Press Releases

< All 2016 Articles

The wealth of Yorkshire: Historic probate records now online

Final estates of over 30,000 of Richmond and Knaresborough’s wealthiest residents revealed in newly digitised probate collection

  • Records stretch across more than 300 years
  • Collection features self-made merchants, industrialists and aristocracy
  • Records go into great detail of deceased’s last will and testament

More than three centuries worth of historic probate records have been published online, revealing the final wishes of 30,000 of Yorkshire’s historic residents.

Digitised by Ancestry from original records held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service, the Yorkshire Probate Records 1521-1858 include thousands of fully detailed wills and probate inventories as well as many warrants and admons (letters of administration) from the areas of Richmond and Knaresborough.

Each entry includes the full name of the deceased and their place and date of death. Typically, they also state the testament date, name of executor and final value of the estate – making the collection a vital resource for anybody looking to understand how their ancestors passed down their wealth.

Not everyone filed testaments, as many chose to avoid the courts and settle moveable property among family. Generally, the wealthy were more likely to have filed, simply because they had more property to distribute.

Accordingly, numerous famous names appear in the collection. These include: 

  • John Pratt – An 18th century Askrigg and Aysgarth resident who made his fortune as a jockey before becoming a racehorse trainer and tavern keeper, Pratt built the (still standing) Kings Arms pub as a coaching inn, and had kennels and stables attached so he could run hunts. He died in 1803 leaving the inn to his wife Margaret and the relatively small sum of £100 (£3,000 today) shared between his eight children and various relatives.
  • Sir William Amcotts-Ingilby, Baronet (1783-1854) – The eccentric resident of Ripley Castle, MP of East Retford (1807-1812) and High Sheriff who demolished and rebuilt the village of Ripley during his lifetime. Amcotts-Ingilby left no heir so the castle and his wealth was passed to his cousin Henry Ingilby. The rental yield from his property was valued at £1,500 annually – equivalent to £110,000 a year today.
  • Christopher Caygill (1747-1803) – One of Askrigg’s many famous clockmakers, who died leaving monies worth approximately £600 (equivalent of £20,000 today) to his children. The rest of his will spares no detail, with the record listing property, land, outbuildings and even specific furniture, bed linen, tools and utensils – right down to a pew in Askrigg Chapel.

Miriam Silverman, Senior UK Content Manager from Ancestry comments: “If you’re a fan of Yorkshire history and want to understand the wealth and assets accumulated by some of its key figures, these records are likely to satisfy your curiosity.”

“The collection is also of huge significance for anybody looking to find out more about ancestors who lived in the area, from their final resting place to the executor of their estate – opening up exciting new channels of discovery – and perhaps even unlocking an unknown family fortune.”

To search the Yorkshire Probate Records 1521-1858 as well as almost 60 million further Yorkshire and West Yorkshire records including electoral registers, prison records, alehouse licenses, bastardy records and more visit: