Some extracts from an article by Mary Williams of the Bristol Record Office, should explain all you need to know about this useful source.
“When a person died without leaving a Will, his next-of-kin, a close friend, or a creditor (someone to whom the dead person owed money), might apply to the Probate Court for the legal right to administer the estate. (In the majority of cases, where the estate was small and there was no doubt as to who should inherit, no application was made, and therefore no record survives.)”
The process of Administration gave rise, in general, to three types of documentation, namely Letters of Administration, Administration Act Registers, and Administration Bonds.
“Letters of Administration were granted to the applicant who had to swear that there was no will, that he would pay funeral expenses and all debts, that he would administer truly and submit a true inventory and account of his stewardship. The Letters were usually kept by the Administrator, and this is why the Record Office has no main series of these records.
When the Court granted the Letters, details of the Administration would be entered into a Register. The Bristol Record Office Administration Registers date from 1767 to 1857.”
It is neither of the above sources, but the Administration Bonds themselves which are the subject of this particular project.
“The Court might require the Administrator to enter into a Bond to administer the estate faithfully. These were, until 1733, written in Latin. The Bristol Record Office has Administration Bonds dating from 1661 to 1857. There is a manuscript index (to name of deceased) covering from 1661 to 1770 available in the BRO search-room, and the Administrations from 1770 to 1793 are indexed in Fry’s Index to Bristol Wills. There is another manuscript Index from 1770 right through to 1857 available at the BRO.”
The available manuscript indexes were not in a particularly convenient form, and they were known to contain significant inaccuracies, and so the Society was invited to compile a new index to The Bristol Administrations. This project was duly started in November 1994.
For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the requirement to be reasonably conversant with Latin, very few Society members have worked on this project, three to be precise. Ann Lockyer and John Watts started the ball rolling, covering the period from 1661 to 1694. Then in February 1996, Ann had to give up due to a change in her personal circumstances. In the nick of time, a new volunteer, Gil Bedingfield, took her place, having responded to a challenge to solve a Latin conundrum published in the December 1995 Journal. Gil Bedingfield and John Watts took the transcription stage on from 1694 to 1698 by July 1996, since when, Gil has continued the transcription single-handed, reaching the year 1775 by June 2003.
All the Society’s typing effort has been concentrated on the Bristol Burgess Books, Bristol Baptisms, the resurrected Avon Marriages and now the Bristol Burials (1754-1812), and so, despite the significant progress on the transcription of the Administration Bonds (that is from 1661 to 1775), very little information has yet been computerised, and so there is nothing to show for all the hard work. It is hoped that this situation might change in the not too distant future.
Incidentally, for the classically minded, the aforementioned conundrum was as follows;
Faber aerarius, Sartor, Miles, Nauta;
Dives, Pauper, Mendicus, Fur.
the solution to which is;
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor;
Richman, Poorman, Beggarman, Thief.