Transcribed by the Friends of The National Archives

Historical background

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. 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 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 (FTNAA) and DWP's editing process

Back in the 1990s an Index of PCC Registered Wills and Administration Acts for 1701-49 was compiled from original indexes to the wills, and probate and administration acts of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PROB 12/71-119) by the Friends of The National Archives - then the Public Record Office. This project, whose results are available on microfiche, was led by Bill and Miriam Scott. From the giant index these people compiled we have simply extracted the information about grants of administration concerning Devon intestates, the originals of which are held in PROB 6.

The PROB 12 calendars do not show any parish names - merely the county. It is necessary to examine the original admon (in PROB 6) to determine the parish of the deceased. The National Archives should be able - at a price - to make a photocopy of a particular administration.

Our set of FTNAA source items, together with JHA and ACA, cover all PCC admons from 1559 to 1660, and from 1701 to 1800, leaving gaps from 1661 to 1700, and 1801 to 1857. (There are no printed volumes or any grand index of either of these missing periods.)

The Devon Wills Project would like to thank Miriam Scott, the Friends of The National Archives, and Clive Cheesman (the former Chairman) for providing a digital version of their index to be used for this FTNAA source.


Locating the source and acquiring copies

The original ledgers of PROB 6 and 12 may of course be examined at The National Archives. Neither set of documents is viewable online as yet. Having noted carefully the year and month of the administration it should be possible to locate it. If you are unable to visit TNA, they may be able to provide (for a fee) a copy of a specific administration, as long as you give them a detailed and precise reference. (TNA contact details.)