How to find your ancestors at the Borthwick Institute for Archives


19 January 2017
borth-05456.jpg The Borthwick
Discover how to trace your ancestry back hundreds of years using the records kept at the Borthwick Institute for Archives.

Discover how to trace your ancestry back hundreds of years using the records kept at the Borthwick Institute for Archives.

The Borthwick Institute for Archives is one of the largest archive repositories outside London, home to millions of records from the medieval period through to the present day.

Although the Borthwick’s collections are naturally focused on the history of Yorkshire and York, the archive material also contains material of national and international interest, including a vast probate archive from 1316 through to 1858. More than 263,000 wills proved in the Prerogative and Exchequer ecclesiastical courts of York are held here, eighty percent of which relate to Yorkshire people, and the remainder relating to people elsewhere in the UK and overseas who had property in Yorkshire.

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More than 3.5 million parish register entries for baptisms, banns, marriage and burial are available on FindMyPast, as is the index to the probate archive, with more to come in the near future.

The Borthwick for family historians

Several of the Borthwick’s archive collections are of use to family historians, particularly anyone tracing ancestors from the north of England.

The Diocesan Archive includes the records of the Church Courts of York, which dealt with various ‘moral’ offences include adultery, sexual slander, marriage litigation and defamation. These cases span 1300-1858 and include detailed witness statements and are available online free of charge.

Additionally, the registers of the Archbishops of York include a great deal of probate material, especially for the clergy and cover the 13th-17th centuries, again available online for free.

York businesses, including the famous confectioners Rowntrees, are well represented, with archives relating to the three Rowntree trusts, as well as Rowntree family papers; the archives of confectioners Terry’s of York, Sessions printworks, and of the York Waterworks Company.

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The Borthwick also holds education archives, including those for Ripon Grammar School, The Mount School, York Children’s Trust (including the Blue and Grey Coat Schools, Wilberforce Memorial Trust, Tuke Housing Association and the American Committee for the Evacuation of British Children.

You can search the archive catalogue on the Borthwick’s website which is a work in progress, with staff aiming to have completed summary descriptions for all the holdings by the end of April 2017.

Visiting the Borthwick

Family history researchers are welcome to visit the Borthwick without an appointment, however booking is advised in order to ensure a space. Material can be pre-ordered to be ready for you on the day. You can read a guide on how to prepare for your visit on the Borthwick’s website. A research service is also available if you are unable to visit in person.

Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD; tel: 01904 321166; website. Archive searchroom opening hours: Mon-Fri 9.15am to 4.45pm. Microfilm room (for parish registers and probate), Mon-Fri 8:00am-10:00pm; Sat-Sun 10:00am-10:00pm


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