And even did your ancestors receive an education? Certainly the further you go back in time the less likely they received an education unless they were in certain professions, although many ‘skilled’ labourers did serve apprenticeships. It was only 150 years ago when William Forster’s Elementary Education Act was passed in 1870 which was the beginning of ‘compulsory’ education for all 5 to 13 year old children although there had been a growing number of factory schools, colliery schools, chemical and railway schools established in the earlier half of the 19th Century.
Historically, it was the monasteries and churches which provided basic education and the Universities of Oxford (established in the late 11th Century) and Cambridge (established in the middle 13th Century) providing education for the professions (clergy, lawyers) available only to the wealthy and those is religious orders. The wealthy often educated their children privately at home, with hired governesses or tutors for younger children
Grammar schools (private and outside the control of the church) began to develop in the 15th Century with around 300 such Grammar schools existing at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries between 1536 and 1538, with an increasing number thereafter being established by Royal Charter and endowments of noblemen and wealthy merchants, all being private independent ‘public’ schools available only those who could afford the fees! It was often the ‘town-based middle class’ who could afford to send their sons to such schools.
So what about the ‘ordinary’ family and their children? It is well documented that the larger proportion of the population were illiterate and that children were required to work from as young an age as possible to help support their families. Of course, many children will have learnt trades from their parents – or should I say sons would learn trades from their fathers whilst daughters would learn their domestic and family ‘duties’ from their mothers – although of course those in particular who ‘worked the land’ would require the whole family to ‘work the land’ is order to survive.
Charity schools began to develop to provide some education to children of the ‘deserving’ poor. Such schools would provide education free of charge and were usually funded by private contributions being established and run by churches and other religious organisations. Some such schools (often known as hospitals where they provided boarding facilities) provided education for boys up to the age of 16, preparing them to go on to University usually by means of a scholarship.
Dame schools provided voluntary education for young children essentially as forerunners to nursery schools. Theses were often run by women in their own homes to the children in their local community most likely, as nursery’s do today, to enable both parents to earning a living and financially support their families. The work the mothers would undertake however would be vastly different to diverse roles women undertake today!
Daughters of wealthy families could be sent to private boarding schools to be taught the classics, foreign languages, music, dancing, social and domestic skills.
Following the introduction the General Workhouse Act of 1723, parish workhouses began to establish ‘workhouse schools’ to prepare their pupils for apprenticeships, thus the education was largely in practical subjects than the core subjects of education today (language, maths etc).
In the latter half of this century, the Freemasons established their own charitable schools for children of its members – firstly for girls in 1788 and then boys in 1798.
It was at the end of this century that Sunday Schools also began to develop, being introduced nationally in 1780, provided by churches These schools were for children and adults alike, educating them in basic reading but became the ‘building blocks’ of our education system.
Following the success of Sunday Schools, ‘Ragged Schools’ were established in the early part of the 19th Century. Firstly by Thomas Cranfield in London in 1810, followed by John Pounds in Portsmouth in 1818 and later Thomas Barnardo in 1867. These schools provided free education to impoverished children, described as ‘ragged’ schools because the children were ‘raggedly clothed’!
From 1802, any child (male or female) who was apprenticed was required to be provided with free part-time education and in 1811 the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church was set up and financed by the Church of England. This society quickly became the country’s most influential educational body.
Following the emancipation of Roman Catholics in 1829 and the Reform Act of 1832 all religious schools were equal (I have not touched upon the many schools set up over the centuries by non-conformist/dissenting religious groups) and from 1833 Government grants were introduced of £20,000 per year to British, Foreign and National Society schools. This system changed in 1861 to a payment of 4 shillings per pupil plus 2 shillings 8 pence per subject per pupil passing a yearly exam in reading, writing and arithmetics.
There was an ever increasing number of children receiving an education although this was not compulsory and was often intermittent, in that during for example harvest time, children were still needed at home to help with the harvest rather than continuing to be sent to school.
The education system as we know it today developing from Forster’s Elementary Education Act of 1870 which gave education boards the powers to require parents to send all children aged 5 to 13 year old to school, however it did not make it compulsory nationwide. This was not until the 1880 Education Act which did make it compulsory for all children aged 5 to 10 years old, with the leaving age being raised to age 11 in 1893 and to age 12 in 1899.
Our 20th century ancestors saw a gradual increase in the school leaving age from 12 to 14 in 1918 after the first world war. The Education Act of 1918 also included provision for compulsory part-time education for all 14-to-18-year-olds. However this provision did not come into force until 1921 due to cuts in public spending after World War I.
Compulsory education up to the age of 15 was introduced in the Education Act 1944, but did not come into force until April 1947 due to World War 2. This was further increased to the age of 16 from 1 September 1972.
Following the Education and Skills Act 2008, which came into force in the 2013 academic year, whilst the school leaving age ‘technically’ remains at 16, essentially ‘children’ are now required to remain in some form of education until the age of 18, be that continuing their schooling by with continuing their academic qualifications (e.g. ‘A’ levels) attending a vocational qualification course (e.g. Btec) or entering into an apprenticeship.
And of course as of the 23rd March 2020, albeit temporary (indefinitely temporary😂) it almost feels like we have gone full circle, with home education but at least we still have the support of teachers and the school curriculum to guide us…. I’m sure for some parents it may feel like ‘the educated leading the blind’ with teaching having changed so much since many parents were themselves at school …. I know I (having left secondary school 30 years ago albeit I was lucky enough to go on to A levels and university) sometimes feel like teaching is a new language in itself … ‘phonics’, ‘digraphs’ ‘graphemes’ etc – of course we learnt it but it was never a ‘subject’ as such it was all just part of learning to read and write! 😜
It is not difficult to see how the class structure in this country managed to maintain itself for such a long time. Without access to education it would have been extremely difficult for the vast majority of our poorer ancestors to climb that social ladder. Another reason to be living today and not 500 years ago perhaps!?
Here goes, my first blog to record my thoughts, feelings, life events and provide my children and their future generations with a first hand account of these life changing events. WARNING these blogs may include controversial comments, thoughts, feelings etc – I’m not going to apologise this is my personal blog so please do not take anything I say personally, but you’re welcome to comment if you wish – I won’t take it personally! 😉
What a year 2020 is turning out to be! Lots of ‘I never thought I’d………….’ see the supermarket shelves empty, be standing in a queue outside at the chemist to collect a prescription (two in at time policy), see the churches close even on a Sunday, see a world at war against a virus!
People are quite rightly anxious and scared and maybe it will help us a little better appreciate how our ancestors felt and what they went through with those even worse announcements and events of the past – WW1 and WW2. Whilst not underestimating the impact of this nasty virus and completely agree with the steps our government is taking, I do want to put some perspective on all this – we are hearing growing numbers of cases every day and yes those numbers are large but in terms of percentage of population – whether you look at it nationally or globally – the number of those affected are less than 0.05%:
UK Population – Government statistics Mid 2018 66.4 million (estimated 2020 67.8 million World population Review)
With the measures put in place, if everyone adheres to them, the UK hope to control Coronavirus to an estimated 20,000 people infected
Percentage of the population…..you do the maths! ……… 0.029% for those who can’t!
Without the interventions they estimates 250,000 would be affected …. 0.36% of the population.
Don’t get me wrong, it is certainly no the case that I am not concerned, although I not necessarily concerned about my immediate family (children, husband and myself) I am concerned about my parents (being in the high risk groups of over 70’s although they do not have any of the health risks). They live 200 miles away from me, I haven’t seen them since Christmas and now our plans for them to visit us over the Easter are gone! They recently celebrated their golden wedding anniversary and we were going to have a family celebration. Now I don’t know when I will see them again! I am just thankful that my brother only lives 40 miles away from them! And thankfully they are a bit tech-savvy and we can skype.
My father-in-law who will be 89 this year had a stroke at Christmas but is now thankfully home. They live in the same village as us so that’s not such a worry.
As for my children, well the schools will be out this afternoon until who knows when (I suspect September). Here is one of those ‘I never thought I’d….’ moments – home schooling my children! At least mine are only 3 and 5 and not at a critical stage of their education. My task of teaching them the basic building blocks at a young age is not as daunting as for many. My heart goes out to all those due to sit their sats, GCSE’s (including my nephew) and A level exams. Whilst this is an important stage in your life, just remember health and happiness are so much more important and once you’re at university or in work those grades get long forgotten. You will get thorough this and you will prosper. It may feel like all that hard work was for nothing now, but it will still all stand you in good stead for life’s future adventures.
As for me personally……..
Day 2 – 21st March
Well, I have to say I don’t think I’m going to have difficulty homeschooling for the first few weeks, James started pestering to do the work they have been sent home with as soon as he got home yesterday! And I have given up counting the number of times he has asked this morning……its the weekend!!!! But to pacify him and prepare home for Monday he has helped me set a timetable …lets see how well we stick to it!
Family History will of course be covered…and I think the games and crafts will include some ‘helping mummy spring clean the house’ and a bit of gardening! ha ha
We’ve been to our local shops to spend the kids book tokens before they close. Made me quite cross! We were doing our best to comply with the social distancing advice but looking round many people are clearly still ignoring advice. Walking past the local butchers shop the queue was just the same as usual, no one was standing the recommended 2 metres apart which would be quite feasible! And there were groups of friends (young and older adults!) just stood as normal having a chat. What is wrong with people not listening to the advice! We all know the advice – no one surely is going to be offended if you stand away from them!?! Thankfully in the post office (I wanted to post a parcel) the queue was short and we were able to maintain the distance, we just moved if someone got too close! ha ha
Seriously people, this next week we will face shop closures, queuing to take you turn to be allowed into the supermarkets and the possibility of martial law if the advice is not taken – we have already seen the start of this with the closure of pubs, clubs, leisure centres etc. We will be faced with Italian lock down.
I was please to hear from the CEO of Sainsburys this morning that they are going to increase their opening times specifically for the over 70’s, vulnerable and to include those in the keyworker sectors in particular those NHS workers who have struggled to get food after they have finished a long shift saving lives and caring for those afflicted by this horrid virus! They need to be kept nourished to continue their amazing work. Conversely they will reduced they normal weekly opening hours to help with the stocking up of shelves and protect their staff. I think this is certainly a move in the right direction!
We may face many of these restrictions on our lives for up to a year, varying to a lessor and greater extent, to control ‘spikes’ in the virus and manage and sustain the NHS. Lets just all work together so that the worse restrictions stay in place for the shortest time as possible.
For us, save for food if I can’t shop online, this was our last trip to the shops. Thankfully we have a large garden for the kids and some lovely walks on our doorstep to get out into the fresh air and get some exercise. But we will be keeping our distance from everyone else, I might even get a stick 2 metres long to take out with us! ha ha
We’re off into the garden this afternoon to have some fun and spring clean the kids outdoor toys …. this may get rather messy! ha ha
Looking forward to some warmer weather 🙂
Happy Mother’s day
Or should I say Mothering Sunday.
What a lovely sunny morning in Surrey perfect for a morning run. Maybe people are starting to take note of the social distancing, the few people I passed all made an effort (as did I) to keep the prescribed (and more where possible) away from each other.
Had a lovely relaxed morning then, coffee followed by a long Skype call with my mum and dad and Sunday roast cooked by my lovely husband. Just a normal mothering Sunday here! Went for a little walk this afternoon to exercise the kids and say happy mothers day to my mother in law – from their drive! Please be assured we did not be go in or get close to them (father in law was asleep!) We are keeping them safe!
So, the home schooling (well, doing the work set by the teachers!) starts tomorrow morning and my son still seems as keen as ever to get on with it. Got to love him, he really does enjoy school and learning, how lucky are we. Two weeks and then we will still have an Easter break from learning…..if he’ll let me he he
I’m so impressed with his reading and writing, he’ll be helping me write our family history and as part of his schooling I may even get him to write in this blog 😉
Here’s to a relaxing rest of Mother’s Day or Mothering Sunday as it should correctly be known from the its origins of when people would visit their “mother” church on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, three Sundays’ before Easter. It gradually became a day when domestic servants were given the day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. It was often the only time that entire families could gather together, often been prevented from doing so on other days due to conflicting working hours
It is not hard to see how, as the dominance of religion and the church declined in recent centuries, and in particular the latter half of the 20th Century, this religious tradition evolved into the mothers day we know today.
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, stay safe, keep you mothers (and fathers) safe and have a lovely day.
I can’t go without saying I’m glad to hear the news today that Sainsburys are allocating priority online slots for deliveries to the most vulnerable groups. Conversely it is very saddening to hear the National Trust have taken the decision to close their parks essentially due to people taking advantage of their kind offer to open their parks for free to all without taking on board the advice for social distancing! I hope those who spoiled this generous offer from the National Trust are suitably disgraced with themselves! The beeches and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty will be the next to close if people continue to behave in such an irresponsible way. As for complete lockdown….Whilst I would urge the government to now put the country into lockdown, at the rate it is going I don’t think it will be necessary as shops are taking the decisions themselves to close and it won’t belong for the loved ones of those who have failed take the advice of social distancing will start to show symptoms and people then may start to take all the advice seriously. Clearly seeing what is happening in other countries is not sufficient.
I now know of two families who have been directly affected by this illness – one losing a close family friend to the illness, one whose entire family (two adults and two children) has had the illness and have expressed how nasty it is – thankfully they are all recovering well.
Day 4 23rd March
So here are a few photos of our first day of schooling at home! I’m not sure I will survive this! Very hard work trying to split myself in two to keep both children entertained at the same time, eldest needing help with his school work and youngest wanting me to do something else with her most of the time – I tried to get her to do easier versions of what James was doing, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
But at least the sun was shining and they kept going outside to play. The house was not wrecked but my brain is fried! Didn’t help that every one with kids was trying to access the online resources this morning meaning many just weren’t working!
The timetable essentially went out of the window in terms of timings but we did get in some phonics, crafts, numbers, writing and reading – so somehow we did cover all the essential learning elements! wow!
Just asked my son how he has enjoyed his first day of home schooling – GOOD! ha ha He might not say that tomorrow – when he asked what craft they could do tomorrow I told him the art and craft of spring cleaning his room!!! ha ha ha
ME – I need a drink! On the plus side, Sainsburys came with my delivery and only a few items missing – bet you can guess which ones – yes loo roll, soap, baked beans (one of the kids staple foods!), tinned tomatoes ….. and the very nice bottle of wine I ordered for my birthday treat on Friday! Lets hope I get out to find a replacement at some point!!!!! Oh and the picture frame finally arrived for me to put together my mum and dads golden wedding anniversary present (a family tree surrounded by photos from their wedding) which I will now need to send them as we won’t be seeing them any time soon 😦 I’ll post a photo when its complete 🙂
I am also very glad I got my IHGS course completed and that the exam is likely to be postponed – if today is anything to go by I won’t get much revision or other work done!
Hopefully it can only get easier as we all get more used to it. We have no choice, lockdown is coming and I’m guessing tomorrow seeing as the PM’s daily press conference was cancelled because they were having a cobra meeting……..and the shops are all making their own sensible decisions to close but continue online shopping, hmm online shopping was taking over before – now it really will take off and will our high streets ever recover? Or will we start to shops turned into living accommodation??? Potential huge long term changes to some areas of our lives. Food for thought!
Day 5 – 25th March
Well i’m writing day 5 blog this morning (day 6) as I just did not get time yesterday! What a busy day, tiring but good. The kids were really well behaved (mostly!) and the day went without any shouting, telling off or arguments! What an achievement! 🤣
There is no wonder I was tired by the end of it…the day started with me enjoying a 5k run out in the gorgeous sunshine (my one daily exercise) followed by joining the kids doing the Joe Wicks morning kids PE session. Then, I must have spent an hour or more in total (sporadically throughout the day) bouncing with the kids on the trampoline….my poor knees!
As for schooling, well James managed some maths (basic addition👍), writing, reading and phonics. We skipped the craft today but came up with a longer term craft we can do over the coming days and weeks – the kids collected lots of sticks a few weeks ago and they are still in the garage in a bag so, we have asked all our family members to send selfies to us and we will create a twiglet family tree. Not quite sure when this will start but we shall see 🤣
We also managed a good clear out and tidy up of James’ room – he can now use his desk again so I can hide him away to do school work if Rose starts to pester him. I’m just wondering how long it will stay like that! Roses’ room is next on the list….
I must say I think we are very lucky that the weather has vastly improved for the schools closing, they are spending much of their day out in the garden which is great. I say make the most of it whilst the weather lasts 🤞 schooling and learning can be increased on those rainy says that will no doubt come at some point. Perhaps mother nature is looking down on us all and having sent this nasty virus to test us, she is giving us a little help to survive this lockdown period.
For me, I even managed to get some research done for a friend who has been waiting ages for me….it is a freebie and she knew it wouldn’t take priority but now I would like to get it done for her and then I can get on with some of my own family research. I have a few of my own family history projects to crack on with – getting to grips with a DNA test and analysing the results; and writing more of our family history biographies.
Day 6 25 March
Another good day, pretty uneventful day today in the Pettyfer household, although I didn’t think it was going to be this morning waking up with what I thought was going to be a migraine but thankfully, some string pain killers and a lay down for an hour in a dark bedroom seemed to knock the worst of it on its head.
Another sunny day so the kids were happy spending most of the day outside in the garden👍😁 after an online ballet class this morning.
Our craft session today was baking – my birthday cake for Friday and some scones hmmmm with jam and cream. Tomorrow’s craft will be decorating my cake! That could be messy 🤣
All this home schooling/learning has got me thinking about how our ancestors were educated …. or not. Watch this space, I feel another blog coming on! ……
Day 7 26 March
Another uneventful day in our household. The kids have again spent most of the day outside but James did do some school work after lunch. He’s doing really well with basic maths 👍😊
Not really much more to report today but I can’t believe some of the news reports today, in particular some young people’s lack of respect and consideration for the older generation if anyone has read about the case in Ipswich of an elderly couple being spat on and attacked you will hopefully know what I am talking about. I am really pleased to hear the police and prosecution services are taking such incidents and those again key workers seriously and the culprits will be facing a prison sentence, it is absolutely beyond belief that in these times people think such behaviour could in any way be tolerated, not that such behaviour should be tolerated in any circumstances, but I am sure the police are taking it far more seriously given the risk of Covid-19….it could actually be the death of someone and that’s murder!!!!
But I won’t rant on!
For a bit of light relief I’ll share this brilliant and hilarious family tree related video….
Day 8 27 March
Happy birthday to me!
Yep it’s that day of the year again when I celebrate being born. Rather a surreal day today in the circumstances and I have decided to be like the Queen this year and have an official birthday later in the year when a proper celebration can be had with friends and family – a celebration of birthdays (I’m sure there’ll be other friends and family with birthdays in this surreal time before the restrictions lift) and survival 😜 The alternative is to not age this year and celebrate this birthday next year – well our ancestors got away with not knowing their correct date/year of birth why not me! 😂😂😂
However Corona virus did not spoil my birthday. The kids made me lovely cards – I even got a handmade once from my hubby ❤ lots of cuddles and time out of everything else to just spend with them – I even let James off his school work for the day (don’t tell his teachers 😂)
I had a lovely long skype chat with my parents and we had a lovely long walk as a family despite the fact Graeme should have been working! 😂😜❤
Just a chilled out day, playing, enjoying the fresh air, watching Frozen II (my choice 😉) and a nice glass or two of white wine.
So well received genealogy related birthday gifts…..
So all in all, a lovely day 💕🎂
Although I will always remember that it was the day the PM got corona virus and the nastiness of some people really did show through…..I wonder how many people will regret some of their comments on social media in the future and how many people will fill out prisons because of their selfishness and stupidy!
This blog sets out to demonstrate what resources maybe available and how they may be used to research an ancestor in the Chancery courts.
The National Archive (TNA) collection of Chancery Records are now largely searchable online at their discovery website and provides a good starting point.
A quick of family surnames, Richardson and Huddlestone, on the (TNA) discovery website for chancery proceedings, being common surnames finds around 4,500 and 500 references respectively. Researching my married surname, Pettyfer, finds only 4 references:
“Reference: C 6/548/132
Short title: Pettyfer v [unknown]
First plaintiff: Richard Pettyfer.
Document type: bill only.
Reference: C 8/321/212
Short title: Pierce v Cotterell.
Plaintiffs: Edward Pierce.
Defendants: George Cotterell, Richard Pettyfer and Thomas Goodlucke.
Subject: money, Wiltshire.
Document type: bill only
Reference: C 2/ChasI/K27/108
Short title: Knybbe v Dean of Windsor.
Plaintiffs: Henry Knybbe and Emott Pettyfer on behalf of themselves and other copyholders of Manor of Austy, Warwickshire.
Defendants: Dean and Canons of His Majestys Chapel of St George in the Castle, Windsor, Berkshire.
Document type: rejoinder only
Reference: C 11/1719/9
Short title: Cotton v Cotton.
Document type: Bill and four answers.
Plaintiffs: Robert Cotton, esq of Gidding, Huntingdonshire.
