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Researching a 7 x GGfather who died 1717 (A land owning Farmer & Yeoman) I came across a Letter of Administration Probate record (effectively his Will) setting out his Goods & Chattels. Totally handwritten, and part in Latin, and on the last page (in English legal jargon) were the names of two Bondsmen; both fellow Yeoman, one a family member -non beneficiary.

Why would Bondsmen be needed for what was effectively a Will, leaving his estate to his eldest son?

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The bondsmen were the executors or administrators of the estate.

It was the church courts that administered probate in England & Wales prior to 1858. The executors or administrators of an estate were frequently required to to enter into a bond with the church authorities before the court would grant probate. The bondsmen pledged to carry out a defined set of actions on or before a particular date set out in the bond.

These bonds were often substantial, being perhaps twice the value of the deceased person's estate!

In effect, this indemnified the court from responsibility if any losses were incurred as a result of the actions of the executors or administrators.


The Durham University page on North East Inheritance has a description of the roles and responsibilities of bondsmen in the context of the Durham probate court. The situation for Warwickshire would have been very similar.

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    Thank you, that explains things perfectly; much appreciated. – Noodlesabout May 13 '18 at 8:17

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