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

Digital images of the probate documents

The original plan for the North East Inheritance project was to link our online catalogue to digital images of the Durham Probate records, which are held by the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU). This is still the intention, and we know that the GSU are undertaking pilot work with a view to mounting the images on their familysearch.org website, where they will be available free of charge.

We will continue working with the GSU so that these high-quality images can be linked in seamlessly to our online catalogue entries. However, due to delays (caused mainly by the huge volume of digital image data concerned), we have decided to mount this catalogue now without images, rather than keep you waiting any longer.

We will announce further news on the online catalogue and images as soon as we have it, on this site.

Accessing the digital images

The images will be available from the GSU's Family Search website (choose 'British Isles' under 'Browse by location' towards the bottom of the screen). A name search on Family Search will not find the records because they are only indexed in the North East Inheritance database. These images are at a high-quality, and the GSU is committed to making them available for free to the public.

Note that the pre-1650 original wills and inventories etc (series DPRI/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 probate 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 'DPRI/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.