Defendants: Jane Cotton, John Cotton and Elizabeth Stewart Cotton, infants (by John Pettyfer, clerk), Charles Jamens senior, Charles Jamens junior, Mary Jamens, Elizabeth Jamens and Robert Jamens, infant (by said Charles Jamens senior), Dame Mary Burdett, Sir Robert Burdett bart, infant (by Robert Holden, esq), Elizabeth Burdett, Jane Burdett, Mary Burdett, Frances Burdett, Ann Burdett and Dorothy Burdett.
Date of bill (or first document): 1722”
I also searched the spelling ‘Pettifer’ and found 55 references; the spelling ‘Pettefer’ found 4 references; and the spelling ‘Pettifor’ found 5 references. These of course should also be checked to see if they are in fact ancestors. These are all cases where a ‘Pettyfer’ is named as a party to the proceedings.
The online searches at TNA can only be by names of Plaintiffs and Defendants. They do not include cases where a ‘Pettyfer’ was a Deponent in a case or made an Affidavit. If it is known that an ancestor was a Deponent or made an Affidavit in a case any record of the deposition/Affidavit would need to be searched on the TNA website by the case name/parties using indexes IND 1/16759 and IND 1/9115 to IND 1/9121 for town depositions, IND 1/14545-14567 for Affidavits covering the period 1611-1800 and IND 1/14575 -14684 for Affidavits covering the period 1801-1875. Country Depositions can only be searched by surname of the parties there is no index.
Further, the references found all concern pleadings: the first two cases appear to have Bills of Complaint only; the second is a Rejoinder; and the third is a Bill of Complaint and four answers. It may be that the cases did not progress further and therefore no other records exist; or it may be that other records have either not been missed from the online listing; or appear under different names if the parties changed perhaps because a party died, married or due to some legal necessity. Cases could be protracted and continue for many years.
Whilst the TNA online index does not appear to limit its searches to first plaintiff and defendant (from my searches above) it may not always correctly identify cases involving a particular surname (most likely due to mis-spelling, simply missing a party from the list etc). Further the descriptions on the online catalogue are not always accurate or full so through viewing the actual records more about the case may in fact be discovered without resorting to further indexes. For example, if a case did not proceed further there may be a record to that effect on the documents; or there may in fact be more documents in the ‘bundle’ of pleadings than is stated in the description.
It is therefore always worth searching the records found in an online search and the physical indexes and calendars at TNA.
A good starting point to search for other records where the date (range) of a case is known is the indexes to the Masters’ Reports (C38) found in IND 1. For example, the second case listed above is dated 1668, I would therefore start a search in IND 1/1937, the index covering that year’s Master’s Reports for Plaintiffs with surnames beginning K – R (the plaintiff in that case being Edward Pierce) and then search the indexes for a period of at least five years.
If records exist, the relevant bundles can be found by searching the indexes for the Masters’ Documents and Master’s exhibits (C117 – C126 (covering period 17th Century to 19th Century) and C103 – C114 (covering period 1234 to 1860)) again in IND 1 locating the relevant index for the appropriate period. These records are particularly useful from the 18th Century onwards.
However, a case may not have been referred to a Master if no factual evidence was required. In such cases, or if nothing is found in the Masters’ Reports, the Decree and Order books may be the next stage. These are found in C33 (1544 to 1875) and are indexed in IND 1 locating the relevant index for the appropriate period, and in calendars on the open shelves at TNA. Taking the same example of the 1668 case, the appropriate index to begin with would be IND 1 1613 which covers book B (surnames beginning L – Z) for 1668 and then search indexes for at least the next 5 consecutive years.
Final decrees could be Enrolled. Enrolled Decrees covering the period 1534 to 1903 can be found in C 78 and C 79. The Anglo-American Legal Tradition website can be searched for online versions covering the whole of the series. For those enrolled during the reigns of Henry VIII to George III the index IND 1/16960A & B can be searched.
There may also be records of appeals against enrolled decrees and those records are now held at the Parliamentary Archives as such appeals were made to the House of Lords but can be search on the TNA discovery website.
Decrees which were not enrolled were also often appealed. These appeals went back to the Lord Chancellor and would be found amongst Ordinary and Appeal Petitions in C 36 (covering the period 1774-1875) which can be searched in the indexes 1/15029-15047 or for period 1876-1925 in IND 1/15048-15282.
For later cases, those between 1842-1880, the best finding aid to begin with may be the Cause books which consolidate “references to decrees, orders, reports and certificates made during the course of a case, together with the names of all the parties to it and their solicitors and the dates of all their appearances”. They are found in series C 32 and are indexed for the period 1860 to 1880 in IND 1/16727-16747.
I have considered above depositions available to search by index at TNA and noted that there is no index to country depositions at TNA although an online search of the case name may find such records. A better finding aid is Bernau’s Index and if no records for an ancestor can be found at TNA online, then this may be the better starting place as they may not have brought or defended a case but may have been a witness.
Bernau’s index can be found on microfilm at the Society of Genealogists (SOG) and at LDS Family History Centres. This is a card index of proceedings and depositions (although many cards refer to ‘correspondence’) in the Courts of Chancery and Exchequer includes about 4.5 million individuals and is particularly useful for Chancery Proceedings between 1714 and 1758 found in TNA series C 11 as the index for this period names every litigant. Bernau’s notebooks for this period, in 426 volumes, also include parties and summaries of the disputes.
The Index is also particularly useful for finding country deponents, listing all county depositions from 1558 to 1649 (TNA Series C 21) and town depositions up to 1800 (TNA series C 24).
The index cards provide a bundle and suit number and the reference should be noted in full as they do not represent modern references at TNA and “you will otherwise be lacking vital clues when it comes to translating the obsolete references given into the modern National Archives references”. To translate the references, Sharp’s How to use the Bernau Index should be consulted. Because the index provides a bundle number, which usually refers to a box of depositions from many different suits, the suit number is provided by Bernau’s index to be able to find a specific deposition within the box, although the names of the parties to the proceedinsgs are not provided.
Another drawback to using Bernau’s Index is that it can be difficult to read and there can be variations in spelling of the same surname. There is also a lack of additional information to be able to distinguish between individuals with common surnames without recourse to the original documents. They are however indexed in alphabetical order by surname and then first name.
The SOG also holds the Great Card Index on microfilm, which is another card index of several million names containing various miscellaneous information, including amongst others, references to Chancery proceedings. If visiting the SOG to search Bernau’s index it may be worth searching the Great Card Index too.
Where a case involves an inheritance dispute, Coldham’s Index is a good finding aid to search first. Otherwise known as the Inheritance Disputes Index, it is available to search online at Find My Past and can be searched by name (including variants), year, county and country. The index (a transcript of the original) provides: the names of the testator, the plaintiff and the defendant; the year of case, place and TNA reference covering the period 1543 to 1714.
The index includes over 26,000 cases concerning wills, bequests, grants of administration, descent of property, identity claims and other testamentary disputes tried in the Chancery Court, with cases typically involving several members of the same family.
A search of this index for the name Pettyfer, including variations, finds one result under the variant surname Pettifor. No first name is given but the other information provided is:
Place St. Martin Le Grand, London
Testator first name(s) William
Testator last name Samuell
Plaintiff last name Pettifor
Defendant last name Samuell
Case details Pettifor v. Samuell 1661
National Archives reference C10/487/193”
It would seem likely that the Defendant is the widow, son or daughter of the deceased. This case is amongst the five listed in my search on TNA discovery website in the name ‘Pettifor’. The entry on the TNA website provides further information as to the parties:
“Reference C 10/487/193
Short title: Pettifor v Samuell.
Plaintiffs: Elizabeth Pettifor and Jane Pettifor.
Defendants: Anne Samuell, widow.
Subject: personal estate of William Samuell, St Martin Le Grand, London.
Document type: bill only.
So, it would appear that there are in fact two plaintiffs and that all the parties are female; the defendant being the widow of the deceased and executor of his estate. Other finding aids at TNA should be searched for further records in the case (as discussed above).
Other finding aids include several volumes published by the List and Index Society and available to purchase from their website, including:
Samples of Chancery Pleadings and Suits: 1627, 1685, 1735 and 178
Chancery: Patent Rolls, 31 Eliz I, 1588-9 (C 66/1332-46)
Calendar of Chancery Decree Rolls (C 78/86-130)
Calendar of Chancery Decree Rolls (C 78/46-85)
Chancery: Patent Rolls, Calendar, 30 Eliz I, 1587-1588
Chancery: Patent Rolls, Calendar, 28-29 Eliz I, 1585-1587, (C 66/1271-91) Pt. 2 (with index to grantees)
Chancery: Patent Rolls, Calendar, 28-29 Eliz I, 1585-1587, (C 66/1271-91) Pt. 1
Chancery: Patent Rolls, Calendar, 27 Eliz I, 1584-1585, (C 66/1254-70), with index to grantees, 23-27 Eliz. I
Chancery: Patent Rolls (C 66), Calendar, 20-23 Jas I
Chancery: Patent Rolls (C 66), Calendar, 18-19 Jas I
There are other volumes which are currently out of print.
Whilst the British Record Society website details several Chancery Proceedings index publications, when the items are opened on the website, they all state “This publication is no longer available”. They are publications generally from the 19th and early 20th Century and are available online on websites such as Internet Archive.
If it is known a case was begun in the years 1627, 1685, 1735 and 1785 it would be worth searching Horwitz and Moreton’s Samples of Chancery pleadings and suits, 1627, 1685, 1735 and 1785 which provides, as the title suggests, an index to a sample of about 1000 cases from the four specified years.
Other finding aids online include Ancestry’s “British Chancery Records, 1386-1558” set which they describe as “an index to the Chancery Court proceedings, which consist of bills of complaint, answers, replications, and rejoinders, from 1386-1558”. This index provides the names of more than 286,500 individuals involved in the Chancery Court proceedings between 1386 and 1558, providing references to the location of their name in the original records, found at TNA in series C 1.
A search in these records produces interesting results for the surname ‘Pettyfer’ and variants, such as:
Place: Hertford, Hereford
There were 112 records indexed largely from the 15th and 16th centuries of which in fact only 17 were variants of ‘Pettyfer’ the rest were variants of ‘Bedford’. The surname variants included Petyfrer, Petefer, Petifer, Petyfere, Peytefere, Pitfforde, Pyttford, Pedeford, Paytefere, Pytford. This is a useful tool in finding surname variants to search in other finding aids.
These can be searched online at the TNA discovery website.
