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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Wills

Information about wills in Durham County Record Office and Durham University Library Special Collections.

Wills in Durham County Record Office

Although there are many copies of wills in the archives at Durham County Record Office, they do not form a complete series.

Wills are preserved in many estate and family collections. You will also find them in the records of County Durham solicitors' practices, such as the Hanby Holmes firm at Barnard Castle, and in many of our miscellaneous collections.

Search the catalogue for wills. Below are two examples from our online catalogue. They are taken from the Brancepeth Estate and Stanton Croft solicitors collections:

Ref No. D/Br/F 300
Codicil of the will of Matthew Russell, Esq., 3 May 1822, with inventory of plate and furniture in Brancepeth Castle, 24 May 1823
(1 volume, paper)

Ref No. D/SC 2/13
Will of Stephen Thompson of Allertongate, Durham, gent., devising houses and land at Allertongate and Crossgate, Durham, Alwent and Langton to his wife, Frances, for life; after her death, the Durham property and his farm at Baxterwood, Durham, to his nephew, James Church; his two farms at Langton to his sister, Margaret Church, then to his two nieces Elizabeth, wife of John Russell, and Margaret Church, spinster, 9 August 1689
(1 paper)

Wills in Durham University Library Special Collections

Wills from c.1540 to 1858

Durham University Library Archives and Special Collections holds all the surviving wills proved by the Church of England courts within the diocese of Durham up until the establishment of the Civil Probate Registries on 11 January 1858.

You can search the North East Inheritance database (pre-1858 Durham Probate Records) for names which appear in wills and related archives. The catalogue records within the database are linked to images of most of the pre-1858 Durham Probate Records. These images are hosted separately by the Genealogical Society of Utah and you can view them free online. 

Wills after 11 January 1858

You will find copy wills in the Durham Probate Registers in the collections held by Durham University Library Special Collections.

More information about wills online

There is some useful information about wills in The National Archives Research guides.

You can also check Probate Records on the GENUKI website.

The GOV.UK website has a Find a will service that allows you to search for wills and probate records (England and Wales) from 1858 onwards. You can also search for the wills of soldiers who died while serving in the British armed forces between 1850 and 1986.