate that was disputed and could not be settled by the county courts could be sent to these higher appeals courts:
The Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury also served as an appeals court.
Before 1858, every town and parish in Northumberland was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. When looking for the will of an ancestor, search the courts in the order given. Search indexes first. For indexes, click on the court name links above.
To see a list of Northumberland places and the pre-1858 ecclesiastical courts that jurisdiction over them, click on a letter link:
Probate Indexes Online
Before looking for a will, you should search an index.
Durham and Northumberland probate records, 1527-1857
Planned completion date: summer 2009.
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 you locate a will. For more information, go to Estate Duty Records.
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.