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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Court Records-Criminal, Civil and Ecclesiastical  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).









The Acceptance Bond (summary)

The accompanying Bond dated 25 March 1755 binds George Spicer and William Claver for the sum of £500 to look after her financial affairs and properly bring her up during her nonage with meat, drink, cloathes and education. It is signed by George Spicer and Wm Claver, witnessed by Mary Nobly and Jonathan Hodges (mark), and certified in 7 Apr 1755 before Edward Cotes rector of Bishops Caundle.


Other Archdeaconry of Dorset guardianships on the same film include valuable information for the family historian regarding ages, relationships, remarriage of parents, and possible dissipation of legacies, for example:

William Yeatman of Belchalwell age 18 chooses his mother Mary, wife of Thomas Simmonds of Okeford Fitzpaine shoemaker in 1801. Bond by Thomas Simmonds of Okeford Fitzpaine shoemaker, Enoch Cox of same place yeoman, and William Bridge of Blandford gentleman.


Ann Feaver aged 11 and Thomas Feaver aged 9 of Cerne Abbas choose their mother Ann Feaver widow in 1796, and both children sign their names. Bond by Ann Feaver of Cerne Abbas widow, Edward Beale of Langton Herring farmer and Daniel Chown of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis shopkeeper.


Ann (19), Lucy (17), Joseph (15) and Margaret (13) Dunsterville were legatees in the will of Joseph Webb late of Melcombe Regis who died 11 May 1767. This will was proved by Richard Bartlett and Richard Dunsterville the executors, and the four children chose Richard Dunsterville to be their guardian more especially to the intent of demanding, suing, recovering and receiving their Legacies. Dated 24 Mar 1768.


Amongst the disputes about estates are the temerary administrations, (literally reckless or rash), where someone other than the appointed administrator has disposed of the deceased’s goods, an example is shown below .

Chart: A Temerary Administration
Archdeaconry Court of Cornwall 1783 Film 1472136

Summary of court documents
Thomazin Knight is being charged by the court for temerarily and unjustly administering the goods of Denzil Pyne who died in her house intestate. James Pyne, his brother, had taken out letters of administration but Thomazine had expressly refused, or at least unjustly deferred to pay and deliver the effects to James Pyne. The list of effects, termed the schedule, is attached:


Item Value
Wearing apparel of all sorts, both good and new £10.0.0
A Note of Hand with interest £10.0.0
Several other notes and accounts for money due to the said intestate at the time of his death, bonds, bills, notes and accounts £20.0.0
A Horse mare of gilding £5.0.0
A silver watch £3.3.0
Silver shoe and knee buckles £1.11.6
Cash in the intestate’s pocket and divers other things £20.0.0
Several cases of liquor and other things £20.0.0


Another type of document is the indemnification bond by which someone agrees to indemnify (protect from legal responsibility) another. Such an example was the bond of William Sheriff of Merton, Surrey shopkeeper on film 1517778 containing Nottinghamshire court documents. He bound himself to the trustees of the will of William Huntington late of Stockwell, Surrey shipwright on account of the dower and thirds of Sarah Sheriff his wife. A previous indenture of grant and release is mentioned.

There were several anomalous probate procedures and also changes over the course of time. In particular, Peculiar and Donative Courts could grant probate on wills of property lying wholly within their borders. If someone had property within a peculiar and elsewhere then his will had to go up to the Archdeaconry, Diocesan or perhaps straight to the Prerogative Court in the same manner as described previously. When looking for probates first check the logical sequence of courts, then any others involved in the area.
The ecclesiastical courts have at least five kinds of possible sources of information about pre-1858 wills and administration:

  • Original wills
  • Executor’s copies
  • Will Register
  • Probate and Administration Act Books
  • Unproved Wills


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Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Court Records-Criminal, Civil and Ecclesiastical offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.