The Ancestry website also holds three further searchable indexes to chancery proceedings:
A calendar of chancery proceedings: bills and answers filed in the reign of King Charles the First (976 records)
Abstracts of inquisitiones post mortem relating to the city of London, returned into the Court of Chancery (897 records)
Index of chancery proceedings (Reynardson’s division) preserved in the Public Record Office: 1649-1714 (523 records)
There were no results from these sets of records when searching for the surname ‘Pettyfer’ or variants.
As is demonstrated above, finding ancestors in Chancery proceedings may not be an easy task, however where records are found, they can be very rewarding for the family historian providing many genealogical details as well as social, financial and historical context to an ancestor’s life.
The English Legal system comprises of criminal law and civil law. Civil law encompasses several areas such as common law (established from cases and judgements of the courts), family law, wills and probate, the law of tort, law of contract, law of trusts and equity and so on.
Prior to 1875 different areas of civil law were administered by separate courts: The Court of Chancery, the Court of Exchequer, the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Court of Common Pleas and the High Court of Admiralty. There was no Court of Appeal.
Several other courts had existed in the earlier centuries but ceased to exist before 1875: The Court of Augmentation, the Court of Star Chamber, the Court of Requests, the General Eyre, the Court of Wards and Liveries, and the Palace Court. Away from Westminster there were courts in the Palatines (Chester, Durham and Lancaster) and the court of the Duchy of Lancaster which had the same functions as the central Westminster courts, in their own areas.
The common law courts of the Court of King/Queen’s Bench and the Court of Common Pleas established in the 12th Century had, overall only one means of legal redress, that of financial compensation. This would not solve an issue such as trespass or rights of use of land where what was required was an injunction. Common law courts could also not enforce trusts which by the 14th and 15th centuries were growing in use, particularly in connection with land and inheritance. Courts of Equity therefore began to be established to address the faults with the common law system.
Each court developed at different times and had different functions although there was some overlap between several courts in the types of cases they would hear.
General Eyre (12th to 14th Century)
This was essentially the senior criminal court dealing with serious crimes (and some civil matters) which were beyond the jurisdiction of the manorial courts. It was a hearing of the King’s Judges who were sent out from London every few years (an average of every seven but often less frequent) to hear civil cases such as trespass, debts and cases against the Crown; and to hear criminal cases of those accused of felonies, that is crimes which held a sentence of imprisonment or death.
The Coroner was a key figure in General Eyre proceedings, presenting the Justices with rolls of inquests into suspicious or unnatural deaths and collating records of the crimes and events taken place between each General Eyre.
The General Eyre was also responsible for overseeing local administration, presentments made by juries and the general behaviour of the community. Failure to comply with the complex and convoluted legal procedures was punished by the levying of large fines both on individuals and entire communities.
The General Eyre were essentially the ‘eyes, ears and enforcers’ of the Crown maintaining law, order and civility across the country.
High Court of Admiralty (1160 to 1875)
Being an Island, England has a long history as a seafaring nation, little is it any wonder that piracy was once a significant problem and that disputes arose in the maritime industry. The High Court of Admiralty was established around 1160 and had both criminal and civil jurisdiction, dealing with criminal matters such as piracy and murder alongside civil matters such as the condemnation and sale of enemy ships (‘prize cases’) including those captured by privateers under Letters of Marque first issued in 1293 and abolished in 1856 (although only usually issued in times of war).
They also dealt with civil disputes such as collisions between ships and the damage caused including loss and damage to cargo; salvage of ships; seaman’s wages; seizures of ships and cargo by customs officers; and chartering of ships.
From the 17th Century, the criminal jurisdiction of the High Court of Admiralty, particularly in cases of piracy and murder, was transferred to Admiralty sessions at the Old Bailey and in 1834 to the Central Criminal Court. In addition, in the 17th Century ‘prize cases’ were heard in separate Prize Courts.
Appeals in civil dispute cases (other than ‘prize cases’) from the High Court of Admiralty were heard by the High Court of Delegates between 1535 and 1833. The High Court of Delegates was a court in which appeals were made to the Crown in Chancery where they were heard by Commissioners appointed by letters patent under the Great Seal.
Also established from the 17th Century were Vice-Admiral Courts in nineteen maritime counties around England and in the British Colonies which represented the High Court of Admiralty in those areas and dealt with local admiralty cases. Appeals from these courts were to the High Court of Admiralty.
Court of the King/Queen’s Bench (12th Century to 1875)
This along with the Court of Common Pleas was the oldest and highest common law court in England, although it did also deal with criminal matters, dealing with matters which either affected the Crown in person on the King/Queen’s peace. They also supervised the lower courts and had a local jurisdiction in Middlesex. The court was presided over by the Lord Chief Justice.
On the Crown side (criminal law) the court would deal with the most severe crimes such as treason, breaches of the peace, highway robbery, felonies and misgovernment. They would also hear appeal cases; were it was claimed there was an error in a conviction by the lower courts.
On the Plea side (civil law) they would deal again with the more serious cases such as fraud, breach of contract, abuse of power by public officials and writs of habeus corpus (seeking freedom from alleged illegal imprisonment).
Being the highest common law court, there was no means of appeal to the Court’s decision in civil proceedings. Until 1830, the King’s Bench acted as a court of appeal for the Court of Exchequer (see below), Court of Common Pleas, Eyre circuits, Assize courts and local courts.
Its own decisions and records were sent to Parliament to be signed off although from 1585 and the creation of the Court of Exchequer Chamber (see below), King’s Bench decisions could be appealed and following the expansion of the jurisdiction of the Exchequer Chamber in 1830, the King’s Bench ceased to be an appellate court.
Court of Common Pleas (12th Century to 1875)
This court developed in the 12th Century from the King’s Council (Curia Regis) evolving from unlimited jurisdiction to a purely common law court. Typical cases concerned land or debt between individuals, cases which did not concern or affect the Crown. It was presided over by the Lord Chief Justice of Common Pleas and a varying number of puisne justices (who were usually Barristers).
The Court of Common Pleas was gradually superseded by the King’s Bench and Court of Exchequer (see below) because its methods and procedures were much slower than those of the King’s Bench and Exchequer courts. But it maintained its dominance in the jurisdiction of real property disputes until 1875.
Privy Council (14th Century to 1875)
The Privy Council developed from the Curia Regis and was a legislative, judicial and administrative body, essentially an advisory court of the Crown.
The Privy Council was made up of the Crown’s most important officials including ministers such as the Lord Chancellor and Treasurer, bishops and household officials, conducting most of its business through committees (one of which is now the cabinet) which were concerned with matters of foreign affairs, royal grants of land, pardons and tax. Judicial matters of public order such as treason, rebellion, heresy and petitions received from individuals and communities to resolve local matters, were in time, referred to the Court of Star Chambers (see below) and Court of Chancery (see below) respectively. In those matters, the Privy Council remained the final court of appeal through its Judicial Committee, the High Court of Delegates.
Appeals were also heard by the Privy Council from the Admiralty Courts (see above), the Isle of Man, Channel Islands, Crown colonies, dominions and later Commonwealth Countries.
The Court of Chancery (14th Century to 1875)
This was (and remains as a division of the High Court) the oldest equity court in England being established in the 14th Century, originating in the Reign of Richard II (1377-99). The court was presided over by Chancellors, who were originally church men dealing with matters of ‘conscience’ rather than ‘law’, i.e. what was fair and just or ‘equitable’. It was not until the mid-16th Century in the reign of Henry VIII that the first Chancellor with a legal background was appointed, Sir Thomas More.
The Court of Chancery dealt with all manner of cases which either:
Did not come under the jurisdiction of common law, such as cases involving trusts, mortgages, where an injunction or similar order was required to prevent an action or enforce an action, recovery of a debt against a deceased estate; or
Could be dealt with by common law but no appropriate or fair remedy could be obtained, such as a plaintiff being too poor to afford an action in the common law courts, or there was an imbalance of power between the parties (such as a tenant bringing a claim against a landlord); or
Where there was a possibility of oppressive or fraudulent use of the common law because of prejudice within a jury, local corruption or fear of harm from the defendant; or
Where the case involved a plaintiff, who had fraudulently been deprived of monies owed or had been so deprived by duress.
Most cases before both the common law and Chancery courts involved land disputes, the main difference between the types of land cases they dealt with: The common law dealt with ownership of land whilst equity law was concerned with possession of or the right to use land. As many more people had the right to use/possess land (as tenants etc) than owned land, the Chancery Courts became the primary court for civil disputes.
However, there were limits to its jurisdiction. Chancery Courts did not hear cases concerning land or inheritance outside of England and Wales or within the palatinate counties. Neither did they hear inheritance cases which affected the interests of the Crown.
Judgements in the Court of Chancery could be appealed to the House of Lords, save between 1851 and 1875 when there was a Court of Appeal in Chancery.
The Court of Exchequer Chamber (14th Century to 1875)
Appeals were presided over by four judges belonging to the two courts other than the court the matter had originate in. Where the appeal was to determine an important point of law, twelve common law judges may sit, the matter being referred to the original court once with point of law had been determined.
A judgment of the Exchequer Chamber was usually considered the authoritative statement of the law although further appeal to the House of Lords was possible.
Court of Requests (1483 to 1640’s)
This court was essentially the Court of Chancery for the poor man, also known as ‘the poor man’s court’. It was established to enable those whose cases were below the threshold of £10 set by the Court of Chancery.
The types of cases dealt with included land enclosure disputes, rights over common land, customs of the manor disputes, annuities and marriage contracts. Although its jurisdiction was mainly civil law, it could also hear some minor criminal and admiralty cases.
Its procedures where much simpler and quicker than other courts which made it a popular court, particularly with female litigants who may otherwise be discouraged from bringing a case.
Because of its procedures the court soon became unpopular with common law judges who during the late 16th century became angry at the number of cases being brought before the Court of Requests. The 1590’s was perhaps the start of their downfall when the higher courts began overwriting many of the Court of Request decisions and prevented the Court of Requests from imposing prison sentences.
Court of Star Chamber (1485 to 1641)
This court was established as a committee of councillors to deal with the judicial function of the Privy Council in matters which required the intervention of the Crown (see above). Their role was two-fold: to administer law directly and to supervise other courts.
From 1485 to 1560 the court dealt with both civil and criminal matters; from 1560 it dealt almost exclusively with criminal matters, such as “allegations of official corruption, abuse of legal procedure, alleged perjury, conspiracy, forgery, fraud, trespass, assault or riot”.Usually, they were cases involving prominent powerful individuals who were perhaps otherwise thought to be immune from criminal proceedings because the lower courts would not have the power to convict them.
