Probate Records201111544957 by dfsiopmhy6


   County Council

Probate Records
                                                         terms of the will. The executor would
Introduction                                             agree to carry out the wishes of the
                                                         deceased person, and to make an
Nottinghamshire Archives holds probate                   inventory of their goods. The
records from the 16th century until the mid-             agreement that the executor signed is
twentieth century. The term probate means                called a probate bond.
‘approval by a competent court’: that the will
and testament of a deceased person are               •   Codicil: if the testator wished to alter
lawful and valid, and that the will has been             their will, they could write a codicil.
‘proved’. The executors are then able to carry           This confirmed that the will remained
out the terms of the will.                               effective, but subject to the alterations
                                                         made in the codicil.
Wills – what are they?
                                                     •   Letters of Administration: if a person
The following are the main types of probate              died without leaving a will (i.e. they died
documents held at Nottinghamshire Archives:              intestate), or the executors named in
                                                         the will could not be traced, then a
   •   Will and Testament: these are usually             friend, next of kin or creditor could
       combined in the same document. They               apply to the probate court for a letter of
       provide details on the disposal of                administration (admon.). This enabled
       property and possessions (the estate)             the person to provide an inventory and
       of a person (the testator) after they             to divide the estate. To ensure that this
       have died. They might include details             was carried out, the court would
       of land, money or possessions, and the            demand that the person sign a bond.
       names of family members and others                In practice the bond is the only
       who were to receive them.                         document to survive at Nottinghamshire
                                                         Archives – there are no actual letters of

                                                     •   Inventory: a list of all the possessions
                                                         of the deceased – their moveable
                                                         effects, or ‘goods and chattels’ – but
                                                         not land or buildings. This could
                                                         include household furniture, farm stock
                                                         or crops from harvested land. They
                                                         would also include an estimated value
                                                         for each item. The inventory was
   •   Probate Bond: when a will was made,               usually compiled by two reputable
       an executor (male) or executrix                   neighbours of the deceased and
       (female) would be named and was the               submitted with the will to the probate
       person responsible for carrying out the           court. It is also possible for there to be
       inventories with letters of                     the relationships between individual family
       administration.                                 members. Although wills were made by the
                                                       rich and by professionals, they were also
                                                       made by lots of people who were not wealthy,
                                                       including farmers, framework knitters and
                                                       labourers. It is therefore possible that an
                                                       ancestor may have left a will. It is also
                                                       possible that an ancestor’s relative may have
                                                       left a will, and named your ancestor in it.

                                                       From 1540, men from the age of 14 and
                                                       women from the age of 12 could make a will
                                                       and testament. These ages were raised to 21
                                                       by the Wills Act of 1837. Wills could not be
                                                       made by lunatics, prisoners, traitors, heretics
   •   Probate Act Book: these list all wills
                                                       or slaves.
       and admons dealt with by a probate
       court. They are listed in date order.
                                                       Wills of unmarried women and widows are
                                                       common, but wills of married women before
   In addition, the following probate records          1882 are not. Married women could not own
   held at The National Archives may be of             property until the Married Women’s Property
   interest:                                           Act 1882. Before this date they needed their
                                                       husband’s consent before making a will.
   •   Death Duty Registers: from 1796
       various taxes have been imposed on              If an individual had not made a written will they
       estates, now known collectively as              could make an oral declaration of their last
       death or estate duties. The percentage          wishes. If the probate court was satisfied that
       of estates which were subject to death          the declaration made was valid, a record of
       duties has increased over time. The             this declaration would be made as a
       Estate Duty Office made abstracts of            nuncupative will, and probate could be
       wills and administrations and then              granted.
       calculated the tax to be paid. The
       registers in which these abstracts were         Probate was usually granted within one to two
       kept are the Death Duty Registers, and          years after death. Occasionally probate may
       survive at The National Archives from           have been granted many years after death.
       1796 until 1903. Copies are also                Sometimes probate may not have been
       available on microfilm until 1857 at the        granted at all if it was not necessary.
       Family Records Centre. The wills and
       admons. come from all courts across
       the country, but concern only those
                                                       How to find a will
       estates which were subject to death             In order to find the will you are looking for, it is
       duties. The registers record different          necessary to know the probate court in which
       amounts of information at different             the will was proved.
       times, but usually give details about the
       testator, the executors and the
       beneficiaries, as well as extracts from         Wills before 1858
       the will.
                                                       Before 1858 the proving of wills was the
                                                       responsibility of the church courts. There are
                                                       several different courts with jurisdiction within
Who made a will?                                       Nottinghamshire in which an individual’s will
                                                       may have been proved. The courts were
Wills can be useful documents for family
                                                       organised in a hierarchical system.
historians as they can provide information on

