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North East Inheritance database (pre-1858 Durham Probate Records)

Online images from familysearch are now hyperlinked from catalogue entries in this database. After you have done a search, you can click on the document references to load the relevant image(s).

Online images of the probate documents

The digital images of probate records were made and are stored and mounted online by the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU), via their Family Search website.

These images can be found online at the following sites:

In each case, choose the Browse through XXX images link to access the digital images. Note that these images have not been indexed on the GSU site, so cannot be found by doing a name search on familysearch.org. When you select the Browse... link, you will see a list of folders for each series of images, mirroring the reference codes used within the North East Inheritance database: for the main series of wills and inventories especially (DPR/I/1), the list of folders may be very slow to load.

The images can also be accessed directly from the catalogue entries, by clicking on the hyperlinked reference codes within the catalogue. These codes will link directly to the relevant folder containing the document described, and for the main series of wills especially is likely to be much quicker than using the links above. When using these hyperlinks to access the images, note that they are grouped in folders as follows.

SeriesFolder of imagesSearch notes
DPR/I/1 by item, i.e. each testator or intestate separate Each folder will normally contain all the documents relating to the same deceased person within the DPR/I/1 series (will, inventory, account etc).
DPR/I/2 by volume, i.e. all registered wills proved within a particular period The catalogue will include a page or folio (sheet) reference, so you can use the Image XXX of YYY control at top of screen to jump to approximately the right place within the folder of images, then move backwards or forwards until you locate the exact reference. Note that folios have a front (recto or r.) side and a back (verso or v.), and are numbered only on the recto.
DPR/I/3 by year and series (B, A or T, for different types of bond) Each folder may contain several hundred images, so you will want to use the Image XXX of YYY control at top of screen to jump to approximately the right number for your bond, then move backwards or forwards until you locate the exact reference (which you will see written on the images).
DPR/I/6 by item (folder), i.e. each testator or intestate separate Each folder will normally contain all the documents relating to the same deceased person within the DPR/I/6 series (will or bond, inventory, account etc).

The familysearch.org site also includes images of other probate series, which have not been included within the online catalogue. You can find the images (but no index) for these at the familysearch website by looking for 'image only' collections from England.

If you want to print one of the items found, you may be able to use the Print button above the image. If this does not work on your system, use the Download button to save and open the file in your computer's default image program, from where you will be able to print it.

The pre-1650 wills and inventories

Note that the pre-1650 original wills and inventories etc (series DPR/I/1) were not digitised by the GSU, as they were still being sorted and numbered at the time. These will not therefore be included in the initial tranche of digital images made available online, though we hope we may be able to have them digitised separately at a later date. They are, however, included within this online catalogue.

The pre-1695 bonds

These are small parchment documents, double-sided (most later bonds are single sided paper documents, though still written in two 'parts'). Most include seals, and for this reason these documents cannot be photocopied without risking damage to the originals.

Because many of these early bonds are badly obscured by dirt, they would require extensive cleaning and conservation work before they could be photographed satisfactorily. For this reason, the pre-1695 probate bonds were not digitised by the GSU, and digital images of them will not be made available on their Family Search website.

Although many of them are damaged or incomplete, they can generally be consulted in our search room. The online catalogue captures the core information on the deceased persons whom they relate to. However, it omits any occupations (these are rarely stated on the early bonds), and also omits details of the kind of bond concerned, for instance whether an executor's or 'will' bond, or an administration bond for somebody who died intestate (without making a will).

If you think that you would require a copy of a pre-1695 probate bond (from the 'DPR/I/3' series), we may be able to arrange photography. However, this may be subject to further delay and cost, and would depend on the condition of the original. Note that for the large number of probate bonds which are heavily creased or dirty, even photography is very unlikely to yield a legible or useful copy. We would advise you if inspection of the document reveals that this is likely to be the case.

Alternatively, we can provide details of local record agents, who may be able to assist with transcriptions or details from any of our probate records.

Future plans

The probate act books (series DPR/I/4) were also digitised by the GSU and may be mounted online by them shortly. However, they have not been indexed within the online catalogue, and we have no plans to undertake this work. In a few cases, especially for earlier wills and inventories, DPR/I/4 act book references are included within the notes, e.g. to explain the dating of an item.

A few gaps have been identified within the series of images on the familysearch site as summarised above. We will work with the GSU to identify and advertise these gaps more clearly, and put in place a plan to mount or re-take the missing images.

Some additional data is also now included within the NEI database, and we hope to provide search fields to access this data for advanced users shortly. This will enable searches by gender, along with free-text searches for additional information recorded within the catalogue against many of the person and document entries.