Yorkshire Probate Records
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 SYorkshire. 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 Yorkshire, follow these steps:
Step 1. Search Indexes
Here are some online indexes to probate records that include individuals who lived in Yorkshire. Search these indexes first:
- 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.
- 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 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.
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 Yorkshire 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.
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).
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.
- 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.