03 November 2009

News on probate records

Chris Paton of the Scottish Genealogy News and Events Blog at http://scottishancestry.blogspot.com/ passed along information that was news to me about English and Welsh probate records coming online.

Prior to 1858 probate was handled by ecclesiastical courts in England and Wales. There were many of them. Smaller estates which require probate, many of them didn't, could be dealt with by a local court. Larger estates with property holdings overlapping lower court jurisdictions were handled at a more senior level. The most senior level was the PCC, the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, and just below that was the PCY Prerogative Court of York for northern England.

According to Chris " the monopoly that Documents Online has had on PCC wills at £3.50 a time is no longer the current situation - theGenealogist.co.uk is furiously uploading newly digitised images from the same records, with, to date, about 100 years of coverage online, but they will soon have the entire collection online also. As well as being superior digitised images (the TNA images were done several years ago and things have moved on since then), they are available as part of a subscription, and the site offers a free trial."

PCY records have still to be digitised. An online probate index for 222,000 grants of probate for the period May 1731 to January 1858 are now available for both the Prerogative and Exchequer Courts of York, 1731-1858. Go to Origins.net. Copies of the complete record can be ordered from the Borthwick Institute in York at www.york.ac.uk/inst/bihr/

Post 1858 probate was handled by civil courts and records are held by the Court Service. According to Chris earlier in the year they were busy digitising calendars and indexing records, and had gone as far back as the 1920s. Although the initial plan of the digitization was to make it easier to deal with customer orders for copies they were also looking at ways to try and make the material available online at some point in the future.

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