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Archives and Special Collections: Family History Sources: Probate Records

About the Records

The Durham Probate Records chiefly comprise the following documents:

  • Wills proved in Durham diocese before 1858
  • Registered (contemporary) copies of wills proved in County Durham from 1858 to 1940
  • For those who died intestate before 1858 (without making a will), an administration bond may survive.  This allowed their next of kin, or sometimes their creditors, to manage the goods and money that they possessed when they died.
  • Other documents often accompany wills and administration bonds before 1858, including inventories, accounts of executors and additional court documents.

We hold contemporary (registered) copies of wills for 1858 to 1940, relating to County Durham only.  Some related registers for the same period are also held, as detailed within the catalogue.

Original wills and other probate records dated after 1857 are held by Principal and District Probate Registries.  Copies of post-1857 wills held by us cannot be photocopied or photographed, and are not available online. For copies of post-1857 wills, consult the HM Courts and Tribunals Service webpage about searching for probate records.

Availability online (digital images)

Digital images of most of the pre-1858 Durham Probate Records are available from the North East Inheritance catalogue online.

When using the images on familysearch, note:

  • The images have not been indexed, so will not be found by carrying out a surname search on familysearch. They are only available for browsing on that site.
  • You will have to sign in to access the images. If you do not have an account on familysearch, you will first need to set one up. This is free of charge.
  • familysearch is an external site and is the responsibility of the Genealogical Society of Utah, not of Durham University.

Access to original sources

The collections mentioned above are located at Palace Green Library.  Our current opening hours are as follows, but see also below.

  • Monday to Friday: 10am to 4:30pm
  • Saturday: closed
  • Sunday: closed

For further information on visiting to use the collections, please use our enquiry form.

See separate Libraries and Site Information guide for further information on Palace Green Library.

Appointments are strongly recommended for all visits, please use the enquiry form to book.  Please give three working days notice when possible and include a full list of document references or shelfmarks so that we can best enable your research access.

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