Discover your ancestor in some of the earliest wills available online. Search over 10,000 wills proved at the Prerogative and Exchequer courts of York between 1267 and 1500. Search the index to find your ancestor’s name, where they lived and what they did for a living; then find out more by ordering a copy of the original will from the Borthwick Institute for Archives.
Each record contains a transcription of the information held in the index to the wills. Copies of the original wills are held by the Borthwick Institute for Archives and can be ordered directly from them.
Testator's last name and first name including the last name spelling given in the original (given the age of these documents the spelling which appears on the original can often be archaic)
Places associated with person
Type of document (not always a will)
Language of document (English, French, Latin, or a combination of these)
Date of will
Date of probate
Borthwick Institute reference to the original document.
This database makes available exclusively on Findmypast a comprehensive index to over 10,000 wills proved in the province of York prior to the 16th century, plus related documents. All the original documents are held by the Borthwick Institute for Archives.
For many of the people referred to in this index, multiple documents are available, for example multiple wills, will plus one or more codicils, multiple disputes concerning the will. The different documents are all listed in the index.
Copies of the source documents may be ordered online.
While the great majority of the documents relate to persons with property in Yorkshire, 12.5% of the records refer to other places: nearly every county in England, plus Ireland, France, Poland, Scotland, Wales. 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.
Before 1752, New Year in England started on 25 March.
When New Year was established as starting on 1 January, the terms Old Style and New Style came into use when quoting dates.
So, 15 February 1715 (Old Style) would be quoted as 15 February 1716 (New Style). When the day fell after 24 March, the year was the same.
In this record set, dates before 25 March give the year in both Old and New Style, eg. 23 January 1741/2 (where 1741 is Old Style and 1742 is New Style).
The database records provide the following information:
Modernised version in cases where the original has archaic spellings
Spelling in original document. More than one spelling may appear, eg: "Ligearde, Lygeard" (for surname = "Legard")
M(ale) or F(emale)
eg "Butcher", "Merchant". Sometimes relationship is shown, eg "Wife of Nicholas", "Son of John", "Widow of William, knight". Titles appear in this field, eg: "Knight, Lord Scrope of Bolton".
Usually contains place where the testator lived, often where they were buried, sometimes both, and sometimes with additional place-related information, eg: "York"; "York (buried Calais, St Mary, FR)"; "Sharlstone, probate act Warmfield (buried Nostell priory)". In a few cases the word "dated" appears against a place name, eg: "York, dated Danzig, PO". This means that the document appears to have been completed at that place, but not necessarily that this is the place where the testator lived.
Latin, French, English or a mixture. The vast majority are in Latin.
Usually, but not always present. The year is given as Old Style and New Style for dates before 25 March.
The year is given as Old Style and New Style for dates before 25 March.
Although the majority of the documents are wills, there are often other document types available. See the probate glossary under Useful links to the right.
Not often present, but very variable contents, eg: "Place name unidentified"; "Daughter & heir of John de Luttryngton"; "Cancelled - will proved later"; "Adm[inistration] granted because executors refused".
Identifies the volume at the Borthwick Institute containing the original document. This is generally one of the Probate Register volumes, eg: "ProbReg 2".
The folio (sheet) within the volume containing the original. For example: "61r" means the recto side of folio 61; "179v-180r" means the verso side of folio 179 continued on the recto of folio 180.
Borthwick original documents are provided as digitised images, sent by email.
You can order a digitised copy of any document by following the link “Order copies of original wills” under Useful links and resources and completing the online form. You will need to provide all the document reference details provided in the transcript.
The Borthwick Institute aims to complete all customer orders within 28 working days and most orders are fulfilled well within this timescale.