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About York Peculiars Probate Collection 1383-1857

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This collection makes available, exclusively on the National Wills Index, a comprehensive index to over 25,000 wills and other probate documents proved in 54 Peculiar Courts of the Province of York in the five-hundred year period between 1383 and 1857.

For many of the people referred to, multiple documents are available, for example multiple wills, will plus codicils, inventories of the testator's property are particularly common and there are also many tuition agreements concerning children. The different documents are listed in the index.

Wills are one of the most important sources for the family historian, and the originals of all the wills indexed here are held at the Borthwick Institute for Archives. Copies of the majority of these wills can be purchased and viewed online, via the indexes. Copies of documents not currently available online can be purchased for email delivery from the Borthwick Institute.
Purchasing and viewing original documents online
Most of the York Peculiars Probate records held at Borthwick Institute for Archives have been digitised, and these images can be purchased with Pay per View credits and viewed directly from the index records.

Images are be displayed using Origins. net Java ImageViewer. Please ensure you have the latest version of Java installed, and are accessing the images on a compatible device - PC or Mac.   See Help Viewing Images on

Where documents have not yet been digitised, you can order copies online, which will provided as digitised images, sent by email.

The index records for the York Peculiars show which documents are currently available online; York Peculiar Courts shows for which ones the document images are available online.
The index records
The index records provide the following information:
  • Testator's last name and first name
    You can search on surname and on forename. There are often multiple variant spellings of surnames shown, eg PATTRICK(E)/PATTERICKE/PARTERICKE. You will be able to retrieve records regardless of which spelling you may be familiar with, particularly is you use the NameX option when searching.
    This field (or the occupation field) often contains additional information, particularly names of children.
  • Occupation
    Not always present, this is usually the occupation, eg "Butcher", "Merchant"; sometimes a relationship is shown, eg "widow of John Turner, bookseller" - where other names are mentioned these have also been indexed. The occupation sometimes appears in the name field.
  • Places associated with person
    This field usually contain the place where the testator lived, but often where they died, sometimes both.
  • Date
    Usually, but not always present. Usually the date of probate or of the will. The full date is sometimes given, otherwise just the year. The year is given as Old Style and New Style for dates before 25 March.
  • Document type
    Although the majority of the documents are wills, there are often other document types available. Glossary of Probate Terms.
  • Court concerned
  • Borthwick Institute reference
    This field - which is not always used - gives the number of the folio (sheet) within the volume containing the original. Note that if you are ordering hard copies from the Borthwick Institute via the National Wills Index, the reference data is forwarded automatically to the Institute.
Index record: example 1.
ABBOT, James, butcher,,Haxby,1753,W. Inv. B,,Strensall
This refers to a will proved in the Prebendal Court of Strensall in 1753. The documents include the will, and inventory of the testator's property, and a bond (required from the executor to ensure that the duties were carried out properly.

Index record: example 2.
Carnabie,Isabell and Agnes ? Daus of John C",late par of St John ,,Sep 17 1593,Tui,f.5,Hexamshire
This entry refers to a tuition agreement, relating to the guardianship of the daughters, Isabell and Agnes, of John Carnabie of the parish of St John in Hexhamshire (now in Northumberland). The daughters must therefore have been under 12 years of age. (The index also contains records referring to a later tuition agreement concerning the same girls, plus one of the same year relating to what is probably another sister, Anne.)
While the overwhelming majority of the documents relate to persons with property in Yorkshire, though testators were associated with other places in Britain also, and some died overseas (eg East Indies, Gibraltar), or at sea. The references to place primarily relate to property held there, but also to the place where the person died, or where they may have lived.
See Parishes, Townships and Peculiar Jurisdictions.
Language of the documents
The first will in English at the Borthwick Institute is dated 1443. By the early 1500s most wills were in English, and by 1558 it is almost certain that a will will be in English. Until 1732 the Act Books entries (which contain a brief outline of the grant of probate) were written in Latin, and Latin continued until then to be used for legal parts of documents even if the bulk of the document was written in English.
Other "York Series" Probate Indexes
All the indexes to probate documents held at the Borthwick Institute are available on the National Wills Index.
See also:  Help searching York Peculiars Probate Collection
  Examples of Documents
  Peculiar courts included in the index
  Parishes, townships and peculiar jurisdictions
  About the Borthwick Institute for Archives
  Pay per View credits
  Viewing Images on
  Search the collection
For help negotiating the labyrinth of over 300 pre 1858 probate courts explore our collection of Jeremy Gibson’s probate jurisdiction maps.
Explore Probate Jurisdictions Maps
Borthwick Institute for Archives
The York Series of Probate Indexes are presented in association with the Borthwick Institute for Archives