•   The Exchequer Court of York: the                      Society Record Series), Vols. 6 –
    Archdeaconry of Nottingham: this                      89 (various volumes held)
    was the principal court in the diocese            •   Calendar of Nottinghamshire Wills
    of York. Wills proved in the                          in the Yorkshire Registry 1514 –
    Archdeaconry of Nottingham are                        1619 (1890), which extracts the
    divided into one of four deaneries:                   Nottinghamshire wills from the
    Nottingham, Bingham, Newark and                       above volume
    Retford.                                          •   Calendar of Nottinghamshire
                                                          Probate Records, 1688 – 1731
    Nottinghamshire Archives holds:                       (typescript)
    • wills, admons. and bonds, for all
        four deaneries, 1589 – 1858;              •   Peculiar Courts: these courts had
    • inventories, c1688 – c1750                      jurisdiction over small areas of the
    (reference: PR/NW)                                county, usually a small group of
                                                      parishes but sometimes just a single
    A card index is available for these               parish or manor. Peculiars were
    wills, arranged alphabetically by                 independent of the jurisdiction of the
    surname. The wills themselves are                 Exchequer Court.
    available on microfiche, arranged
    according to deanery. The booklet                 Nottinghamshire Archives holds wills
    How to Find Archdeaconry Wills on                 for the following peculiars:
    Fiche explains which parish is in which           • Manor of Gringley on the Hill
    deanery. Within each deanery they                      (PR/G), 1739 – 1858
    are arranged according to the date                •     Manor of St John of Jerusalem
    probate was granted.                                   (PR/JW), 1646 – 1791
                                                      • Peculiar of Kinoulton (PR/K), 1758
    Nottinghamshire Archives also holds                    – 1842
    Probate Act Books, which list wills               • Manor of Mansfield (PR/MW),
    proved in the Archdeaconry                             1640 – 1857
    (reference: PR/NV):                               •     Peculiar of Southwell (PR/SW),
    • Nottingham and Bingham                               originals: 1506 – 1841; register
        deaneries, 1705 – 1858;                            copies: 1530 – 1858
    • Retford deanery, 1719 – 1858;
    • Newark deanery, 1735 – 1858.                    In addition, there are some records
    Register copies of wills often survive            • Manor of Edwinstowe and
    in probate registers, so if there is no                Clipstone, 1520 – 1833
    surviving original will (especially               •     Manor of Ossington (copies),
    before c1630) then there may be a                      1729 – 1755
    copy in the probate register. Probate             • Manor of Rufford Abbey, 1641 –
    registers for the period 1389 – 1858                   1767
    are held at the Borthwick Institute in            • Manor of Skegby and Teversal,
    York, and are available from 1267 until                1721 – 1858
    1500 on the British Origins web site at
                                                      • Dale Abbey, 1753 – 1856
                                                      A card index is available for all of
    The following are printed indexes to
                                                      these wills, arranged alphabetically by
    the register copies. These indexes
                                                      surname. This index also includes
    are available in the Nottinghamshire
                                                      references to wills deposited privately
    Archives reference library:
                                                      from other sources. The original
                                                      document will need to be ordered from
    •   Wills in the York Registry 1389 –             the strong room.
        1688, (Yorkshire Archaeological

    The following peculiar courts covered                   web site at
    some Nottinghamshire parishes.                
    Their records are held at the                           cumentsonline.
    Borthwick Institute, and are available
    on               Wills after 1858
    •   Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter            The Court of Probate Act of 1857 brought an
        of York, 1321 – 1857                        end to the church system. From 12 January
    •   Prebend of Apesthorpe, 1557 –               1858 all wills have been proved in a
        1844                                        centralised civil probate system. Wills were
    •   Prebend of Bole, 1546 – 1847                proved either at the Principal Probate Registry
                                                    in London (now the Principal Registry of the
•   Prerogative Court of York: If an                Family Division), or at a district probate
    individual held land or property in             registry.
    more than one archdeaconry or
    diocese, then their will would be               If the will was proved at the Principal Probate
    proved in the Prerogative Court based           Registry, the original wills are held at the
    in York.                                        Principal Registry of the Family Division.

