Administrations in England & Wales up to 1858
If one of your ancestors, in your family tree, died without making a will, then their next-of-kin could apply
to the church courts for Letters of Administration to be granted to them. What would happen is that they
would then be bound in law by entering into a bond to administer the goods of the deceased. As well as family it is sometimes possible to find that a creditor is granted the letters of administration, but in all cases they are referred to as an Administrator, if they are male, whilst a female is known as an Administratrix.
You may well notice that administrations, or sometimes admons,are generally less informative for the family historian than wills are. That said, however, If you have found that one of your ancestors left no will, but their effects were dealt with by and administration, then at least the document will include: the name of the administrator(s) and bondsman, as well as the the relationship of the administrator(s) to the deceased. This could indeed be valuable to someone tracing their family tree. In addition to which, the administration may often include a date of death and the value of the deceased’s estate, that could help you fill in some gaps.
As in the case of wills, until 1858 it fell to the church courts to be responsible for granting administrations. So for that reason you will need to use the same system to find administrations as you would do for finding wills of the same period. The main point to remember was that it is the same two provinces – the Prerogative Courts of York and of Canterbury – each controlled by an archbishop, that England was divided into.
A subdivision then occurs into several archdeaconries, and then further divisions again into rural deaneries. What all this means to the researcher is that there are over 250 church courts who were responsible in some way for the granting of letters of administration.
So where do we make a start? One answer is to take a look at the A2A website (Access 2 Archives) on the National Archives website:
It is a fantastic database covering a myriad of records from over 400 record offices across not just England, but the whole of the UK. Some of their records go back as far as the eighth century, while some come right up to date.
It is possible to search it by name, or a place and also by a topic and while it may not cover every single record office, by the very nature of its substantial coverage it can be used to search for probate material by using the key words ‘wills, administrations or inventories’ plus the region of the country that your ancestor died within.