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Contributors & InstitutionsBorthwick Institute for Archives
Borthwick Institute for Archives

The Borthwick Institute for Archives takes its name from William Borthwick of Bridlington, under whose will it was endowed. Opened in 1953, ten years later it became part of the newly-established University of York as a research institute specialising in the study of ecclesiastical history, in particular that of the Province of York. It acts as the diocesan record office for Yorkshire and is a recognised place of deposit for public records. During the summer of 2004 the Institute moved to a purpose built archive repository on the outskirts of York in Heslington, adjacent to the University of York's JBM Library.

Probate Records
The Borthwick Institute's archive of probate records (wills, inventories and associated records) is the largest in England outside London. The records span the period from the 14th century until January 1858, when the business of granting probate was removed from the Church of England to a new civil probate court.

England and Wales are split into two ecclesiastical provinces:
  • York (covering the counties of Cheshire, Cumberland, Durham, Lancashire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Westmorland and Yorkshire)
  • Canterbury (the other English counties and Wales).
Where a person left property (worth more than £5) in more than jurisdiction within a diocese, or in more than one diocese within the province, the will had to be proved in the Prerogative Court of York (PCY) or that of Canterbury (PCC), depending on where the property was located - not where the death took place. If there was property in both provinces, the will had to be proved by the PCC.

The records of the Prerogative and Exchequer Courts of York are held at the Borthwick Institute, as well as the records of 45 Peculiar Courts.

The jurisdiction of the Exchequer Court (which operated essentially as a prerogative court) covered most of Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. It should be noted that those parts in the north-west of Yorkshire in the archdeaconry of Richmond were included in the diocese of Chester in the 16th century and these records are now held by West Yorkshire Archives in Leeds. Exchequer Court probate files for the archdeaconry of Nottingham are now held by Nottinghamshire Archives The Prerogative Court of York granted probate in cases in which the testator had goods in more than one jurisdiction within the diocese or more than one diocese within the province or in both Northern and Southern Provinces. For further details as well as information on the peculiar courts, see Pre-1858 Probate Jurisdictions: Where To Look For Wills.

The Borthwick Institute has alphabetical indexes to all its holdings of probate records, and these will be made available online exclusively through Origins.net. Hard copies of the original documents may be ordered online.


Contact Borthwick Institute for Archives
Address: Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, UK
Phone: +44(0) 1904 321166
Website: www.york.ac.uk/library/borthwick
Email: borthwick-institute@york.ac.uk
Borthwick Institute for Archives
The York Series of Probate Indexes are presented in association with the Borthwick Institute for Archives