Historical background

"The Prerogative Court of Canterbury was the metropolitan probate court for the Southern Province and, as such, was by far the busiest and most prestigious court. It sat in London, in Doctors' Commons, and had overriding jurisdiction in all England and Wales. It had sole jurisdiction where the deceased possessed bona notabilia (goods worth at least £5) in two bishoprics or two peculiars in the southern province, and also over estates of people who died at sea or abroad leaving personal property here." [From The National Archives' Research Guide to Probate Records.]

When a person owning any kind of property dies without having made a will during his/her lifetime, then that person is said to have died intestate. The law then provides for such an event by the granting Letters of Administration to the next-of-kin or some other person who has to apply for these in order to administer the estate of the deceased. The law also provides for exactly how this estate is to be distributed amongst the next-of-kin or others and the Administrator has to do all of this in accordance with the current Administration of Estates Act.

If there is no next-of-kin or even if there is one, that person may not be willing to administer the estate and renounces administration. In that event then some other person, perhaps another relative or a creditor, has to apply for Letters of Administration in exactly the same way in order to settle the affairs of the deceased person. The Letters of Administration (Admons) granted between 1558 and 1857 by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (held in the PROB 6 Act Books at The National Archives) are very useful given the loss of all of the old Devon probates when Exeter was bombed in 1942. These identify not only the deceased but also their administrators with their relationship to the deceased, be it widow (relict), child, friend or others.

The Source (ACA) and DWP's editing process

No overall index is available to PROB 6 (PCC admons), though certain spans of years have been indexed by various different indexers. The source (ACA) is a reformatted version of Index of Prerogative Court of Canterbury Administrations 1750-1800. This index was compiled by Anthony Camp and a set of volunteers from the old calendars of the Court which are the chief means of reference to the Administration Act Books. (It is acknowledged to be less accurate than the indexes to other parts of PROB 6, e.g. those by the British Record Society, which were compiled directly from the primary source documents.)

Our ACA source items are provided by kind permission of Mr Camp, and with the assistance of Tim Lawrence of the Society of Genealogists, who extracted the Devon-related entries from a digitized version of Mr Camp's index held by the Society.

In cases where several names are given for a testator, e.g. as one or more aliases, Anthony Camp's index, and hence ACA, provides a full entry corresponding to each such name. The calendars from which his index was prepared do not include any information about the testators' parishes. Those people whose abode was in Exeter were noted as such, but once again the specific parish was not given.

Note: See JHA for information about Devon-related PCC Administrations from the period 1559-1660 and FTNAA for the period 1701-49.

Locating the source and acquiring copies

As an aid to locating the original administration document at The National Archives, the month is given in each index entry, and recorded in the 'Reference' column. The entries in the annual Administration Act Books are divided into five groups or 'Seats' and the Devon entries are found in the second group or 'Surrey Seat' (which includes entries for Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Somerset, Surrey, Sussex and Wiltshire). Within each group or Seat the entries are sub-divided by month and then by the initial letter of the surname. (Because of the complicated way in which the PCC Admon registers are laid out, it may prove necessary for TNA to charge you a search fee to find the item you require, before they copy it for you.)