Before Parish Registers

From Smalleypedia
Jump to: navigation, search

BMD not usually recorded; records mainly produced for legal reasons; surnames not always used and often changed generation to generation; lack of continuity; royal and upper clasess, property owners more likely documented; medieval Latin the official language, highly abbreviated, differs to Classical Latin.


  • Use a digitial camera when in archives.
  • Know where your ancestor lived (parish or manor list) and check history of the area.
  • TNA have online guides to palaeography and Latin.
  • Roman numerals I=1 / V=5 / X=10 / L=50 / C=100 / D=500 / M=1000.
  • Money - pound (libra); shilling (solidus); pence (denarius); mark (marca, 13/4d); groat (4d)


  • County - comitatus
  • Ridings / parts/ hundred (southern) - hundredum - 100 hides of land c.12,000 acres.
  • Wapentake (northern) - wapentachium
  • Parish - parochia
  • Borough - burgus (usually by Royal Charter)
  • Village - villa
  • Palatine - from 1351in Cheshire, Durham and Lancashire

Hundred / Wapentake:

  • Aka lathes, rapes, liberties, wards, leets.
  • Sub-div of counties.
  • Introduced in 19th cent. as a unit of tax also had admin've, judicial and military functions.
  • Two main names relate to division of country into Danelaw in the north (wap) and Anglo-Saxon south (hun).


  • Pre Norman.
  • Towns with charters granting priveledges mainly of commercial nature.
  • In medieval times charter issued by Monarch or Lord of the Manor, later had limited independence from the Lord.
  • Corporate status meant more complete indep. and were run by a Corporation (until 1835 were made up of leading townsmen).
  • Office of Mayor has existed almost as long as boroughs. They were the most important man in town but now an elected public fgurehead.
  • In boroughs that are cities (with a charter to say so) the Lord Mayor is equiv. to a Mayor.

County Palatines:

  • Est'd 11th cent. to defned Scottish and Welsh frontiers of England.
  • Earls were granted palatines (from the palace) powers making their territories nearly sovereign with own admin and courts.
  • Still owed allegience to the King.
  • William the Conqu. founded Durham and Chester (associated with Prince of Wlaes since 1301). Lancashire made a duchy in 1351 and merged into Crown in 1399 but still held separate from other royal lands.
  • Other places at different times were Shropshire, Kent, Isle of Ely, Hexhamshire in NOrthumberland and Pembroke in Wales. Cornwall was similar to Lanc.

Personal names:

  • Hereditary from early 14th cent.
  • People described in various ways and eventually standardised, William the Conqu. introduced surnames egs follow.
  • Paternal - John son of Richard - Johnson.
  • Place - John of Lewis - Lewis.
  • Topographical - John atte Ford - Attford.
  • Occupational - John the Cooper - Cooper.
  • Office - Robert the Reeve - Reeve or Reeves.
  • Nickname - Richard by the Water - Walter.

Place names - changed over time; if contain English then need to look for the Latin equiv.; variant spellings.


  • Regnal years - monarch reign.
  • AD system - Julian calendar.
  • Festivals - saints days etc.
  • Exchequer years - 30 sept-29 sept.
  • Papal years -pope's reign.
  • Episcopal years - recognised church years.

Family Pedigrees:

  • Find at Brit Library / SoG / Burkes Peerage
  • AKA Heraldic visitations.
  • Inspections carried out by the College of Arms.
  • Roughly every 30 years 1530-1684.
  • Individuals had to provide genealogical evidence to prove descent from ancestors with a coat of arms.
  • May go back to Middle Ages and inc. details of residence and wife's maiden names.
  • Published by arleian Soc. and indexed.

The Records

Often look the same but can ID from the wording at the start:

  • Wills - "In the name of God Amen".
  • Bonds - "Know all men by these presents".
  • Deed of gift = "Know all present and have and to hold...rendering".
  • Bargain and Sale and Lease - "This indenture".
  • Fines - "This is a final agreement".
  • Common Recoveries - "(name of reigning monarch)".