    This court had jurisdiction over the            If the will was proved at the district probate
    entire ecclesiastical province of York,         registry, that registry kept the original will,
    and was also more prestigious than              made a register copy, and also sent a copy to
    the local Courts. Therefore, some               the Principal Probate Registry. Therefore, the
    (usually wealthier) people had their            Principal Registry of the Family Division
    wills proved in this court because of its       should hold either the original or a copy of all
    superior status.                                wills, and each district probate registry should
                                                    hold the wills proved at that registry. The
    The original wills (1389 – 1857) are            Nottingham Probate Registry covered the
    held at the Borthwick Institute, but            whole county of Nottinghamshire.
    they are also included in the Probate
    Act Books (reference: PR/NV) at
    Nottinghamshire Archives.                           •   National Probate Calendar: this
                                                            calendar is arranged by year and,
    A card index for these wills covering                   within each year, lists alphabetically
    the years 1803 – 1858 is available at                   by surname all the individuals whose
    Nottinghamshire Archives. It is                         wills were proved that year, or for
    arranged alphabetically by surname.                     whose estates letters of administration
                                                            were issued. The calendar includes
•   Prerogative Court of Canterbury: If                     everybody in England and Wales, and
    an individual held land or property in                  gives the following details:
    more than one province, then their will                 • Deceased’s name
    would be proved at this court. This                     • Date of death
    was the most superior court in the                      • Where the will was proved
    country, and so certain very wealthy                    • When the will was proved
    people had their wills proved here                      • The names of the executors or
    because of its status.                                       administrators
                                                            • The value of the deceased’s
    Wills for this court (1383 – 1857) are                       estate
    held at The National Archives. Note
    that during the Commonwealth (1653                      The calendar is valuable in tracing
    – 1660) all wills in the country are held               where and when a will was proved.
    with the records of this court. The
    registered copies are available on The
    National Archives’ Documents Online
     Nottinghamshire Archives holds a               Useful Addresses
     copy of the calendar on microfiche
     from 1858 until 1943, and in volumes           Borthwick Institute
     from 1944 until 1968.                          University of York
                                                    YO10 5DD

                                                    Tel: 01904 321166
                                                    Web Site:

                                                    Family Records Centre
 •   Nottingham Probate Registry Office             1 Myddelton Street
     Copy Wills: Nottinghamshire Archives           Islington
     holds register or office copies of wills       EC1R 1UW
     proved in the Nottingham Probate
     Registry, 1858 – 1939 (ref: P/ND 1).           Tel: 020 8392 5300
     The National Probate Calendar should           Email:
     be used to establish the date and the          Web Site:
     place of probate as Nottingham.      

 •   Nottingham Probate Registry Grant              The National Archives
     Books: Nottinghamshire Archives                Kew
     holds volumes listing wills and                Richmond
     admons., (ref: P/ND 2). However,               Surrey
     these do not tend to record much               TW9 4DU
     more information than what is given in
     the National Probate Calendar.                 Tel: 020 8876 3444
                                                    Web Site:
For wills proved outside Nottinghamshire or
in Nottinghamshire after 1939, the
appropriate district probate office or the          Principal Registry of the Family Division
Principal Registry of the Family Division in        First Avenue House
London should be visited. A postal                  42-49 High Holborn
application service is also available.              London
Applications should be sent to the York             WC2A 2LL
Probate Sub-Registry.
                                                    Tel (switchboard): 020 7947 6000
                                                    Web Site: http://www.hmcourts-

                                                    York Probate Sub-Registry
                                                    Postal Searches and Copies Department
                                                    1st Floor
                                                    Castle Chambers
                                                    Clifford Street
                                                    York YO1 9RG

                                                    Tel: 01904 666777
                                                    Fax: 01904 666776
                                                    Web Site: http://www.hmcourts-

Further Reading
The following may be of interest:

J S W Gibson, Wills and Where to Find
Them, (Chichester, 1974)

A J Camp, Wills and Their Whereabouts,
(Canterbury, 1963)

Karen Grannum and Nigel Taylor, Wills and
other Probate Records, (London, 2004)

Mark Herber, Ancestral Trails: the
Complete Guide to British Genealogy and
Family History, (Stroud, 2004), chapter 12

Cecil Humphery-Smith, The Phillimore Atlas
and Index of Parish Registers, (Chichester,
2003), includes maps of probate areas

Testamenta Eboracensia, Surtees Society,
6 Vols., 1836 – 1902, includes transcripts of
Nottinghamshire wills, 1316 – 1551

P A Kennedy, Nottinghamshire Household
Inventories (transcripts of Southwell
Peculiar inventories, 1512 – 1586), in
Thoroton Society Records Series, Vol. 22,


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