In Tudor times (1485 to 1603) it also dealt with public disorder and rioting, perhaps such crimes were associated with acts of recusancy, heresy and even treason in the turbulent years after the dissolution of the monasteries and establishment of the Church of England.
The court was abolished by an Act of the Long Parliament in 1641 perhaps reflecting the fact that the court particularly concerned itself with and imposed unpleasant punishments on those who were thought to oppose the Crown.
Court of Augmentation (1536 to 1554)
This court was a ‘short-lived’ court created by Henry VIII following the dissolution of the monasteries to resolve land and property issues raised as a result of the sale of monastic land and to ensure the revenue from such sales was received.
The court had its own chancellor, treasurer, lawyers, receivers and auditors. Their main purpose and the collection of rent. Auditors would appraise monastic property and prepare particulars upon which the Court would then grant a warrant allowing the sale of the property, the Court being responsible for collecting the income from the sale.
Henry VIII established this court rather than having to go through the complex, lengthy procedures of the Court of Exchequer. Following his death in 1547 the court continued until it was abolished by Mary I in 1554 with the Court of Exchequer taking over its duties. This is perhaps not surprising given her attempt to reverse the Reformation.
Court of the Exchequer (16th Century to 1875)
The Court of Exchequer was originally established to oversee the collection of taxes but soon developed into an equity law court dealing with any cases where, it was accepted for the purposes of the law, it could be argued that the case affected or may affect the plaintiff’s ability to pay any debts or taxes he may owe to the Crown thus affecting the Crown’s revenue. Until 1649 “litigants had to have some genuine connection with the royal revenue, as officials or tenants of the Crown”.
This logic meant that virtually anyone could bring a claim in the Court of Exchequer and plaintiffs had a choice of bringing their case in either the Court of Chancery or Exchequer.
A plaintiff may choose to start proceedings in the Court of Exchequer instead of Chancery because it was thought the process in the Exchequer was quicker. However due to its popularity, overtime “its advantages disappeared, and the court became over-burdened”. Thus, from 1841 the equity cases were transferred to the Court of Chancery.
This court was presided over by four Barons who decided cases collectively hearing disputes over title of land, tithes, wills, trusts, mortgages, bonds, manorial rights and debts.
Court of Wards and Liveries (16th Century to 1660)
This court was another court established by Henry VIII essentially as another ‘easier’ means of revenue than the Court of Exchequer. Established as a result of statutes of 1540 and 1542, its role was to supervise and administer the estates of a tenant-in-chief following his death where the heir was a minor (21 for a boy, 14 for a girl) as well as the estates of lunatics. Such minors and lunatics were made ‘wards of court’. The Court was not only responsible for the financial management of the estate and collecting feudal dues, they were also responsible for the care and marriage of young heirs.
Wardships were frequently sold either to the next of kin or the highest bidder. They may also have been given to individuals as a reward for services.
The Court of Ward and Liveries was abolished in 1660 although feudal tenures had been abolished 15 years earlier, in 1645.
Palace Court (1630 to 1849)
The Palace Court was a minor civil law court which sat in Southwark with jurisdiction limited to within 12 miles of the Palace of Westminster, mainly hearing small debt claims with a value of below £5 (raised to £10 by the Frivolous Arrests Act 1725 and to £20 by the Imprisonment for Debt Act 1827), superior courts heard cases above this value. The figure of £5 was raised to £10 by the Frivolous Arrests Act 1725 and to £20 by the Imprisonment for Debt Act 1827. Its lower limit for the value of claims was 40 shillings. This court was abolished in 1849.
The civil court system since 1875 has been much simplified comprising: The High Court of Justice in London with law administered on a local level in County Courts; the Court of Appeal; and the Supreme Court of Judicature. There are then the appeal courts: The Court of Appeal, the Privy Council (limited jurisdiction) and the UK Supreme Court.
 As this was during the reign of Queen Victoria; known as King’s bench during the reign of a King
 So named by Privy Council Appeals Act 1832 being the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (see below)
 Moore Tracing your Ancestors through the Equity Courts page 9
 They hear appeals from UK overseas territories and Crown dependencies and those Commonwealth countries that have retained the appeal to Her Majesty in Council or, in the case of Republics, to the Judicial Committee.
The transportation of criminals was originally introduced in 1615 at a time when England sought an alternative to hanging. From 1615 to 1775 criminal were transported to colonies in North America, such as Virginia. Such transportation ceased with the start of the American civil war. However, without a sufficient central prison system the transportation system was re-introduced in 1787, this time to the new land of New South Wales (NSW), Australia which Captain James Cook had discovered only 17 years earlier.
Transportation to Australia continued until 1868 during which time in excess of 160,000 men, women and children were transported and the areas colonised included NWS, Tasmania from 1803-1853 and Western Australia from 1850-1868. In finding out whether your Australian ancestor was a convict it is important to know which states and at what times convicts were sent.
Convicts were usually transported to serve a sentence of either 7 years or 14 years. Once their term had been served the individual would be given a ‘Certificate of Freedom’ was free to return to their home country although few did. A sentence of transportation for life in the case of the most serious offences meant that the individual would never return home, even if they were released early.
Many convicts sentenced to transportation would seek a pardon. “If a convict had been particularly helpful to the authorities (for example, helping them recapture escapees) then a Conditional Pardon could be issued. Very rarely, in exceptional circumstances transported convicts could receive a Royal Pardon, which was an absolute and unconditional pardon”.
Anyone researching their Australian roots, particularly where it is known those roots are not of native Australia (i.e. Aborigines) will first need to trace the origins their ancestors back to the earliest known in an ancestor in Australia. This should initially be carried out using Birth, Marriage and Death records and census records.
Birth, Marriage and Death records (B/M/D)
Compulsory civil registration began in Australia at different times in different states:
Tasmania 1838 1 Dec
South Australia 1842 1 Jul
Western Australia 1841 9 Sep
Victoria 1853 1 July
Queensland 1856 1 March
New South Wales 1856 1 March
Northern Territory 1870 24 Aug
Australian Capital Territory 1930 1 Jan
However, records of B/M/D were kept prior to these dates, much as in England, in church records of baptism, marriage and burials. As in England, indexes to B/M/D have been prepared and include records before compulsory civil registration was introduced which were created from the church records by the registrars. These records are available online on both the English and Australian versions of the Ancestry website and on the Find My Past website, spanning the years:
New South Wales 1788-1910
Northern Territory 1870-1910
Queensland 1829-1910, 1915-1919
South Australia 1842-1922
Western Australia 1841-1905
Birth indexes are searchable by name, year of birth, place of birth and names of parents; marriage indexes by name, year of marriage, place of marriage and name of spouse; death indexes by year of death, place of death, estimated year of birth, father’s name and mother’s surname.
Copies of certificates would need to be obtained from the appropriate registry office:
The information to be found on the certificate will depend on when and in which state the event took place but largely they followed the style of certificate the same certificates in England.
Census records in Australia began earlier in Australia than in England. By 1828 many convicts had served their sentences and had settled as free men. They could no longer be compelled to attend the annual musters and therefore the first census was conducted in New South Wales. These are available in two copies – one held in Australia, one held at The National Archives (TNA) in England.
Censuses were then held in 1833, 1836, 1841, 1846, 1851, 1856, 1861 after which they were held every ten years to 1901. The returns New South Wales (NSW), Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia for 1851 through to 1891 appear to have been destroyed in the Garden Palace Fire of 1882. Census returns for the Northern Territory survive for 1881 through to 1921. The records which do survive are again, much like those in England, they are the Collectors books and not the actual household schedules.
The following surviving records can be searched online by name, year of birth and place/territory:
1828 New South Wales, Australia Census (Australian Copy)
1828 New South Wales, Australia Census (TNA Copy)
1841 New South Wales, Australia, Census (including what are now the states of Victoria and Queensland)
1891 New South Wales, Australia Census
1901 New South Wales, Australia Census
The census returns include details of where a person was born and therefore the earliest ancestor to arrive in Australia having being born in England (or Ireland) should be able to be located unless of course the earliest ancestor to arrive, arrived during the period 1851 to the end of transportation in 1868. If that is the case, there are census substitutes available:
Population Musters of convicts and military (see below);
Electoral rolls which began in NSW in 1842;
Trade Directories which began in the early 1800’s;
Depasturing licenses of grants of land from the Crown to settlers;
Rate and valuation books from the later 1850’s;
Lists of convicts (see below).
Many of these records are available online at previously named websites and www.familysearch.org. They can also be found in most major archives and libraries in Australia.
Population Musters of convicts and military
Prior to, and beyond, the 1828 census population counts or Musters took place in NSW in 1800 (settlers); 1806 (first complete muster that has survived); 1811 (convicts, including those given tickets of leave, pardons etc); 1814; 1816 to 1821 (convicts); 1822; 1823 (military not included) to 1825 (military not included); and 1837.
And in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) 1811 and 1808 to 1849.
They contained more information than would be found on an ordinary census, with some early musters list children, wives, and servants:
Status (convict, free, military);
Ship of arrival
Trial date and place
Sentence and any other remarks.
So, where an ancestor can be found in the population musters the information found can be used to trace that ancestor back to their origins in England. Where it is identified that the ancestor was a convict the information found in respect of the ship they arrived on, their trial date and place, will help direct the researcher to records held at The National Archives (TNA) and more locally in England.
Lists/Returns of Convicts
If an ancestor cannot be found in the Population musters, they may be found in the Lists or Returns of Convicts. The Convicts Index 1791 to 1873 (“A single searchable database containing certificates of freedom; bank accounts; deaths; exemptions from Government Labor; pardons; tickets of leave; and, tickets of leave passports. There are 140,000+ entries to search”) is available to search for free at New South Wales Government State Archives and Records website provides:
The same website also contains a Convict Indents (Digitised) Index for 1788 to 1801 which is a fully digitised index containing a list of the convicts transported to NSW. “Early indents provide name, date and place of trial and sentence; later indents usually contain more information such as a physical description, native place, age and crime”.
The index to convict indents and ships for New South Wales and Van Diemen’s land from 1788 to 1842 are also available on microfiche at TNA.
The New South Wales Government State Archives and Records website is a good place to start researching convict records in Australia once the first ancestor to arrive in Australia is known, particularly for those researchers living in Australia.
However, there are a vast amount of records available in England for those researchers based in England.
Series HO11 held at TNA is a list “of convicts transported in various ships, giving the dates of their convictions. Transcripts of these registers can be accessed via the State Library of Queensland website”.
