North East Inheritance database (pre-1858 Durham Probate Records)
This page allows you to search on any of the following: personal names, places, occupations and document types. You can also limit your search by year of probate. If you just want to carry out a name search, you may prefer to use the Simple search.
If you want to search on only one of the fields below, you should enter the word you are searching for (or the first few letters), and click on the list... button alongside.
Alternatively, you can enter search terms into several of the fields below, and use the search database button at the top of the form to search the database. Further guidance is available by hovering over or clicking the blue question marks. Other search options are also available, as shown below the search database button, and you can use the previous searches page to combine searches in more complex ways.
Note that only the maker of the will (or deceased person whose goods are the subject of a probate administration) is included within the probate indexes. Other persons mentioned within wills (such as next of kin, executors etc) are not included. The collection covers pre-1858 wills only.
Guidance for the advanced search screen
The buttons in this screen can be used as follows:
- search database: carry out a search using the value(s) you have typed into one or more of the fields above. See below for notes on the separate fields.
- count records: just like 'search database', but instead count the number of records that would be found. You are then returned to this screen, where you will see the record count above the fields. You can then change or add any of your search terms, before using the 'search database' button.
- date searches: gives access to a separate screen of advanced date searches, which can be used either for analysis of the records (e.g. number of wills with multiple grants of probate or administration), or for locating records by date (of death, probate or document).
- list ....: these buttons give you a list of the available index terms for the field alongside (together with a count of the number of records for that term). In most cases, you should enter in the first few letters of the name/place etc before using the 'list' button, to keep the resulting list to a manageable size.
- Surname searches:
- This will search both surnames and variant spellings of surnames as recorded within the probate records themselves. An exact match is required (so 'Smith' would NOT find 'Smithson')
- Type in a forename to search for: the list forenames button will list forename entries beginning with that name, whereas search database will search for the input anywhere within the forenames field (so a search for Morgan would find Edward Morgan Forster).
- Full names
- Here you can search by surname + forename in the form Gillard, Julia: this will only search the name as input from the will etc, and will not search variant spellings. This is a 'begins' search, so 'Gill' would find 'Gillard' as well as 'Gill', 'Gilley' etc.
- This index includes many chapelries as well as true parishes, along with names of boroughs like Darlington, Newcastle upon Tyne etc (where a more precise parish is not specified within the documents). Places outside the UK may be larger units, not necessarily true parishes. The search will include all 'parishes' beginning with the place that you input (so Durham will find records which specify just Durham, as well as those giving a full parish address like Durham St Oswald). The checkbox alongside will limit the list to just places within Durham Diocese (as at 1850), if list parishes is used: if you use search database, this checkbox will be ignored.
- Either specify an exact county name, or use the list counties button for a full list. In the latter case, the checkbox alongside will limit the list to just counties within the UK: if you use search database, this checkbox will be ignored.
- Either specify an exact country name, or use the list countries button for a full list.
- This index includes major status terms as well as occupations, but does not include indications of marital status (bachelor, widow etc). You can type in either a full occupational name or the start of an occupation to search for (such as coal to find coal-linked occupations). Note that terminology has not been standardised in this field (occupations are recorded as stated within the documents), so the same occupation may be spelt or hyphenated differently.
- Most deceased persons have been assigned a gender either on the basis of their forename or from the language used in the documents.
- Only peerage titles are recorded. You can search using either one of the honorifics within the dropdown list, or (part of) a peerage title or place name in the free text field.
- As well as a limited range of epithets shown in the dropdown list, alias and former names are recorded in this field, hence the '...' entries here.
- As well as marital, clerical or occupational roles, other identifying information for individuals is recorded within this field. Searching for a specific word is usually most useful here.
- Personal notes
- Additional or research notes have been recorded for a small number of the testators or other deceased persons. These can be searched for particular keywords here.
- Document types:
- You can use the list document types to view a list of the document types which we have used within this index (in some cases a precise document type will be recorded in the database, but indexed under a more generic term).
- Document references:
- Only likely to be useful for searching for a specific record, and where you already know the format of our reference codes.
- Value of estate
- Where a monetary amount is specified in the document, this has often (but not always) been recorded. Amounts recorded include estimates of the estate value (on later wills), total sums (from inventories) and penal sums (from bonds). These amounts are searchable here: the first two are rounded down to the nearest whole pound, and a penal sum is assumed to be twice the estate value. Amounts recorded in additional inventories or statements about debts etc are recorded in the catalogue, but do not affect the estate value searchable here.
- Document notes
- Many bonds and other documents have additional or explanatory notes within the catalogue, which can be searched for particular keywords here.
- Probate years:
- You can combine a range of years with any of the above searches, based on the date of probate or grant of administration. For some (mainly 19th-century) wills the documents record an exact date of probate, but in other cases we infer the year from the administration bond etc (using New Style years), or from the bundle in which the document survives. In the latter case, the year will be in Old Style before 1752 (ie ending 24th March of the following year), so allow some latitude when searching by probate year, and note that probate/administration may be granted some months or years after death.