Find your ancestors in Prerogative Court of Canterbury Administrations Vol. I 1649-1654

Prerogative Court of Canterbury Administrations Vol. I 1649-1654

British Record Society Volume 68

Published 1940

Introduction to Original Volume

No attempt will be made to sketch the state and functions of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury at this period. For this the reader is referred to Vol. LIV (P.C.C. Wills 1653-1656), issued in 1925, and to the Introduction by Mr. T. M. Blagg, for many years General Editor for the Society. It is enough to remind the reader that by 1649 very little testamentary business was being done in any diocesan, archidiaconal, or peculiar court; even the Prerogative Court of York was becoming inactive, and with the firmer establishment of the Commonwealth more and more work came to be diverted to the sole legitimate court of probate in England. Over Wales, Scotland, and Ireland as well, the court asserted its exclusive jurisdiction, embracing soldiers, sailors, and civilians alike, and working through "inferior judges" who sat in various provincial centres. One such court covered the Province of Munster in Ireland.

That the Act Books at this time contain many irregularities, illegible or partly illegible entries, and omissions is not very surprising. A great increase of work, changes in the regular staff (which we may safely assume to have happened) and a general disturbance of life different in degree rather than in kind from the present upheaval — all tended to make the smooth working of the court unlikely. An English clerk would naturally transcribe a Welsh place-name, which may have been taken down from the mouth of an equally Celtic administrator, in the same way in which Chaucer's seaman rode a horse — "as he could". To add to the difficulties facing the transcriber or searcher, a large number of the Acts for 1653 and 1654 are now represented only by entries in MS. calendars, so that the bare name of the intestate survives.

At this point it may be convenient to quote in full the introduction to the printed calendar of administrations for 1653 and 1654 issued by the Probate Department in 1870:—

"The Administration Acts for the years 1653 and 1654, hitherto, accessible in the series belonging to the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, are contained in a volume, the index to which is comprised in the engrossed calendar for 1654 [Engrossed in 1816 by John Ellis]. These Acts consist merely of five distinct series — for (a) Parts beyond, the Seas, Kent, Berks and Derby respectively during both years, and for Middlesex with London and Westminster for 1654 only.

The Acts of the Administrations granted in 1653 and 1654 for most of the other counties of England and Wales have been recently discovered amongst that portion of the records of the Prerogative Court which, in the exigency that arose on the establishment of the Court of Probate in 1858, were, by permission of the Dean and Chapter, deposited in the Trophy room in St Paul's cathedral. They were found loose, written upon leaves detached from their original binding. It is conjectured that they had been in hand to be calendared, about the, commencement of the present pentury, and were accidentally left. The ingrossing of new Calendars for the years from 1640 to 1655 (those now in use) was then in progress, according to the Return printed in the Appendix to the First Report on Public Records, p. 305; and the writer of these seems to have been the writer also of some marginal directions which occur upon the Acts, upon fol. 453 for example. [When the Return was made in 1800 the Calendars for 1641, '2, '3, '4, '5, and the Index to the wills of 1653 had been recently engrossed by Joshua Ellis — (old Ellis). The remainder to 1654 inclusive were not done, however, before 1812-7. Of these Jos. Ellis engrossed that for the year 1651 alone. The rest were the work of John Ellis his son and I think that the marginal directions referred to were in John's hand (note by. G. H. Rodman, 22 July 1874).]

These leaves constitute, as now rebound, a second and a third volume of Acts for the period in question. From the variety of size to which they have been cut, and the separate paginations, it is apparent that originally they formed several books, and of the fact there is confirmatory evidence. This observation applies equally to the different series in Vol. 1.

The Acts for 6 counties in 1653 and for 7 counties in 1654 (Sept. 1785) unfortunately have not been discovered, and particular months are wanting in a few instances besides. The deficiency has been supplied however, as to the name of the intestate and the date, though only to this extent, in great part supplied from the original calendars of the period. The Calendars of course serve only to this extent.

These important, although incomplete, materials form the basis of the present volume. It includes the information contained in, and thus supersedes, the Index in the engrossed calendar previously referred to.

It will be observed that the transactions in the year 1653 occur exclusively during the six months from April to September. These transactions were effected under the authority of an Act of the Commonwealth passed in the former month, to remain operative until the ist October following, constituting Judges for Probate of Wills and granting Administrations throughout England, and Wales, prior to this, from the time of the death of Sir Nathaniel Brent, the Keeper or Judge, in November 1652, no business is recorded in the Prerogative Court (b}, and for three months after the expiration of the Act, at the end of September 1653, another hiatus occurs.

The Judges appear to have resumed their functions in January 1654, (1653-4), although the Act of 1653 seems to have been legally in abeyance until the following April, when it was revived by Ordinance. The Act and Ordinance are printed in Scobell's Collection.