The Convict Transportation Register can downloaded for free from the TNA website and the following can be searched online at www.ancestry.com.au:
Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Other Fleets & Ships, 1791-1868
Australian Convict Transportation Registers – First Fleet, 1787-1788
Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Third Fleet, 1791
Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Second Fleet, 1789-1790
And include the convicts name, date and place of conviction, term of sentence, name of ship on which they sailed to Australia, date of departure date and the name of the colony to which they were sent.
This will help confirm the information which may already have been found in the population muster or lists/returns of convicts. However, it may also be useful where the first known ancestor to Australia cannot be found in the census, musters or list/return of convicts because such records may be incomplete. Where a person is named, for example on a birth certificate as a parent, then the Convict Transport Register can be searched for them. If not in these records, then it is probable that the ancestor was not a convict but arrived as either a free settler or military/naval personnel.
Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania: Records 1787-1859
Found in series HO 10held at TNA this is another list “of the male and female convicts and former convicts in the colonies giving particulars as to their sentences, employment, settlement in the country, the land and cattle acquired by them and other information; lists of pardons granted; lists of convicts embarked for and arriving in New South Wales; general musters and census of 1828 relating to settlers and convicts”.
These records can be downloaded for free from TNA website. These records not only help with tracing the origins of an ancestor in England but may provide further details of their lives after serving their sentence and their then settlement in the country.
Other records available at TNA which can be used to identify whether a named ancestor was a convict (not digitised)
TS 18/460 – 515: Contracts for the transportation of convicts, naming convicts, with date and place of trial and sentence;
HO31/1: Orders of the Privy Council 1782 to 1794 contain lists of convicts for transportation;
PC 1/2715: Lists of Convicts embarked on the ship Eden to New South Wales, with correspondence, 1840;
PC 1/2716: Lists of Convicts embarked on the ship Tortoise to Van Diemen’s Land, with correspondence, 1841;
PC 1/2717: Lists of Convicts embarked on the ship Elphinstone to Van Diemen’s Land, with correspondence, 1842;
PC 1/2718: Lists of Convicts embarked on the ship Anson to Van Diemen’s Land, with correspondence, 1843;
T 1 Treasury Board papers and T 53 Treasury Money Books also contain ships’ lists of convicts who were transported.
Prison Hulk Records – records held at TNA
HO 9/1 – 15: Convict Prison Hulks: Registers
Registers of convicts in the prison hulks, 1802 to 1849, arranged by hulk name
1811 to 1843 images and indexes can be downloaded for free the TNA website
ADM 6/418, 420, 422: Registers of convicts in prison hulks, with gaolers’ reports 1814 to 1835, each indexed at ADM 6/419, 421, 423 respectively.
PCOM 2/105: Portsmouth Prison, Hampshire: registers of prisoners, nos. 1-1477 from Sept 30, 1847 to Apr 18, 1853
Images and indexes are available at www.findmypast.co.uk in series in their series England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935;
PCOM 2/131 to 137: Registers of convicts on specific prison hulks from 1837 to 1860
Images and indexes are available at www.findmypast.co.uk in their series England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935;
HO 8/74: Quarterly returns of convicts in prison hulks for 1842 Dec
Available at TNA only.
These records will provide details of name, age, offence committed, when and where tried, date of transfer to a ship for transportation. This essentially forms a paper trail of the convict’s movements between conviction and transportation. Many prisoners were initially held on prison hulks awaiting transportation. Not all were in fact transported. The records may not provide any additional information which may have been gained from other record discussed above however they could be used in alternative to those set out above or as confirmation of information already obtained.
Petitions for clemency and pardons
Series HO 17 and HO 18 held at TNA hold original petitions made by or on behalf of convicts asking for a revocation or reduction of their sentences. “Attached to some petitions are related papers and some returns, made by the governors of convict prisons, of convicts recommended for early release for good behaviour”.
HO 17 holds petitions made between 1819 and 1839;
HO 18 holds petitions made between 1839 and 1853.
There is an index to the petitions which can be found in HO 19 arranged alphabetically giving the reference of the original petition, the place of imprisonment and the outcome of the petition.
Petitions are most likely to include personal information regarding the convict, such as their age, family circumstances, where he lived prior to his conviction, previous good character, his occupation and any extenuating circumstances.
Once the court and/or area is known, before searching the court records it may be worth searching newspaper reports to see what further information may be gleaned about the case and the convict. Newspaper reports often include personal information about those they are reporting on, including age, occupation, where they were from, where the offence was committed and sometimes details of their family. The largest collection can be found at the British Library but there are several websites where newspapers can be searched:
Local newspapers will also be available in the local archives for the area where the trial took place.
Once you know the court your ancestor convicts’ trial was heard then the court records can be searched for more information. To be sentenced to transportation, a convict had committed a serious offence which would have been heard in either their local Assize Court or the Old Bailey/Central Criminal Court.
Assize court records, where they exist, are largely held at TNA although some may be found at local archives (for example searching the Surrey History Centre online catalogue there are various papers from the assize courts which appear to have been provided to the archives from personal collections or as part of the Quarter Session records), however many records were destroyed. Records may be found in various series held at TNA, none of which are digitised and can only be viewed at TNA:
ASSI 1 – 54: Records of the Justices of Assize from 1554 to 1971 arranged by circuits;
KB 6/1 – 6: Depositions 1836-1886;
KB 10/1 – 92: Indictments (London and Middlesex) 1675-1845;
KB 11/1 – 107: Indictment (Rest of England) 1676-1845;
KB 12/1 – 228: Indictments files for all counties 1846-1926;
KB 19/1 – 3: Pleadings
It should be noted that the Palatine courts of Chester, Durham and Lancaster (Lancashire) merged into the assizes system in 1876. Prior to this their respective court records will need to be searched at TNA is series CHES, DURH and PL
Old Bailey and Central Criminal Court
The Old Bailey was essentially the Assize court for the City of London until 1834 when the Central Criminal Court was established. The Central Criminal Court had jurisdiction over the City of London, Middlesex, parts of Essex, Kent, Surrey, crimes committed at sea and abroad.
Old Bailey/Central Criminal Court session papers are held Guildhall Library and at TNA in series PCOM 1 for 1801 to 1904 and CRIM 10 for 1834-1912.
Civil registration, census returns, parish records and parish registers.
Once you have found, from any of the resources above, where the convict ancestor lived at the time they were convicted, then further research can be continued in the well-known genealogical record, to find their origins (parentage etc) depending on the period of time:
post 1837 – civil registration records
1841 and beyond – decennial census returns
pre-1837 – parish registers and records.
The records discussed above represent a sample of records available to help trace the origins of a convict transported to Australia. There are numerous other records available both in Australia and England, online and off. The National Library of Australia has a very helpful research guide as does TNA and both should be consulted where such a research task is to be undertaken.
 “A guide to tracing your transported convict ancestors by Dr David J Cox
Uniformity Act of
Clergy were given
one year to adopt the Prayer book or face stiff penalties as would anyone
speaking out against the Prayer book:
First offence –
confiscation of income for a year and 6 months imprisonment;Second offence
– 1 year imprisonment with no bail and then stripped of his church position;Third offence –
The 1552 Act
introduced a revised Prayer book and extended the penalties to imprisonment
for anyone attending other forms of service
the Heresy Acts
Which had been
repealed under Henry VIII and Edward VI:
Letters Patent 1382Henry IV’s
Heresy Act 1401Henry V’s
Heresy Act 1414
Session records (see below)
A lack of
Catholics appearing in these records during this period demonstrates this
period of toleration of Catholics.
supremacy of the Church of England repealing the heresy laws Mary I had
The Book of Common
Prayer was introduced, similar to the prayer book of 1552 but retaining some
Catholic elements. Clergy faced stiff
penalties for failing to comply:
First offence – forfeit their benefice for a year
and 6 months imprisonment;
Second offence – 1 year imprisonment with no
bail and then stripped of his church position;
Third offence – life imprisonment.
out against the Book of Common Prayer or attempted to disrupt parish services
also faced penalties:
First two offences – a fine;
Third offence – life imprisonment
Anyone failing to
attend their parish church for Sunday service or on a holy day would be fined
time they failed to attend.
In 1563 the death
penalty was introduced for priests who continued to hold mass. Those who
continued to defend the supremacy of the pope had their property seized.
accounts (as above)Quarter
records (as above)
Papal Bull ‘Regnans
Catholics to be a heretic, releasing even those who had sworn the oath of
supremacy from allegiance to the monarchy. The bull also excommunicate any
Catholic obeyed the monarchy’s orders!
It became high
treason to bring any further papal bulls into England and to call the monarch
a heretic or schismatic.
Session records (see below)
The penalties for
Fine of £20 per month
Fine of 100 marks and a years imprisonment for
From 1581 if
anyone converted to Catholicism or attempted to convert anyone else to
Catholicism, the penalty was death.
A further Act was
passed forbidding Catholic education of children.
From 1586 failure
to pay a fine would result in a recusant losing land they owned, a penalty
which, from 1604 could be imposed in place of the £20 per month fine.
Session records (see below)Pipe Rolls 1581
Include the names
and fines imposed on Catholics yearly; largely written in Latin and arranged
by county; held by the Exchequer – copies provided to the Chancery.
Archives series E372
(not digitised)Catholic Record
Society publication: “Recusants in the Exchequer Pipe Rolls, 1581-1592” by T.
An index of Pipe
Rolls is also available at the Pipe Roll Society
Jesuits, Seminary Priests and such other like Disobedient Persons
A further act to
and Seminary priests
to take the oath of allegiance to the Queen. Failure to do so within 40 days
was an act of high treason unless they left the country. Any person who
harboured or knew of the whereabouts of a Jesuit or Seminary priest and
failed to inform the authorities, would be penalised:
A fine of 200 marks
Execution if the authorities wished to make an
example of the priest.
Any Jesuit or
Seminary priest who were or travelled overseas, had to return to England
within six months to swear the oath of allegiance (within two days of their
arrival) and swear to submit to the Queen, or face the penalties for treason.
Once taken the oath, they were forbidden for a period of 10 years to come
within 10 miles of the Queen without her personal written permission or face
the penalties for treason. If they left England for more than six months
their land would be forfeited.
Session records (see below)
Anyone who refused
to accept the authority of the monarchy and thus the Church of England and
Book of Common Prayer, were not permitted to buy or sell land.
Session records (see below)Pipe Rolls
1581 – 1591 (as above)
Act for Retaining
the Queen’s Subjects in their due Obedience
Required all over
the age of 16 years to attend an Anglican Church service. Failure to attend
for a period of one month would result in imprisonment without bail, for such
period as they refused to attend, as would their encouragement to any other
person not to attend. If they continued to refuse to attend for a period of
three months they would be removed and exiled from England and any other
countries within the queen’s realm until and unless they were licenced by the
queen to return.
