Find your ancestors in Wills in the York Registry 1389-1688

Introduction to Original Volume (YAS volume 4)

Owing probably to the disturbed state of the Kingdom during the great civil war, when most of the business of this country came to a standstill, the usual practice of copying into Registers, all Wills brought for Probate to the Exchequer and Prerogative Courts of York, appears to have been temporarily discontinued; and when the country settled down again to its normal condition the vast accumulation of arrears of work rendered this a task apparently too formidable to be attempted. In consequence, the Wills proved in these Courts from 1636 to 1652, inclusive, are to be found in bundles as originals or copies (for it was not unusual, at this time, to return the original to the administrator and to file a copy) and not as transcripts in Registers as at other periods. Each of the bundles, of which there are above two hundred, contains (with two exceptions) the Wills proved during the course of one month, and with respect to the month of March, it is necessary to point out that there is some confusion, owing to the mixing of Wills proved between Lady Day and the 31st March of one year, according to our present style of reckoning, with those proved between the 1st of March and Lady Day of the following year. This error has been avoided in one year by placing the first-named Wills in a separate bundle, which is labelled "Little March." It must also be borne in mind, in order to reconcile certain apparent discrepancies in the dates of Probate, that all the dates given are according to the old style of reckoning.

The bundles, as a rule, contain Wills only. In some, however, a considerable number of Administration and Tuition Bonds are also to be found. The whole of the former are included in this Index, and such of the latter as are unaccompanied by Wills or Administration Bonds. There is one bundle labelled "Testamentary and Administration Bonds for August and December, 1649," containing Bonds only, and this, at the risk of repetition, which occurs in the case of a few of the Testamentary Bonds, has been fully indexed with the Wills of that year. It is almost needless to say, that whenever the following abbreviations occur, Test. Bond, Adm. Bond, Tui. Bond, one or other of these Bonds is alluded to. The Administration Bonds here indexed, though fairly numerous in some years, do not represent a tithe of the Grants, in the case of intestates, which must be sought for in the Act Books. Therefore, this volume may be considered a complete Index of all Wills proved during the years 1636 to 1652, in the Exchequer and Prerogative Courts of York, that are known to exist (except a few fragments that have not been identified), and of all the Administration Bonds, signed during that period, that are to be found in the bundles. The total number of references given is upwards of 10,500, of which, roughly estimated, 9,700 are to Wills, and the remaining 800 to Bonds.

As the Council contemplate publishing a complete Index to the Wills in the York Registry from the earliest period, and as substantial progress has already been made with the first volume, it may seem a somewhat clumsy arrangement to issue this portion of the Index out of its proper chronological order.

But as it was ready for the press, and as it covers one of the most important and interesting periods in the history of this country, no good reason can be assigned for witholding, for some years, information that many of the subscribers are most anxious to have at once.

It is only necessary further to say that the thanks of the members of the Association are due to Mr. H. A. Hudson for his kindness in permitting this Index to be commenced when the Wills were under his own immediate charge in the Diocesan Registry. Circumstances, into which it is unnecessary to enter here, prevented the completion of it before they were removed in January, 1887, to their new home in the District Probate Registry, and rendered it necessary to apply to Sir James Hannen, for permission to continue the work; this he most kindly and promptly granted. The subsequent assistance given by Mr. Hudson, now the District Registrar, and all the other officials connected with the Registry, made its completion a most pleasing task.