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.
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 how to get started searching for a probate record.
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 Probates Records section below has a link to an article about probates after 1857.
To look for a probate record before 1858:
- Discover when and where your ancestor died. If you do not know, use an approximate date and the place where they lived.
- Go to the Court Jurisdictions by Parish section below.
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, you must determine the courts that had jurisdiction over the town or parish where he/she lived. In the table below, click on a letter or series of letters that includes the place where your ancestor lived then follow the instructions on the next 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 (click on the link to read about them).
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
- Interregnum, 1649-1660, because the Prerogative Court was the only court.
- Property in more than one diocese in the Province of Canterbury.
- Property in both the Province of Canterbury and Province of York.
- People who died outside England, including British citizens and others who held property in England.
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 looking for a probate record, you should search indexes. They will save you time and will provide a reference for finding a copy of the record.
- 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.
Indexes to the Prerogative and Exchequer Courts of the Archbishop of York were published by the Yorkshire Archaeological Society covering the years .... Many of these volumes have been converted to digital books. The following table will help you find these resources online:
|6||Wills 1389-1514; Probate and Administrations Act Book 1502-1514||Link||Link*||Link ($)|
|11||Wills 1514-1553; Administration Acts (from Act Books) 1514-1553; Probate Acts 1514-1521; Act Book Deanery of Harthill 1558-1565||Link||Link||Link ($)|
|14||Wills 1554-1568; Administration Acts (from Act Books) 1553-1568||Link||Link ($)|
|19||Wills 1568-1585; Administration Acts (from Act Books) 1568-1585||Link||Link ($)|
|22||Wills 1585-1594; Administration Acts (from Act Books) 1585-1594||Link ($)|
|24||Wills 1594-1602; Administration Acts (from Act Books) 1594-1602||Link||Link ($)|
|26||Wills 1603-1611; Administration Acts (from Act Books) 1603-1611||Link||Link ($)|
|28||Wills 1612-1619; Administration Acts (from Act Books) 1612-1619||Link||Link ($)|
|32||Wills 1620-1627; Administration Acts (from Act Books) 1620-1627||Link||Link ($)|
|35||Wills 1627-1636; Administration Acts (from Act Books) 1627-1652||Link||Link ($)|
|4||Wills 1636-1652||Link||Link||Link ($)|
|49||Wills, Administrations, Probate Acts 1660-1665||Link|
- Google cataloguers mislabeled this volume Index to Wills in the York Registry: 1594 to 1602.
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.
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.
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.