Table of Extant Administration Acts and Original Calendars

16531653-4Pagination in Act Books, 1 and 2. 3 unbound (now bound and 1 numbered)Original Calendars, 1653 and 1654
BedfordMay, July (f), Sept.Jan.- Dec.1-16, Vol. 11Cal. No. 1
BerksApril-Sept.Jan.-Dec.182-200, Vol. 1Cal. No. 3
BucksMay-Sept.Jan.-Dec.17-42. Vol. 11Cal. No. 2
CambridgeMay-Sept.Jan.-Dec.43-54. Vol. 11Cal. No. 1
CheshireApril-Sept.Jan.-Dec.55-68, Vol. IICal. No. 3
CornwallCal. No. 4
CumberlandMay-Sept.Jan.-Mar.69-72, Vol. 11Cal. No. 3
  May-Dec.amongst Lines Acts 
DerbyApril-Sept.Feb.(a)-Dec.201-15, Vol. 1Cal. No. 2
DevonMay-Sept.Jan.-Dec.73-114, Vol. IICal. No. 4
DorsetCal. No. 4
DurhamMay-Sept.Jan.-Dec.115-230, Vol. 11Cal. No. 3
EssexApril-Sept.Cal. No. 1
GloucesterCal. No. 4
HerefordMay-Sept.Jan.-Dec.131-152, Vol. 11
HertfordApril-Sept.Jan.-Nov.(b)153-176, Vol. IICal. No. 1
HuntingdonMay-Sept.Feb.(c)-Dec.177-188, Vol. 11Cal. No. 1
KentApril-Sept.Jan.-Dec.142-181, Vol. 1Cals. Nos. 5 & 6.
LancashireCal. No. 3
LeicesterMay-Sept.Jan.-Nov.(g)Cal. No. 2
Lincoln and Northumberland,May,(n) July, Sept.Jan.-Dec.(d)189-228, Vol. 11Cal. No. 3
from 25 Mar.- Dec. 1654    
Middlesex with London and WestminsterApril-Sept.Jan.-Dec.79-141, Vol. 1Cal. No. 7
Monmouth with S. Wales
NorfolkMay-Sept,Jan.—Dec,229-356, Vol. IICal. No. 1
NorthamptonApril-Sept.Jan.-Dec.(i)Cal. No. 1
NottinghamMay-Sept.Jan.-Dec.257-278, Vol. IICal. No. 2
OxfordApril-Sept.Jan.-Dec,279-300, Vol. 11Cal. No. 2
Pts or Transmarine section(e)April-Sept.Jan.-Dec.1-78, Vol. 1
RutlandCal. No. 2
SalopMay-Sept.Jan.-Dec.301-324, Vol. II
SomersetCal. No. 4
SouthamptonApril-Sept,Jan.-Dec.325-360, Vol. 11Cals. Nos. 5 & 6
StaffordMay-Sept,Jan.-Dec.361-384, Vol. 11Cal. No. 2
SuffolkApril-Sept.Jan,-Dec,385-410, Vol. 11Cal. No. 1
SurreyApril-Sept.Jan.-Dec.411-446, Vol. 11Cals. Nos. 5 & 6
SussexApril-Sept.Jan.-Dec.447-484, Vol. 11Cal. Nos. 5 & 6
Wales, NorthMay-Sept.Jan.-Dec.485-508, Vol. II
Wales, South and MonmouthMay-Sept.Jan.-Dec.509-532, Vol. II
WarwickApril-Sept.Jan.-Dec.533-554. Vol. 11Cal. No. 2
WestmorelandMay-JulyFeb. and Mar.555-556, Vol. 11Cal. No. 3
  Two Acts occur in Nov. in York section  
WiltsMay-Sept.Jan.-Dec.557-596, Vol. IICals. Nos. 5 & 6
WorcesterApril-Sept.Jan.-Dec.597-622, Vol. 11Cal. No. 2
YorkApril-Sept.Jan.-Dec.623-660, Vol. 11Cal No. 3

(a) No entries under either January or April.

(b) Qu, December.

(c) No entries in January; some later months also do not occur, but the original pagination being consecutive argues the completeness of the section.

(d) Qu. April.

(e) Inclusive of Ireland and Scotland and of persons dying in the service of the State.

(f) Qu. August.

(g) The Leicester Acts form a complete book, bound. **

(n) Qu. June.

(i) The Northampton Acts for 1654 form a complete book; it was discovered in 1875. **

* With Linc, from 25 Mar.-Dec. 1654.

** The Leicester and Northampton books are now (1937) bound up with the other loose Acts into Vol. 111, which has been renumbered throughout. The Acts in this volume are not given in the 'Pagination in Act Book Column' in the above list. (Note by P.W.S.)

