SOME IMPORTANT MEDIEVAL RECORDS
||TITLE OF RECORDS or ACT
||NATURE & SIGNIFICANCE
||The Domesday Book
||William the Conqueror's great land survey of England; in effect, the
earliest English census (of sorts, as only tenants-in-chief and their
sub-tenants, i.e. the great landowners, before and after the Conquest, were
recorded by name).
||Accounts of Crown revenues rendered by the King's sheriffs to the Exchequer.
Tenants-in-chief can be traced in them.
||Feet of Fines
||Judgements of title to land, written three times on a single scroll,
cut in wavy lines to avoid forgery and filed at the Court of Common Pleas.
Early source of surnames.
||Court of Chancery: Charter Rolls, Close Rolls and Patent Rolls
||Records of royal grants of land and rights, to individuals and corporations,
from the reign of King John.
||The estate manor was the unit of local administration for centuries after
the Norman Conquest. Records cover the affairs of the manorial courts, which
dealt with rights and duties, disputes and changes of tenancy, etc.
|Lay Subsidy Rolls
Revived by Henry VIII
|Lists of those paying taxes on goods, levied for a specific purpose like
a foreign war. Important source for those interested in the origins of surnames.
|Poll Tax Returns
Revived under Charles I
and Charles II
|A tax per head, first levied under Richard II. Important for
calculating the population at that time; and
providing early evidence of many surnames.
||College of Arms founded by Richard III
||College has registers of armorial bearings granted to English and Welsh
families from the 15th century to the present day, with pedigrees of thousands
TUDOR AND STUART RECORDS
|c. 16th C+
||Dealt with disputes over attendance and behaviour in church, conduct
of parsons, state of the church, immorality, wills, slander, etc. Nicknamed
the Bawdy Courts due to large number of cases involving fornication and adultery.
||Quarter Sessions and Assize Courts
||Though these were in place in the 14th C., few records survive from before
the late 16th C. Assize courts tried the most serious crimes - murder, rape,
robbery, larceny, arson, etc.
||Lay Subsidy Rolls
||Medieval tax on moveable goods revived by Henry VIII. Lists used to calculate
||County surveys of claims to arms by Heralds of the College of Arms. Many
have been published.
introduced by Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to Henry VIII
|Single most important date in English genealogy (along with civil
registration in 1837) when Cromwell ordered each parish in England and Wales
to keep a register of baptisms, marriages and burials.
||Earliest date from which many registers exist
||From 1598 it was ordered that every parish should keep a bound register
and older registers (usually on single sheets) should be copied into it.
But many parishes only made their copies from Elizabeth I's first regnal
||Bishops' Transcripts introduced
||Copies of the registers that had to be sent annually to the bishop.
Invaluable as a backup where the original registers have gaps, but details
can vary, so worth checking both.
||EARLIEST POOR LAW ACTS
||Care of the poor became the responsibility of the parish, a system that
remained in place until 1834. Large numbers of records covered by the Poor
Laws include relief payments, settlements, burials, bastardy bonds.
||Collection for distressed Protestants in Ireland
||In March 1641/2 Charles I ordered a collection from every parish for
the relief of English Protestant settlers in Ireland ousted by the Catholic
Irish. Lists include many women and supplement the Protestation Returns.
||Protestation Oath Returns
||In 1642 Parliament ordered all males over 18 to take an oath to defend
the "true religion".
||Period from the execution of Charles I to the restoration of Charles
II. Many pedigrees enter a "black hole". Civil registration from 1653 to
||Hearth Tax Returns
(survive only to 1674)
|Major source. A tax on number of hearths in a household, it was a principal
source of revenue for Charles II and James II. Returns valuable in calculating
||First English newspaper
||A vital source for "putting flesh on the bones" of family history.
||Carries many official notices of appointments, honours, promotions, business
affairs, bankruptcies, etc. Extant today.
||Marriage Duty Act
||A tax on marriages, births and burials and on bachelors and widowers.
||Another valuable source. Lists of electors and how they voted.
RECORDS OF THE LATE STUART and HANOVERIAN PERIODS
||Ran for 270 years and was only abolished in 1963. Few early returns,
but from 1780-1832 fairly uniform survival for many counties.
||Replaced the Hearth Tax, but was equally unpopular and led to people
bricking up unwanted windows.
|Late 17th C+
||Social, trade and commercial directories
||First London directory in 1677. Increasingly published in the 18th and
19th centuries. A major source in later Victorian times.
||Public records anglicised
||Until this date, legal documents were in Latin.
||Britain switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, used in Catholic
countries since 1582. Eleven days lost in September to bring the country
into line with Europe. Start of the year changed from March 25th to January
||Hardwicke's Marriage Act
||Most significant event since parish registers were introduced in 1538.
A law to prevent clandestine marriages, it required all marriages to be performed
in the Church of England, the only exceptions allowed being those of Jews
||Militia lists and musters
||An extensive variety of military records list from this date.
||A curious assortment of taxes were levied on such things as shops, servants,
horses, carts and wagons - and even hair powder. Some records survive in
county record offices.
||First census taken
||For statistical reasons only, but a few returns that give names have
survived from 1801-1831.
||Gave the franchise to many more people and introduced electoral registers.
||POOR LAW AMENDMENT ACT
||Heralded the second period of poor relief in England and Wales. Scrapped
the old parish system and introduced Boards of Guardians.
VICTORIAN and 20th CENTURY RECORDS
||Introduced into England and Wales on July 1st 1837, under which the state
took over responsibility for registration of all births, marriages and deaths.
||Census returns from 1841-1901 are the principal sources, along with BMDs,
of the Victorian era.
||The state took over responsibility from the church for proving wills.
Records at the Principal Registry of the Family Division. Pre-1858 wills
dating from the 14th century are widespread.
||Parliamentary elections became secret
||Until this date, poll books could reveal how a person had voted.
||Births registration compulsory
||Though people were supposed to register births from the inception of
the system, fines weren't imposed for failure until this date.
||Lloyd George's "Domesday"
||An Act that imposed a duty on increase in value of land when sold and
created millions of records.
||WORLD WARS I & II
||CD of Soldiers Died in the Great War and records of the Commonwealth
War Graves Commission.