Help & ResourcesHelp with collectionsNational Wills Index collectionsAbout Prerogative & Exchequer Courts of YorkAbout Prerogative & Exchequer Courts of York Probate Index 1688-1858
The Prerogative & Exchequer Court of York Probate Index contains the following fields:
Although over 80% of the records relate to Yorkshire, people from all over the British Isles and abroad had property in the Province of York, and had their wills proved in the Prerogative or Exchequer Court of York.
Each index entry has two buttons on the right, one to allow display of the image of the original index page, the other to allow online ordering of a copy of the source document. We recommend that you view the original index entries, for these often contain extra information which is not in the computerised index and which may help you decide whether to order copies of the documents.
The Prerogative & Exchequer Courts of York
Prior to 1858, wills were proved in an ecclesiastical court. Which court dealt with a particular will depended on where property was held.
Parishes of the Church of England were grouped into archdeaconries, and a group of archdeaconries formed a diocese (ie the area of a bishop's jurisdiction). Each diocese belonged either to the ecclesiastical province of York or of Canterbury. The province of York had jurisdiction in the counties of Cheshire, Cumberland, Durham, Lancashire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Westmorland and Yorkshire; Canterbury had jurisdiction over the rest of England and Wales.
If a person's property lay wholly within one archdeaconry, the will was generally proved in that archdeacon's court. But if property worth £5 or more were owned elsewhere the will would be proved in a higher court, that of a bishop or archbishop.
The Prerogative Court of York
If the property were owned in more than one diocese, the will would be proved in one of the two archbishops' prerogative courts. If the property were all within the province of York, probate would be dealt with by the Prerogative Court of York (PCY), otherwise by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). So if property were owned in both provinces, probate was dealt with by PCC, the senior court.
The Exchequer Court of York
The Exchequer Court exercised jurisdiction over lay men and unbeneficed clergy (that is who were not rectors or vicars) with goods in the diocese of York only.
Nottinghamshire wills proved in the Exchequer Court of York
Until 1837 Nottinghamshire was part of the diocese of York, and wills were proved at York. Though all original probate records relating to Nottinghamshire proved in the Prerogative Court of York remain at the Borthwick, those proved in the Exchequer Court have now been transferred to Nottinghamshire Archives. Registered copies of these Exchequer Court wills remain at the Borthwick, so you can order hard copies of all wills which relate to Nottinghamshire, whether proved in the Exchequer or Prerogative Court, but not other documents. In the index presently (ie covering May 1731 to Jan 1858) there are references to over 23,000 grants of probate relating to Nottinghamshire, of which 80% were granted by the Exchequer Court; in about 20% of these cases there is no will and so the documents are not available at the Borthwick. However, the Borthwick can supply the administration entries for these grants which, though fairly brief, do give the names of the executors. If ordering documents for grants relating to Nottinghamshire, we recommend you check whether probate was granted in the Exchequer Court, and then whether the will is included in the documents. If you place an order for a "Nottinghamshire" document where there is no will, and where probate was granted by the Exchequer Court, be aware that you will receive only a copy of the administration entry from the probate act book.
Ordering hard copies of original documents
You can order a hard copy of the document(s) referred to in any index record from the Borthwick Institute. Simply by clicking of the "Add to cart" button alongside each record. The cost of each hard copy document, including first class or airmail postage, is £10. (NB If there is more than one document referred to you will receive copies of each.)