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From the England & Wales National Probate Calendar entry below I know that my 3rd great grand uncle Thomas Chichester (who is mentioned in Where to find Will of Giles Chichester from 1820s, probably in Somerset or Guyana?) left Effects under £450 and on:

19 February [1872]. Administration of the effects of Thomas Chichester late of Plantation Ruimveld in the County of Lunemary in the Colony of British Guiana Planter a Bachelor who died 25 December 1838 at Plantation Ruimveld was granted at the Principal Registry to Jane Middleton of Stogumber in the County of Somerset Widow the Sister and only Next of Kin.

The grant of administration 34 years after the death seems unusual, and I suspect that there may have been no will found.

At the time of Thomas' death both of his brothers (Giles and Jared) were already deceased.

At the time administration was granted, both of Thomas' sisters were still alive:

  • Jane of Stogumber, Somerset (widow of William Middleton)
  • Priscilla of Old Cleeve, Somerset (widow of William Browning)

Consequently, I am thinking that there must have been some additional documents involved to prove that Jane was Thomas' "only Next of Kin".

Does anyone know the likely nature of that documentation and where it might now be found?

I am hoping that it is something that may have been kept separate from the pre-1858 Somerset Wills that were destroyed by German bombing in 1942.

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The concept of next of kin has no definition in English law except in terms of the relatively recent Mental Health Act. So I would suggest some caution before attaching too much importance to this use of "only".

I understand letters of administration would have been used if there was no will, or if the named executors of the will had died or were not able to act. It's intriguing as to what would cause his sister to tidy up this loose end, apparently excluding her sister, 34 years after his death. Did anyone else die around the same time to make it convenient/ necessary to sort this out? Who was looking after or using Thomas' assets in the meantime? Or perhaps she needed the money.....

  • I suspect it may have been that she needed the money. My 3rd great grand aunt filed a Bill of Complaint against the executors of her uncle William Chichester (who died in 1854) in 1861 related to the proceeds of her brother Jared's estate (he died in 1837). It was an estate 2-3 times the size of this one and it looks like those proceedings would have been expensive to undertake and had not resulted in any money being released. Her husband William Middleton died in Q1 1870 and so I suspect Thomas' money seemed like lower hanging fruit. – PolyGeo Nov 22 '14 at 9:45
  • William Chichester (the uncle) was definitely executor to both of Thomas' brothers (Jared and Giles) so I think was probably named as executor to Thomas' too - but maybe that will never surfaced. I believe William was very quick to liquidate Jared's assets in 1837 so maybe he did the same to Thomas' in 1838. I have a 9 page yet to be transcribed Will of William the uncle that I think I should now put some more effort into transcribing to see if it makes any mentions of Thomas', Jared's and/or Giles' estates. – PolyGeo Nov 22 '14 at 9:50
  • In the 1871 Census Jane is a 72yo Almswoman living with her 33 yo Deaf and Dumb (from fever) unmarried daughter Jane so I am now thinking her older sister Priscilla, whose husband was still alive and provided Priscilla £300 probate in 1873, may have given her sister the go ahead to proceed without her. – PolyGeo Nov 22 '14 at 9:57

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