Prerogative Court of Canterbury Letters of Administration 1620 - 1630 (Inclusive)

Morrison volume 1

Published 1934

Introduction to Original Volume

The original Acts and Bonds, constituting (in effect) the "Letters of Administration" issued by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in respect of the estates of persons dying intestate within its jurisdiction, are not extant before the year 1714 in the official archives now preserved at Somerset House.

But an almost unbroken series of Administration Act Books, beginning in 1559, records the gist of these departed documents; and the contents of four of these Act Books form the basis of the present volume.

The Act Books are written entirely in Latin (except for the Commonwealth period). A typical entry records:

1. the date,

2. the name of the administrator,

3. his relationship to the intestate, and

4. the intestate's name and location; and to these may be added

5. conditions limiting the grant, such as the minority-age of the (named) children of the intestate, and
the name of the Special Commissioner before whom the administrator was duly sworn.

Many entries have marginal notes (also in Latin, and much abbreviated), relating to previous and subsequent grants, and other matters (in a few cases they make the relevant remark that the intestate is still alive - see Miscellaneous Index, under "Living")*

Much genealogical information is contained in the "Stray Names" - of married sisters or daughters, re-married wives or mothers - of which a separate Index, numbering several thousands, will be found on p.123 and onwards.

The Special Commissioners (indexed under "Stray Names"), beside their significance for local history and other purposes, may also have an important bearing on the cases with which they were concerned. For instance, Richard Pulteney died "in parts beyond the sea", and nothing else is recorded of him except the name of his widow; but she was sworn before the vicar of Great Gaddesden - a simple clue to the location of the family.


Parallel with the Act Books, a series of manuscript Calendars purports to give the names of intestates, with their counties, and the folio-numbers of the relevant entries. The method of indexing in these calendars is not very convenient - the names are grouped, year by year, under their initial letters, but within every group the arrangement is roughly chronological, not strictly alphabetical (in the Act Books the entries are grouped month by month, but in no other order of any sort).

I have checked my Abstracts with the appropriate Calendar - it seems to be the first time that any of these calendars has been subjected to a systematic check - and the result is worth reporting. Almost every page of the Calendar (1615-1630) does what it ought not to do, or has left undone what it ought to have done - errors and omissions abound.

Here are a few specimens, with the Calendar version in brackets: - Hipkin (Hopkins), Eland (Cland), Casbrooke (Eastbrooke), Easton (Castow), Lee (Ede), Kedgwyn (Redgwyn), Liste (Lisle), Machin (Martin), Wyntell (Myntell), Munger (Mauger),Peeke (Pecke), Parker (Parks), Quester (omitted), Kidgwell (Ridgwell), Lhermet (Shermet), Sir Edwin Sandys (Sir Edward Sandy), Skerne (Skeme), Stoner (Stone), Lacey (Larey), Ducy (Drury), Foy (Fry), Hewes (Lewes), Parry (Parr), Theckstone (Sheckstone), Rawkins (Rawlins,), Wight (Wright), Harrop (Harvey);

And among Christian names: Lodovicus (Luke - frequently), Robertus (John), Humfridus (Henry - frequently), Josua (John), Edwardus (Edith), Willelmus (Nicholas), Lucas (George),Gregorius (George - frequently), Lancelotus (Laurence), Mercia (Mary - frequently), Charolus (Caroline).
For the year 1625 the Act Books contain 9 entries in which the names of the intestates begin with U or V (see p.109 below). The official Calendar omits 6 of these 9.

Many of these calendars were re-copied during the last years of the jurisdiction of the Court, before 1858 (the calendar to which I refer is dated May 1632). Some of the mistakes - which extend to the counties, and (rarely) to the folio--numbers - may have crept in then; but many of the worst, such as beginning names with wrong letters, presumably date from the original calendars (of which there is now no trace). There seems no reason to suppose that this particular calendar, or the particular section of it which I have examined, is exceptional in this respect; and the inevitable conclusion is that the Act Books contain many hundreds of entries to which the calendars provide practically no clue. I have used an asterisk to indicate a lapse in the Calendar; and in consequence my Abstracts are "clad in the beauty of a thousand stars". To be exact, there are 309 of them; or an average of 1 in every 27 of the total 8,179.

In this book of mine, the arrangement of the Abstracts in alphabetical order facilitates reference, and obviates the need for a separate index of intestates; and the numbering makes it possible for the Indexes of "Stray Names", to refer precisely to particular Abstracts, instead of loosely to the pages containing them. Another advantage of this arrangement is that it brings into juxtaposition grants made at different times in respect of the same person, or members of the same family.


Life is short, by the measure of the work which remains to be done in this field. I do not expect to fill the gap of 39 years which separates this present work of mine from Mr.Glencross's editions of the earliest extant Administrations, 1559-80; but it is very desirable that this gap should be filled, especially for the sake of the uncalendared or wrongly calendared entries, which may be nearly a thousand in number, on the analogy of the years 1620-30.

With the filling of this gap, the completion of my second volume (1631-48), and the publication of the British Record Society's great work on Administrations of the Commonwealth period, the printed lists of administrations - and not merely lists but abstracts - would be brought abreast of the printed lists of P.C.G.testators, which have now reached the year 1660.

It would remain to press on with the continuation of both series across the gulf which still intervenes before the official publications begin in 1858. And then the minor courts might receive further attention. How much of all this will be accomplished, before the bombs fall and the original documents are destroyed for ever?

25 December, 1934