Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of English Probate Courts
In England the Anglican Church had jurisdiction over probate from 1537 to 1858. The highest ecclesiastical court was the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). It had authority over all of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the colonies, foreign soldiers and mariners. The next level was the provincial courts, at the time of the early wills there were only two: Once again the PCC and the Prerogative Court of York (PCY). The PCY included the northern counties of Cheshire, Cumberland, Durham, Isle of Man, Lancashire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Westmorland and Yorkshire. All the remaining counties in the south were under the jurisdiction of the PCC. The third level was the Diocese, Bishop or Episcopal jurisdiction, similar to county boundaries except some counties had more than one diocese and yet some dioceses included more than one county. The fourth level was the Archdeaconry, as the diocese was broken down further into smaller units. The fifth level was the Rural Deanery consisting of parish groups of twelve and more. And the lowest level was the Parish and Peculiars. As for parishes, most wills were proved in higher courts, but peculiars had certain rights not bound by some higher courts, many of them were the Dean and Chapter, Manor courts, Prebends, Chancellor, Sub-Dean, Succentor, Vicarial and various other titles.
If a testator owned land in different jurisdictions, then the probate was most likely certified in the court that included both jurisdictions. (Example: if the testator owned a messuage north of the Humber River and a farm south of Humber then the higher court of PCC would have authority over the said properties).
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