Find your ancestors in Archdeaconry Court of London Probate Records Vol. I 1393-1649, Introduction to Original Volume

Archdeaconry Court of London Probate Records Vol. I 1393-1649

British Record Society volume 89

Published 1978

Introduction to Original Volume

Testamentary business was necessarily but one of the activities of the Archdeaconry Court, but this is not the place to enquire into either the other functions or their development and extension.

Once the proving of Wills and the granting of Administrations commenced it may be suspected that the revenue from this formed a relatively large part of the archidiaconal income. For a number of reasons the minor courts of London stood in a different relationship to the overriding Prerogogative Court of Canterbury when compared to provincial courts. The Jurisdiction of the latter, for instance, was clearly defined and admitted of few exceptions, whatever minor adjustments may have been made during the course of centuries. In the case of the London Courts the revenue derived from testamentary work formed, as has been suggested, a far greater proportion of the Archdeacon's income than did the similar fees of the Archbishop from P.C.C. and this had a considerable effect on the interpretation of juridical boundaries by the archidiaconal clerks.

This seems to be borne out by the assiduity with which, in the case of the Archdeaconry Court, the clerks laid hands on testamentary business which did not he in their jurisdiction. It was fortunate, for instance, that the extensive parish of St. Botolph Aldgate fell within the province of the Court for it was to this parish, as well as to St. Dunstan Stepney, that mariners, dying abroad, were, by legal fiction, ascribed as residents; and although jurisdiction over the estates of such persons fell to P.C.C. many were of negligible size, and it is this fact which, doubtless, facilitated the action of successive clerks in appropriating the relative probate and administration fees to the Archdeaconry Court. Attention is called to this since even experienced searchers have been known to assume that any estate of an Englishman dying abroad was necessarily administered by the London 'Seat' of P.C.C. (within whose unquestioned jurisdiction lay St. Dunstan Stepney and to which, in consequence, is found no reference in the Archdeaconry Court).

The records of the Archdeaconry Court have, unfortunately, suffered severely in the course of time. Although the first extant registered copy wills commence with the present Volume I in November 1393 and continue to November 1415 a surviving list of contents shows that, originally, the testamentary business of the Court began in 1368 and continued to 1421. As, not infrequently, both the occupation of the deceased and his parish are given, it has been thought useful to include in this Index all such information for which no registered copy will survives. Entries of this nature are followed in the Index by "1/c" (list of contents) and the whole is enclosed in round brackets (). The next surviving volume of registered copy wills commences in 1549 but the intervening gap is covered, though only partially, by a number of Original Wills beginning in 1524. Further gaps in the registered copy wills occur in 1582-1593,1605-1617 and 1641-1649. Here again Original Wills make up some of the losses and, probably to a greater extent.

The full list of surviving records indexed in this volume, together with the Guildhall references, is as follows:

9050/1Act Book (Administrations & Probates)1564-1579
2Act Book (Administrations & Probates)1588-1594
3Act Book (Administrations & Probates)1594-1603
4Act Book (Administrations & Probates)160S-1611
5Act Book (Administrations & Probates)1611-1626
6Act Book (Administrations & Probates)1626-1637
7Act Book (Administrations & Probates)1637-1645
8Act Book (Administrations & Probates)1645-1649
  (& 1660-1666)
9051/1Registered Copy Wills1393-1415Calendar1368-1421
2Registered Copy Wills includes Admons.1549-1560Calendar1524-1560
3Registered Copy Wills includes Admons.1561-1570  
4Registered Copy Wills1571-1581/2  
5Registered Copy Wills1594-1604  
6Registered Copy Wills1618-1626/7  
7Registered Copy Wills1627-1633/4  
8Registered Copy Wills1634-1640/1  
9052/1Original Wills1524-1603  
2Original Wills1603-1605  
3Original Wills1606-1612  
4Original Wills1613-1617  
5Original Wills1618-1623  
6Original Wills1624-1625  
7Original Wills1626-1630  
8Original Wills1631-1635  
9Original Wills1636-1638  
9052/10Original Wills1639-1641  
11Original Wills1642-1643  
12Original Wills1644-1645  
13Original Wills1646—(1662) 

Lausanne, August 1978 M.F.