West Yorkshire Wills and Probate. Archdeaconry of Richmond: Probate Records. RD/AP1. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Morley, Leeds, England.
This database contains a collection of wills, letters of administration, and inventories from Yorkshire, England, for the years 1521 through 1858. Prior to the 1857 Court of Probate Act, which took effect in January 1858, wills were proved in ecclesiastical courts. They provide a particularly intimate record of those included, listing household goods, farm and business stock, and debts. They can show family and social relationships and are a great resource for family historians.
Keep in mind that during this time period, only a small portion of the population made wills. Also, remember that the date a will was recorded is the date it was proved and not when it was written or the date of death.
A letter of administration was needed when no will was left and someone was appointed to be the executor of the estate. The letter usually provides the name, date, and possibly the address of the person appointed executor. The 1670 Statute of Distributions regulated the dispersal of estates without wills, with a third going to the widow and the rest divided among the children or next of kin.
An inventory is a list and valuation of personal property and may provide insight into the lifestyle and wealth of an individual. Inventories were required for a letter of administration to be awarded.
The probates currently included in this collection are from the following two court jurisdictions.
Archdeaconry of Richmond
These wills were proved in the Archdeacon's Consistory Court and survive from the fifteenth century until the establishment of the High Court of Probate in 1858. The Archdeaconry, which in the Middle Ages lay within the Diocese of York, was transferred to Chester in 1541 and then straddled the Pennines. It stretched from the west coast of Lancashire, incorporated parts of Cumberland and Westmorland and extended eastwards into Yorkshire as far as the rivers Wiske and Swale and where it was bounded to north and south by the Tees and the Nidd. Administratively the Archdeaconry was divided into the Western Deaneries of Amounderness, Lonsdale, Furness, Cartmel, Kendal and Copeland, and the Eastern Deaneries of Richmond, Catterick and Boroughbridge.
Peculiar of Knaresborough (Honour Court)
Jurisdiction included parishes of Knaresborough, Burton Leonard, Farnham, Fewston, Great Ouseburn, Hampsthwaite, Pannal, South Stainley with Cayton and Staveley; and townships of Castley, Clint, Coneythorpe, Dunkeswick, Low and High Harrogate, Haverah Park, Killinghall, Lindley, Little Ribston, Plompton, Rigton, Stainburn, Swindon and Weeton.
Peculiar of Masham
The Peculiar of Masham was an exempt ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the Archdeaconry of Richmond, and after 1836 the Diocese of Ripon, and attached to the Prebend of Masham in York Minster. Latterly, it belonged to Trinity College, Cambridge. Jurisdiction included Parishes of Kirkby Malzeard and Masham with chapelries of Hartwith, Winsley and Middlesmoor.
Portions of this description are from the catalogue of the West Yorkshire Archive Service.