Discover your ancestors among the index of more than 263,000 wills proved in the Prerogative and Exchequer ecclesiastical courts of York between 1688 and 1858. Find their name, where they lived and where they died and how to find the full will, held at the Borthwick Institute for Archives.
Each record contains a transcript and an image of the original index. These are not the full wills but an index of all the wills filed. The originals can be found at the Borthwick Institute for Archives. The amount of information varies but you can find out the following about your ancestor.
• 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
• Date of probate (year and month)
• Source document reference (for use by 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.
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.
There is often more information available on the image so please do remember to check it.
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 (i.e. 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 was owned elsewhere, the will would be proved in a higher court, that of a bishop or archbishop.
The Prerogative Court of York
If property was owned in more than one diocese, the will would be proved in one of the two archbishops' prerogative courts. If the property was 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 was 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, those who were not rectors or vicars) with goods in the diocese of York only.
Nottinghamshire wills proved in the Exchequer Court of York
Until 1837 Nottinghamshire was part of the diocese of York, and wills were proved at York. Though all original probate records relating to Nottinghamshire proved in the Prerogative Court of York remain at the Borthwick, those proved in the Exchequer Court have now been transferred to Nottinghamshire Archives. Registered copies of these Exchequer Court wills remain at the Borthwick, so you can order hard copies of all wills, which relate to Nottinghamshire, whether proved in the Exchequer or Prerogative Court, but not other documents. In the index presently (i.e. covering May 1731 to Jan 1858) there are references to over 23,000 grants of probate relating to Nottinghamshire, of which 80% were granted by the Exchequer Court; in about 20% of these cases there is no will and so the documents are not available at the Borthwick. However, the Borthwick can supply the administration entries for these grants which, though fairly brief, do give the names of the executors. If ordering documents for grants relating to Nottinghamshire, we recommend you check whether probate was granted in the Exchequer Court, and then whether the will is included in the documents. If you place an order for a "Nottinghamshire" document, where there is no will, and where probate was granted by the Exchequer Court, be aware that you will receive only a copy of the administration entry from the probate act book.