Find your ancestors in Prerogative Court of Canterbury Administrations Vol. VI 1631-1648

Prerogative Court of Canterbury Administrations Vol. VI 1631-1648

British Record Society (BRS) volume 100

Published 1986

Introduction to Original Volume

This volume fills the final gap in the publication of Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury down to 1660.

Nothing need be said with regard to the majority of entries which are, of course Administrations. The question was well covered by the editor's predecessor, John Ainsworth, M.A., F.R.Hist.S. in his introduction to B.R.S. Vol. 68, Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 1649-1654; a reading of this will still repay all searchers.


Some comment, however, is called for on the subject of Sentences. The late Francis Steer's definition of Sentences as being 'the final judgment on a disputed will, often entered in an act book' can hardly be bettered.

Twenty four forms of Sentence are listed in J. & G. F. Matthews, Sentences and Complete Index Nominum 1630-1639, p.4. The great majority of these are judgments for the validity or nullity of wills, or revocations or confirmations of grants and actions previously taken by the court or by the executors. How far some of them served a practical purpose in law and how many are lawyers' devices to cover every conceivable eventuality must be left to the experience of the searcher.

The period now covered includes the Civil War which is the principal reason why it has hitherto been neglected and much delayed. Here, however, is not the place to describe in detail the confusion caused by the transfer of the Court to Oxford; the best account of the situation is the two-part article, Probate during the Civil War and Interregnum by Christopher Kitching of the P.R.O., published in the Journal of the Society of Archivists Vol. 5, No's. 5 and 6 (April/October 1976). Users of this volume are strongly recommended to read it.

Individual Sentences may or may not have importance in a testamentary sequence, but when they do exist and have been omitted in earlier publications covering the Civil War and the Commonwealth it has been considered expedient, even if for no other reason than consistency, to include them.

For clearer differentiation from the main body of Administrations they are printed in italics. Often enough the original entries are out of chronological sequence and are, not infrequently, presumably when the apposite documents became available to scribes, entered in the first available blank space of a register that was more or less contemporary.

It is to be hoped that not many entries have been missed in a confusing situation after an almost page by page examination of the original registers. Sentences have been found for all years from 1640 to 1660 and even if they constitute only the record of the Court's confirmation of the validity of a will that still implies that a dispute and/or litigation had been settled.

Sentences of the immediately preceding period have been published either in B.R.S. volumes or by John & George F. Matthews in their Probates and Sentences', the latters' Vol. 1, 1620-1624 was never followed by a second volume covering the next five years, presumably because the work duplicated B.R.S. Vol. 44, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills 1620-1629.

Thereafter the Matthews in their Sentences and Complete Index Nominum 1630-1639 carried completion down to that date; the Matthews Year Books of Probate 1640-1655 did not include Sentences since these were doubtless intended to be published separately in line with those of 1630-1639, but this was never done.

The B.R.S., which continued the publication of the testamentary records during the Commonwealth from 1654 onwards did not include Sentences either, very likely because of the difficulty and time-consuming nature of the work of finding them as has been described above.

Of recent years there has been a growing tendency to indicate the Historical or Calendar Year rather than the Civil Year for dates prior to 1752. Thus, all dates between 1st January and 24th March are, in this volume, dated in modern terms, e.g. 14th February of the Civil Year 1636 is here denominated 1637.

Geneva, August 1986 M.F.