Origins Network announces they now have on their website The
Probate Index …………….
The Index gives:
- testator’s name
- places associated with person; usually the place of death, but sometimes other places where the testator lived are mentioned
- date of probate – year & month
- type(s) of documents (there is often more than one document)
- court concerned
- Borthwick Institute reference to the original document(s)
- Reference to original index
The original documents provide a great deal of valuable information to the family historian and copies of these can be ordered online via British Origins.
The Prerogative & Exchequer Courts of York
Prior to 1858, wills were proved in an ecclesiastical court. Which court dealt with a particular will depended on where property was held.
Parishes of the Church of England were grouped into archdeaconries, and a group of archdeaconries formed a diocese (ie the area of a bishop’s jurisdiction). Each diocese belonged either to the ecclesiastical province of York or of Canterbury. The province of York had jurisdiction in the counties of Cheshire, Cumberland, Durham, Lancashire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Westmorland and Yorkshire; Canterbury had jurisdiction over the rest of England and Wales.
If a person’s property lay wholly within one archdeaconry, the will was generally proved in that archdeacon’s court. But if property worth £5 or more were owned elsewhere the will would be proved in a higher court, that of a bishop or archbishop.
The Prerogative Court of York
If the property were owned in more than one diocese, the will would be proved in one of the two archbishops’ prerogative courts. If the property were all within the province of York, probate would be dealt with by the Prerogative Court of York (PCY), otherwise by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). So if property were owned in both provinces, probate was dealt with by PCC, the senior court.
The Exchequer Court of York
The Exchequer Court exercised jurisdiction over lay men and unbeneficed clergy (that is who were not rectors or vicars) with goods in the diocese of York only.
Origins Network in association with the Borthwick Institute for Archives are completing the computerisation of the indexes to the Prerogative & Exchequer Court of York probate material; only the Medieval part (1267-1500) of these indexes had previously been computerised. This work is being done in reverse chronological order, starting from 1858. The index records covering 222,000 grants of probate for the period May 1731 to January 1858 are now available online exclusively on British Origins. Though over the whole period over two thirds of grants were made by the Exchequer Court latterly by the mid 19th century (1842-1858) about two thirds of the wills were proved in the Prerogative Court.
All the original documents (with very few exceptions) are held by the Borthwick Institute, see other "York Series" Probate Indexes.
The Prerogative & Exchequer Court of York Probate Index contains the following fields:
- Last name of testator
- First name of testator
- Place, usually of death, but sometimes where the testator had at some time been living; this field usually, but not always, contains the parish.
- County, or country if not England or Wales
- Court where probate was granted: P = Prerogative Court of York; E = Exchequer Court of York
- Document type (see table below)
- Date of probate (year and month)
- Source document reference (for use of the Borthwick Institute)
- Index reference (see below)
- Index note present: if this field contains "Yes" it means that there is a marginal note in the original index entry.
You can search on Last name, First name, County/Country and Year range. County or Country can be selected from a drop-down list.
Although over 80% of the records relate to Yorkshire, people from all over the British Isles and abroad had property in the Province of York, and had their wills proved in the Prerogative or Exchequer Court of York.
Currently the index only holds records for wills proved in the period May 1731 to Jan 1858. The indexes for the period 1500 to Mar 1731 will be provided later.
Each index entry has two buttons on the right, one to allow display of the image of the original index page, the other to allow online ordering of a copy of the source document. We recommend that you view the original index entries, for these often contain extra information which is not in the computerised index and which may help you decide whether to order copies of the documents.