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

The Probate Database will be taken down briefly for a major data upgrade during Friday 28th November 2014 (delayed from Monday 24th), watch this space....

Digital 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.

Digital images of the main series of probate documents can be found 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 the images broken down into groups as follows.

SeriesDivision of imagesSearch notes
DPR I/1 by item (folder), i.e. each testator or intestate separate Find the reference matching what you note from the online catalogue (omitting the final subnumbers). Note that the list of folders is a very long one, so may take a few minutes to load. Once you have selected a folder to view, you will find that it contains only a few documents/images, so you should be able to find the document you need quite easily.
DPR I/3 by year and series (B, A or T, for different types of bond) Find the year/series matching what you note from the online catalogue (omitting the final numbers). Each series may contain a few 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 Find the reference matching what you note from the online catalogue (omitting the final subnumbers). Once selected, each folder contains only a few documents/images, so you should be able to find the document you need quite easily.

The familysearch.org site also includes images of the separate series of probate commissions, monitions and citations (ref DPR 1/5, predominantly 19th century). These are arranged in yearly bundles. However, they have not been included within the online catalogue, and there are no current plans to do so.

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 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 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.

Future plans

The registered copies of wills (series DPR I/2) have been included in the online catalogue and were digitised by the GSU. We expect these to be mounted online on familysearch.org in the near future.

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.

The North East Inheritance project always aimed to provide links between our online catalogue entries and the digital images of the Durham Probate records, which are held by the GSU. This is still the intention, but may take some time before we can link the two resources. Meanwhile, you can use the online catalogue to locate items of interest, then follow the notes above to view and/or print the online images.