Yorkshire Probate Records
The following text has information about probate records in the county of Yorkshire. To read general information about English probate records click here.
Getting Started in Probate Records
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 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. This opens a jurisdictions table.
- Follow the instructions on the jurisdictions table page.
Yorkshire Probate Courts
Yorkshire is the largest county in England and has more than 1,000 parishes. More than 60 COURTS had jurisdiction over Yorkshire before 1858.
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
Any probate that was disputed and could not be settled by the county courts could be sent to these higher appeals courts:
- Court of Arches
- High Court of Delegates
The Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury also served as an appeals court.
Some Explanatory Notes on the Yorkshire Probate Courts
When an estate was solely within the Diocese (excluding Peculiars) it was usual for the local Rural Dean, acting by commission from the Exchequer Court of York, to make the grant of probate or administration. The records were then returned to the Exchequer Court and filed; separate Act Books being kept for each deanery. When an estate was solely within the Diocese of Richmond (excluding Peculiars) the same procedure took place; the deans acting by commission from the Commissary of the Archdeaconry returned the Eastern Deanery records to Richmond and the Western Deanery records to Lancaster. There are, however, some Western Deanery grants at Richmond, as all grants passed by decree of the Court anywhere within the Archdeaconry were returned there.
It should be remembered that abstracts of the relevant parts of wills affecting real estate in Yorkshire are recorded from 1704 onwards at the Registry of Deeds for the appropriate Riding: at Wakefield for the West Riding, at Beverley for the East Riding, and at Northallerton for the North Riding.
Court Jurisdictions by Parish
Before 1858, every town and parish in Yorkshire was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and several secondary courts. When searching for the will of an ancestor, find the name of the town or parish where he/she lived in the jurisdictions list. Go to the list of places by clicking on a letter or series of letters below.
Before looking for a will, you should search a probate index. It will save time and give a reference to finding a copy of a will.
- Probate Index related to documents covering Lancashire north of the Ribble, and parts of Cumberland, Westmorland and Yorkshire, 1748-1858.
- York Peculiars Probate Index covers over 25,000 wills proved in the fifty four peculiar courts of the Province of York in the five-hundred year period from 1383 to 1883.
- Prerogative & Exchequer Courts of York Probate Index 1842-1858
- An index covering 1267 to 1500 includes 10,000 wills proved in the Prerogative & Exchequer Courts of York.
- Colin Blanshard Withers has produced a list of all known Indexes and Calendars relating to Yorkshire Probate. This is available in both Microsoft Word format (.doc) and plain text format (.txt) from his site.
Printed or Filmed Indexes
Indexes are found in archives and in the Family History Library. To find the ones in the library,
- Go to the catalog.
- Click Place Search.
- Type York and click Search.
- Scroll down and click the topic Probate Records--Indexes.
- Click on the title that includes the name of the court and the time period.
Many indexes are in the same catalog record as the original copies. They are not under the topic Probate-Indexes. If an index is not listed, go to the topic Probate Records.
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.
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. For more information, go to Principal Probate Registry.
- Camp, Anthony J. Wills and Their Whereabouts. London: published by author, 1974; page 152. Punctuation revised.
- Camp, Anthony J. Wills and Their Whereabouts. London: published by author, 1974; page 153. Punctuation revised.