Two groups: 1) Names - wills/ /inquisitions post mortem / coroners records / patent and close rolls / privy council / state papers / law suits. 2) Place - feet of fines / muster rolls / tax records / subsidy rolls / pipe rolls.

Manorial records are the best way to search for those in lower classes of society. Find in private collections /County Record offices / TNA esp. Crown estate / Brit Lib / institutional libraries.

TNA - c.60,000 ancient deeds; E40-43 / E210-213 / E326, 328, 329 / C146-148 / LR14 /LR3 / CRES5

Coroners record - mainly from pre 1600 are inquisitions which give verdict, name, date, time, cause and place of death.

Local inquisitions - IPMS - enquiry into land held by people of some status to discover what income and rights were due the Crown. TNA names all deceased Tenants in Chief 1235-1485 (butnot subtenants or heirs).

Letters Patent and Fine Rolls - part of Chancery records; granted land, offices, pensions to individuals; complete from ;1199-1641.

Exch. Pipe Rolls - Kings finances from 1129 eg: who owed money; arranged by county; many published up to 1223.

Law records - see other notes on this topic.

Outlawry - when person found in contempt of civil or criminal process; you lost protection under law and could be killed by anyone; could obtain a pardon; records often in General Eyre or Assize or Kings Bench ; pardons in TNA C66.

Black Death - records exist for some areas, eg: London.

Urban records - freemen, voting rights, civil responsibilities, charters, almshouses, town books eg: Faversham Town Book c.1251-1581.

Medieval crafts, merchants and fraternal guilds - Brit Lib has info.; minute books, accounts, court books, red book (members and regulations); go from guild member to apprentice to journeyman to master.

Soldiers - Battle and muster rolls - Hastings 1066 / Agincourt 1415 / Bosworth Field 1485.

Medieval surveys:

  • Domesday Book - detailed landholders of 1086 covering most of England but not London, Winchester or much of N&W outside borders; searchable at TNA documents online.
  • Lindsey survey - 1115-1138
  • Worcestershire - 1108-1118
  • Northamps - 1115-1120
  • Ladies Roll - 1185
  • Book of fees - 1198-1293
  • Hundred Rolls - 1279

Tax records

Usually for each hundred and levied for specific purposes.

Feudal Aids - 6 vols. indexed by place and name; at TNA.

Lay sibsidies - TNA E179; often granted by parliament following request from Monarch to subsidise specific expenditure eg: military lists by parish..

Poll tax - flat rate on most men and women; TNA E179; 1377, 1379 and 1381 are published and have earliest records of surnames.; published in C.Fenwick's "The poll taxes of 137, 1379 and 1381" (3 vols, 1998-2005); were abolished then reintroduced 17th cent.

Tudor subsidies - for foreigners in England 1512-1515 and 1522.

Certificates of Residence - issued c.1558-1625; TNA E115; to try to prevent double tax on those holding land/goods in more than 1 county.

Literature and websites

[See handout for list of literature.]

'Chaucer's People: everyday lives in medieval England' by Liza Picard.

'Everyday lives in medieval London' by Toni Mount.

'A dictionaary of medieval terms and phrases' by C.Cordon and A. Williams.

'The English court hand 1066-1500' by H. Jenkinson.

'The record interpreter' by C.T. Martin.

'Dates and times: a handbook for local historians' by L. Mamby.

'Domesday Names' ed. R. Keats-Rohan et. al., 1999.

'The Genealogist's Guide' by G.B. Barrow, 1977.

English Place Names Society.

Medieval names archive.

Foundation for Medieval Genealogy.

Henry III fine rolls project.

Tudor accidents.

Quorn village museum. Inc. Quorndon family records of the Farnhams of Quorn, Leicestershire.

Public records: Land taxes and feudal surveys.

The Soldier in later medieval England.