The Registering and the Filed Wills purport to be complete from April to September 1653 and during 1654, but for neither year (although the Returns printed in 1800, 1830 and 1837 are silent as to the deficiency) is there a separate Probate Act Book. References to a few grants of Administration with the Will annexed, de bonis non, which occur recorded amongst the Administration Acts have been included therefore in the present compilation. (c)

As may be gleaned from the preceding Table, the extant Original Calendars for the two years are seven in number. Their commencement is concurrent in April 1653. The counties they severally serve for will be found set forth in the Table appended.

List of Original Calendars for 1653 and 1654

Counties includedActs wanting 
Cal. 1. (b)BedfordQu. Aug, 1653-
 Hertford-Qu. Dec. 1654
Cal. 2. (c)Berks--
(b) Wanting letter W.    (c) Wanting letters A and Y.   
Cal. 3.Chester--
 LincolnQu. June 1653Qu. April 1654
 Northumberland-Qu. April 1654
 Westmoreland-Qu. Jan., April to Oct. and Dec. 1654
Cal. 4.Cornwall16531654
Cal. 5 & 6Kent--
Cal.7Middlesex, with London and Westminster--
[No Transmarine Calendar, nor any for Wales, Monmouth, Hereford or Salop.]  

By this Table may be found the county or group of counties to which any name from one of the original calendars (the Act being wanting) presumably belongs. Taking, for example, the name of John Banbury, Feb. 1654, Cal. 1: he should prove to have been late of Essex ;— that of Humfrey Banting, July 1653, Cal. 11: he should prove to be of Rutlandshire ;— that of Lady Dorothy Barlow, Feb. 1654, Cal. 3: she should prove of Lancashire ;— that of Richard Barnacott, Sept. 1653, Cal. 4: he should prove of Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire or Somersetshire.

In Calendar 1 in 1653, and in Calendars 5, 6 and 7 in 1653 and 1654, occur some entries to which there are in fact no Acts corresponding, although, according to the Table, all the counties to which these Calendars apply are duly represented in those years. These exceptional entries have been printed. The presumption is that the Acts have been left unwritten. The converse, an Act with no corresponding entry in the Calendar, is not infrequent. Allowance for similar inaccuracy is needful in the case of the other Calendars and Acts, and for entries that may be duplicate.

To many of the entries in the Calendars a folio reference is appended. These references imply (what is otherwise uncertain) that the Acts were - actually written, though they are now lost, and have been invariably quoted. The occasional notation signifying the exhibition of an Inventory has been disregarded. With this exception, the Printed Calendar contains the whole of the information to be gathered from the original.

Variations, even though slight, in the orthography of the name, and all discrepancies of date between the Act and the Calendar, are stated in the index. Of diverse spellings in the body and margin of the Act generally that one in accord with the Calendar has been adopted. (d) No attempt has been made to set out every trifling difference; at the same time it has not been overlooked that a variation apparently small will occasionally, in a lexicographical arrangement, somewhat widely separate names of the same family. On this account, care in the use of an index so arranged is indispensable whenever the name inquired for is of uncertain orthography.

By the preparation of this Calendar a step has at length been taken in the direction indicated by the Commissioners of 1837, who had contemplated, as they report, 'the formation and publication of an alphabetical Index of Testators and of Intestates of whose goods administration has been granted by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, as a means of opening more fully, both to the literary inquirer and to the public, the information which is to be gathered in that chief deposit of the testamentary evidence of the country'.

Principal Registry, November 1870.

Although few entries in this volume include the intestate's condition or trade, it is hoped that it will still prove useful to genealogists, topographers, and students of local history. The "Oliver Cromwell, bach., died in Ireland", whose administration was granted in 1650, is probably identical with Captain Oliver Cromwell, the Protector's second son (1623-1644). Various dates and places are assigned to his death; and the entry in the Act Book may only represent a clerical error.

Miss P. W. Shield, a searcher of great experience, who has been responsible for the transcription, has skilfully and persistently laboured to reduce the illegible and incomprehensible to something that can be read and understood. Mr. C. G. Paget has very kindly contributed the Index Locorum — a labour in itself. To Mr, C. H., Ridge has fallen the thankless task of keeping the editorial work in motion during my absence on war work.

J.A. 120 Chancery Lane, London, W.C.2. July 1940.

Contrary to the modern practice, the place of death and not the permanent abode generally determines the Section and Calendar in which the Grant is to be found.

The business of the Diocesan and other Testamentary Courts had been suspended throughout the country (with some exceptions) in 1649 — as regards those seated in London from about the close of that year; but Brent continued to preside in the Prerogative Court. Its distinctive title, of Canterbury, was however, dropped, and its grants issued in the name of the Keepers of the Liberty of England. Upon the Restoration of Charles II the Probate Court of 1653 was abolished and the old jurisdictions reinstated.

See separate Note regarding A/Wills. — P.W.S.

The spelling of the name in the body of the Act, and not the variation in the margin has been taken in this Index. P.W.S.