Catholics were no
longer permitted to travel more than a five mile radius from their home. The
penalty for doing so without permission was a loss of all goods, chattels,
lands, tenements, hereditaments rents and annuities due to them during their
life. This was however never enforced during the reign of Elizabeth I which
ended with her death 1603 when she was succeeded by James I (James VI of
session records (see below)Recusant
rolls 1591 – 1691
Rolls recording names and fines of recusants in place of Pipe Rolls. Arranged
by county, containing:
Land seized from recusants, detailing:
Name of recusant;Rent due to the Crown;Description of land;Date of seizure;Name of commissioner affecting seizure of land;Memoranda Roll record authorising seizure of land;Name of Crown’s lessee (if any);Arrears;Total debt;Payments made;
Goods and chattels seized, detailing:
Name of recusant;Amount of forfeiture;Articles seized;
Sheriffs charge and final audit
Enrolment of new convictions, detailing:
Name and address of recusant;duration of recusancy;date of conviction;amount of debt
National Archives series E376 and E377 (not digitised)Catholic Record Society publications: “Recusant Roll
No. 1, 1592-3, Exchequer, Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer by M.M.C Calthrop ;
“ Recusant Rolls no 2, 1593-1594. An abstract in English by Hugh Bowler”;
“Recusant Rolls no 3, 1594-1595 and recusant roll no. 4, 1595-1596. An abstract
in English by Hugh Bowler”
James I promised
to “neither persecute any that will be quiet and give but an outward
obedience to the law [nor to] spare to advance any of them that will by good
service worthily deserve it”
he did made it clear that unity and uniformity of the church was his aim,
proclaiming in July 1604 that all clergy were to fully conform to the Book of
Common Prayer by 30November 1604.
Recusants Act (Following the Gunpowder Plot)Oath of
Catholics practicing in the legal or medical professions, the military and
from acting as guardians or trustees;
Calling for them
to swear a new Oath of Allegiance to the monarchy denying the authority of
Making it high
treason to obey the pope over the monarchy, imprisoning those who refused to
swear the oath.
There was an
incentive of £50
for those who identified priests and members of their congregations
The rules also
applied to any protestant who took a Catholic wife!
session records (see below)Oath of
Allegiance rolls 1606 – 1828 (see below)
the Oath of Allegiance
To be taken by all
Catholics over the age of 18 with penalties including:
Loss of rent and personal property
£100 fine for failing to baptise a child within
one month of birth by Anglican clergy;
On marriage any property of the recusant bride
would be forfeited; if she had none £100 fine was payable;
recusants could be imprisoned until the conformed or their husband paid to
redeem them for £10 per month
Session records (see below)Oath of
Allegiance Rolls see below)
introduced a double rate on taxes for Catholics.
Lay Subsidy Rolls (cover period 1275 to 1665)
imposed on moveable property (not land) from time to time. The name, village
and parish of a Catholic can be identified as they had to pay double the
Archives series E179
and E359;County record
History societies – e.g. West Surrey Family History Society have an ongoing
project to transcribe the Surrey Lay Subsidy Rolls.
for Compounding with Recusants
A commission set
up to investigate concealed sources of revenue recusants may have had and any
amounts available which could be recovered from poorer recusants. Convicted
recusants were targeted by obtaining information from the quarter session records who had to
bargain with the commissioners and usually agree an increased rent to lease
their land which had been seized from them and in order to pay fines and
arrears of fines.
Charles I introduced
a further Oath of Allegiance requiring all men over the age of 18 years to
deny catholic beliefs. Those who refused lost most of their estates, both
real and personal.
Taken by members
of the House of Commons and House of Lords – demonstrates lack of Catholics
in official positions
League of Covenant 1644
This was an
agreement in which Scotland agreed to support the English Parliamentarians in
their disputes with the royalists and was signed throughout England and Scotland
– demonstrates support against Catholics
Oath Returns 1641 – 1642
village, parish and occupation of all those who took the oath and Catholics
who refused to sign. Remaining records cover about one third of the country.
Archives series SP28
Genealogy – for some parts of the countryLondon
Metropolitan Archives – City of London and various London districtsCounty record
for the Sequestration of Delinquents Estates/ Committee for Compounding for
the Estates of Royalists and Delinquents
A committee set up
at the beginning of the civil war much like the earlier Commission for Compounding with Recusants. Their role was to
seize and confiscate land from and/or impose fines on royalists, papists and
guilty of blasphemy and/or heresy would suffer the death penalty unless they
This act provided
for less severe penalties:
first offence –
six month imprisonment;second offence
– Banished from the country not to return without a licence
repealing penalties for nonattendance at church
It was no longer a
legal requirement to attend the parish church. Penalties for blasphemy and
heresy still continued.
records (see below)
Issued by Charles
II promising to bring religious freedom at the start of the Restoration.
Although it appears this was not to include Catholics!
Clarendon Code – a collection of four Acts of
Parliament designed to weaken the nonconformist movement including Catholics
and Protestant nonconformist sects:Corporation
were excluded from official positions unless they swore the oath of
allegiance, renounced the Solemn League and Covenant
of 1643 and accepted the supremacy of the monarchy.
clergy to be:
ordained episcopally;renounce the Solemn
League and Covenant;accept and
preach the new Book of Common Prayer
were liable to three months imprisonment if they continued to preach in
public or worked as a private tutor or schoolmaster without first obtaining a
licence to do so from an archbishop, bishop or ordinary of the diocese.
If clergy remained
in office or attained office in the Church of England without episcopal
ordination the penalty was a fine of £100.
more than 5 persons (including the priest!) became illegal, even in private
houses. The penalties for breach were:
First offence –
fine of £5 or 3 months imprisonment;Second offence
– fine of £10 or 6 months imprisonment;Third offence –
transportation for seven years to a foreign plantation (other than New
priests were no longer allowed to approach within 5 miles of any former
parish or town save to pass through on the road. The penalties for doing so were:
Fine of £40
imprisoned for persistent offending resulting from the simple need to make a
session records (see below)Oath of
Allegiance Rolls (see below)Sacramental
First offence –
fine of £20Subsequent
offences – fine of £40
session records (see below)
Charles II forced
this Declaration through Parliament, legally enabling Catholics
to practice their religion by allowing them hold mass in private
(nonconformists could apply for licences to establish meeting houses).
However due to the strength of the continued anti-Catholic he was forced to
quickly repeal it with the Test Act.
the need for civil and military offices (including priests/clergy) to swear
the oath of allegiance and supremacy of the monarchy and provide a
sacramental certificate confirming they had taken Anglican Communion, which
would be signed by the Anglican minister and churchwarden of the parish and
further witnessed by two credible witnesses. This act did not apply to MP’s
and peers. Thus a second Test Act was introduced.
Allegiance rolls (see below)Sacramental
certificates (see below)
Constables were ordered to provide a list of those attending Anglican
services, including nonconformists and recusants over the age of 16 years to
the local Justice of the Peace (JP) who then called on each person listed to
take the oath of allegiance. If they refused the penalty was imprisonment.
The lists became known as the Compton Census.
providing details of the places of worship and the size of their
congregations demonstrating the distribution of religious sects, in
particular parishes where Catholicism thrived or died. A small number may
contain names of individuals.
session rolls (see below)
This required all
members of the House of Lords and the House
of Commons to make declarations
against transubstantiation, invocation of saints, and the sacrament of Mass, with the effect of excluding Catholics from both houses, in particular evicting the five Catholic Lords from the House of Lords.
Rolls 1537 – 1837
Record fines and
bonds due to the Exchequer following legal proceedings.
Rolls 1537 – 1837
Record debts due
to the Exchequer where the sheriff attempted to collect but there were
insufficient funds to pay.
Archives series E362
(not digitised) arranged by County
of Indulgence and reissued in 1688
James II was an
openly Catholic King and made his own declaration of indulgence, suspending
both the Test Act and other earlier Acts restricting religious freedom. James
II began a policy of appointing Catholics to positions of power e.g. JP’s,
MP’s and Lords-Lieutenants.
for example, at The National archives:
Series C 216
“Chancery: Petty Bag Office: Admission Rolls of Officers
Allowed freedom of
worship provided Protestant nonconformists swore an oath of allegiance.
Catholics were specifically excluded! The Clarendon Code Acts and Test Act
were still in force.
Allegiance rolls (see below)
A double land tax
rate was introduced for Catholic land owners.
assessment and records
Yearly records of tax imposed on
owners whose land was valued in excess of 20s. Catholic land owners can be
identified by the rate of tax they paid – double rate. Arranged by county, the
records provide the names of the land owner, tenants and occupiers;
the name and parish address of the property; rental value; amount of tax due.
Archives series IR 23,
and IR 24County Record
Offices – duplicates: often quite difficult to find due to lack of
transcription and indexing at local levelGuild Library –
City of London records
Quarter Session records / estate
papers / parish records
Assessments prior to 1780
An Act for
the Better Security of His Majesties’ Royal Person and Government
attempted assassination of William III, the Solemn Association Oath had to be
sworn by military personnel and civil officers of the Crown.
Association Oath Rolls
Include those who refused to swear the oath such
as Catholics. Many of the records contain original signatures, but they also
include marks and listings made by clerks.
National Archives series C 213, C 214/8-12,
KB 24/1, KB 24/2County Record OfficesLondon Metropolitan Archives
(City of London and various London districts)
Enacted in 1700
the Act reinforced the laws against practising Catholics, the penalty for
which could be “perpetuall Imprisonment”.
Further Catholics were forbidden from inheriting or purchasing land and could
face fines for sending their children abroad to be educated.
Quarter session records (see below)
Succession ActSecurity of
the Sovereign Act
required to take an oath denying the right of James II’s son the right to
succeed the throne.
allegiance, test and abjuration roll (see below)
In the wake of the
Jacobite rebellion, everyone over the age of 18 was required to swear an oath
also required to register details of their estates, including documents such
as Wills, conveyances of land and/or property with the county Clerk of the
Peace. This was further reinforced in 1723 when Catholics refusing to swear
the oath of allegiance were now required to register their names and details
of their estates at quarter sessions or have their property seized. Seizure
of property was overseen by the Forfeiture Estates Commission.
allegiance, test and abjuration roll (see below)Quarter
session records (see below)Close Rolls
By the Court of
Chancery giving order and instructions to royal officials and subject;By private
individuals to enrol documents such as deeds of land, wills, leases and quit
claims amongst many other documents.
Catholic wills should have been enrolled
after 1715 and can provide names, addresses, occupations, details of family, land/property
etc as set out in their enrolled wills.
