Much of our work is about departure, in some fashion or form. Departure from this world to another, either with or without Will. With is mighty useful as a Will provides wonderfully helpful information about families, frequently along with fascinating insights …. For example, “I have made no provision for my dear son as I know it is his wish and desire that I shall provide as far as possible for his unmarried sisters“, means we can stop searching for their marriages! Hurrah!
So, what is the difference between a Will and Letters of Administration (the records of which are often referred to as Admons)? When someone dies without leaving a Will, or if the executor/s for whatever reason is/are ‘not available’, then an application can be made to a probate court for a grant of probate/letters of administration. The person who applies for the grant must swear that all debts will be discharged prior to the disbursement of funds. If you are now looking at the National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations) on Ancestry, for example, then there something crucial to note. If the reference states that it is the Administration of Mr X’s estate, it is unlikely to have a significant amount of other information – the nuggets you seek! – but a Will will.
The Will would have been written by Mr X (just like the Will you have written yourself …. haven’t you?!….) and will list the beneficiaries of all sorts of goods and chattels, residuary estate and more. All manner of people can be mentioned within and some surprises too! If you have not located a Will for any of your ancestors, I would urge you to delve into these records as they make quite fascinating reading.
The Find A Will website provides an online search facility for all Wills and Administrations in England and Wales from 1858 to the present day. They can be ordered at £10 a shot and are delivered in super fast time, though never quick enough for us curious (aka Nosy Parker) genealogists!
What interesting nuggets have you discovered when one of your ancestors ‘departed this life‘ and left a Will? Skeletons festering in the closet?