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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 Monday 24 November 2014, watch this space....

Scope of the online database

The database includes catalogue information for the probate records listed below. Further general information for the collection is included within our main Special Collections catalogues site.

The pre-1858 Durham Probate Records include wills and related documents from the areas under the probate jurisdiction of the Diocese (and Cathedral) of Durham, which at that date consisted of the following areas:

  • Northumberland (excluding Hexham and Hexhamshire, and Thockrington)
  • Tyne and Wear
  • County Durham
  • Crayke (Yorkshire) and Alston (Cumberland)
  • Northallerton and some surrounding townships in Yorkshire
See our Which wills do we hold page for further details.

Record series included within the database

The database includes catalogue information for the following series of records at the dates shown.

Original wills and inventories (reference DPRI/1)
Covering c.1540 to January 1858. These include all the original documents associated with grants of probate from the Bishop of Durham's consistory court, other than the probate bonds and some closely associated records (see below).
Registered copies of wills (reference DPRI/2)
Registered copies of wills (and a few early inventories) survive for c.1527-January 1858, but with large gaps (especially in the 17th century). Note that the information from the earlier registers has not yet been included, but entries for most of the early registered wills should be included by reference to the published copies of 16-17th century wills in Surtees Society volumes (which are in the database). Many of the earlier wills survive only as registered copies. From 1665, the database lists together both original wills and (where they exist) registered copies.
Probate bonds (reference DPRI/3)
The practice at Durham was to keep all probate bonds in a separate sequence (both executors' bonds, binding executors to perform the covenants in a will, and administration bonds for those who died intestate). These are sometimes accompanied by documents such as renunciations, appointments of proctors and curation or tuition bonds. Note that this means that administration bonds which might be accompanied by an inventory are within series DPRI/3, while the inventory itself will be among DPRI/1: the online Probate database shows these disparate records together. Bonds date from 1565 to 1858 (plus one for 1556), but we have not yet catalogued the executors' bonds for 1739-1789 (the wills for these dates are in the database).
Northallertonshire probate records (reference DPRI/6)
There were two 'peculiar' jurisdictions associated with the town of Northallerton in North Yorkshire and a number of surrounding townships. One of these peculiars was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Durham, and its probate records can be found within the main series above. The other was under the jurisdiction of the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral, and its probate records are retained within a separate series. They are dated 1670 to 1845 (when both peculiar jurisdictions were abolished). See the page on the NEI project site for details of the parishes involved.

Not included within the online database

Note that the following records are not included within the Probate database, and we have no immediate plans to include them:

  • Probate act books (reference DPRI/4)
  • Probate commissions and citations (reference DPRI/5)
  • Records of probate disputes within the consistory court records (among the Durham Diocesan Records, including some wills not proven)
  • Copy wills and other probate documents among various collections of private papers and estate records, including several of our antiquarian and other miscellaneous collections.
  • Registered copies of wills for the period 1858-1940, and other post-1858 probate records (DPR II)

When was the database last revised?

The data was last prepared for uploading on 15th December 2010, so the database includes all revisions up to that date. If you notice or suspect errors in the data, please let us know using the contact details on the further information page.