Archives series C 54
and also PRO 31
(various subseries, for example, PRO 31/7/173
Extracts from Close Rolls) (not digitised)
Hardwicke’s Marriage Act
required to marry in an Anglican Church
registers – as discussed above
The first Act
towards toleration of Catholics enabling them to own land and freeing them
from persecution, repealing the 1698 Act.
Property Records including Title Deeds
Ownership of land/property and how they were conveyed. Documents will
not themselves identify Catholics however where a person has not previously
been registered as an owner of land, it may indicate they were Catholic.
Records provide name, address, occupation, marital status of vendor and
purchaser, description of land or property, family relationships (especially
if land has been passed through generations), dates of death, wills and maps
are sometimes attached.
The National Archives – various
records within division CP including:concords of fines in CP 24/1-CP
24/13feet of fines in CP 25/1 and CP
25/2notes of fines in CP 26/1-CP
26/14entry books recording the
public announcement of fines in CP 27enrolments of writs for fines
and recoveries in CP 28rules to amend fines and
recoveries in CP 30books recording the king’s
silver in CP 34 and CP 35recovery rolls in CP 43portions of broken writs of covenant
files in CP 50, with the complete files in CP 55files of writs of entry in CP
56concords files in CP 61and enrolments of writs of
entry in CP 65County Record Offices – Surrey
History Centre has various conveyancing documents relating to individual
estates/families.British LibraryLand RegistrySolicitors, (building societies and banks in later
Lack of further
offences recorded of the nature set out in the 1698 Act reflects this new
The second Act
towards toleration of Catholics enabling Catholics to register and open their
own chapels. Despite this, marriage and burials could still only take place
legally in Anglican churches.
registers– as discussed aboveCatholic Church registers and records
catholic chapels began registers of baptism, confirmation, marriage and
death. Baptisms registers include:
Name of child
and parents (inc mother’s maiden name)Date of baptism
(and possibly birth)Names of
godparents or ‘sponsers’
records may be found: Catholics would have an Anglican service to “legalise”
their marriage and have a Catholic marriage service which may be recorded in
the Catholic registers. Marriage registers include:
Names of bride
and groom (inc brides maiden name)Names of
ages of both parties, place of birth for bride and names of parents of both
The same principal
applies to death/burials of Catholics who had to be buried at an Anglican
church yard until 1852 (see below).
Burial registers include:
age, name(s) of deceased wife and children
It should be noted
that these registers were usually in Latin until 1965.
Archives(see The Non-Parochial Registers Act below);County Record
Offices (Catholic registers at Surrey History Centre appear to begin in the
20th Century (see The Non-Parochial Registers Act below);Diocesan
Archives – For my local Diocese of Guildford they are held at the Surrey
History Centre (County Record Office);Catholic Record
Society – Catholic church registers published for various locations in
National Library – Mission Registers (listing baptisms, confirmations,
marriages and deaths) amongst a large collection of Catholic history books
Session Records (see below)
majority of the remaining restrictions on Catholics allowing them to take up
most public offices including parliamentary seats.
session records (see below)
Catholics to marry in their own churches and chapels although burials were
still required to take place at Anglican churches.
registration certificates – birth, marriage, death
marriage certificate which will provide details of the place of marriage i.e.
Non-Parochial Registers Act
registration it was requested that the registers of nonconformist sects,
including Catholics, be deposited with the Registrar General, however few if
any were deposited by Catholics. These registers are therefore likely still
be in the hands of the individual Catholic church.
registers deposited both in 1840 and 1857 at the National Archives can be
General Register Office: Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths
surrendered to the Non-parochial Registers Commissions of 1837 and 1857
arranged by County and then alphabetically by placeSeries RG8:
General Register Office: Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths
surrendered to the Non Parochial Registers Commission of 1857, and other
registers and church records.
are also available from http://www.thegenealogist.co.uk
legally able to establish their own burial grounds. Municipal cemeteries developed
during this century and may have also been used for Catholic burials
registers of Catholic burial sites
As pre catholic
registers discussed above
Assizes/Quarter Session Records
Catholics were essentially criminalised. Quarter
session records contain perhaps the largest collections of records providing
details of Catholics (and other nonconformists) including (but not limited to):
Indictments and Presentments – Details of Catholics fined,
imprisoned, banished from the country and sentenced to execution;
Sacrament certificates (see below);
Oaths of Allegiance including lists of those refusing to take
the various Oaths (see below) (Chancery Court/Exchequer Court or King’s Bench
division records if the person lived within 30 miles of London);
Declarations against transubstantiation;
Registers of names and estates of Catholics who refused to
take the Oath of Allegiance following the Papist Act 1715, arranged alphabetically
by county and town;
Records of land and property seized for failing to take the
Oath of Allegiance and/or registering their names and estates;
Certificates of Roman Catholic Chapels and priests following
the 1791 Catholic Relief Act
These numerous records can provide names, addresses
and occupations of those Catholics prosecuted or who had land seized, or who
registered themselves as required. They may include details of family members.
Calendars of Prisoners: Surrey Sessions and Assizes
Land Tax Assessment Books
Registration of the Estates of Roman Catholics
Certificates of Protestant dissenting and Roman Catholic
places of Worship and related documents
Metropolitan Archives – Proceedings at the Old Bailey
of Genealogists e.g. calendars of prisoners, microfiche copies of summary
convictions and other court records
Library – including legislation, cases and traditional legal commentary
newspapers often reported on criminal proceedings
Oath Rolls and Sacramental Certificates
As can be seen from the table above, oaths of
allegiance and supremacy were required to be sworn at various times. The oath rolls
provide a list of names, addresses and occupation of those taking the oaths and
frequently a list of those refusing to take the oaths. Both lists may include
Catholics as some Catholics may have chosen to take the oath to avoid criminal
proceedings. In particular if a Catholic wished to serve in an official office
(military, parliament, courts etc) under following the Clarendon Code.
Those swearing the oath obtained a Sacramental
Certificate as proof they had received communion in the Church of England.
Oath rolls began in 1606 and essentially ended with
the oaths of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration under the reinforced Papist
Act of 1723. The location and availability of Oath Rolls for 1723 can be found
in the publication “The 1723 oath rolls in England: an electronic finding list”
by Edward Vallance.
TNA series C 203/6 includes certificates naming those who
failed to swear the oaths of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration as required
by the Security of the Sovereign Act 1714.
After the Catholic Relief Act of 1778 Catholics were
able to sign a new oath of allegiance which can be located at the National
Archives series E169/79 – 83
and “The rolls contain the actual
signatures of persons taking an oath and most of them state the form of the
oath to be taken, together with the authorising statute…While a few of the rolls give places of residence, only one roll (E 169/80) includes full addresses”. These have not been
digitised and are only available at TNA.
There is also a wealth of records available at TNA
series PC 1 (not digitised) such as:
Returns of Catholics for several counties PC 1/20/31
Roman Catholics: Lists of Roman Catholics who have taken the
oath during 1796 PC 1/37/107
Roman Catholic Oaths: List for Westminster, London PC
Certificates under 31 Geo III, c 32 (1791) relating to Roman
Catholics PC 1/2937
Returns of papists who have taken oath in accordance with Act
of 31 Geo III PC 1/19/26/2
Sacramental certificates provide the name, address and
occupation of the individual, the date sacrament was received, name of the
church, name of the minister, churchwarden and the witnesses, and can be found
at TNA series:
C 224 Chancery: Petty Bag Office: Sacrament Certificates 1673
E 196 Exchequer: King’s Remembrance: Sacramental Certificates
1702 – 1827
There are also many other records relating to oath
rolls at TNA, too many to discuss further and many of which may not be relevant
to Catholics as they refused to swear the oaths, save, as stated above, some
rolls do also contain lists of those refusing to swear the oath and thus those
records should not be overlooked in any search undertaken.
Returns of Papists (Catholics)
These were censuses
taken nationwide in 1680, 1705, 1744, 1767 and 1780 to record the number of
Catholics in the country, arranged in dioceses by town/village. These were
essentially used to identify Catholics and ensure the penalties in force at the
time were imposed, hence lists of names can be found amongst quarter session
records. Some of the returns record numbers but others record names, ages,
addresses, occupations, family members and how long they have lived in the
The 1767 return has
been published by the Catholic Record Society and the 1767 return for London
has been published by the Society of Genealogy.
 An agreement made at the
beginning of the Civil War by which the Scottish Parliament agreed to support
the English Parliamentarians in their disputes with the royalists; both
countries pledging to work for a civil and religious union of England, Scotland, and Ireland
under a Presbyterian–parliamentary system
The Battle of Trafalgar which
took place on 21st October 1805 was only one of the battle which
took place during the Napoleonic war, however it is the most famous and most
written about, not in the least because it was of course the battle in which
Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson was killed on his flagship HMS Victory, now one of
the main attractions at the Historic Dockyards in Portsmouth, where there is also
a dedicated permanent exhibition to him: a good place to start to research his
life and career, including a time line of Nelson the man and Nelson the “Hero”.
There is also the Nelson Museum in Monmouth.
There are “over a 1000 books”
detailing the life of Nelson, “more than 20 films and television programmes”
and countless online resources, including various letters written by him
regarding his fleets’ movements, his concerns and thoughts and the day to day
management of his fleet from 1804 to 1805
and a collection of 251 letters (representing a sample) he wrote to his wife
over a fifteen all held by the Navy Records Society. These can provide an
overall picture of the life of an officer or seaman sailing in Nelson’s fleet
at the period, including the Battle of Trafalgar and the personal life of
Nelson himself. There are similar letters written by Vice-Admiral Lord
Collingwood between 1794 and 1809.
But what about the countless
other officers who served in the Battle of Trafalgar: both commissioned
and warrant officers.
A list of some 1640 officers and
men who served at the Battle of Trafalgar
comprising of 7 files compiled alphabetically by surname. There is also a list
of those officers killed and wounded. This is also therefore a good place to
start to check if your ancestor took part in the battle. The list provides the
name, rank, ship and “other clasps” (other medals) which they were entitled to,
“GRAHAM Thos LM Victory
GRANTHAM Abrahm Sailmaker
GRAY Francis Mid
Orian entitled to Venerable 16 Jan ?
Produced monthly from
1782 to 1816 and provided various lists, such as:
A full alphabetical list of the Royal Naval
vessels, their commanders/captains and their stations;
A list of British was ships lost, taken or
A list of enemy ships lost, taken or destroyed;
A list of Admirals, Commodores,
Captains/Post-Captains, Masters and Commanders who lost their lives.
Whilst this list provides little detail it may help
answer questions such as what happened to an ancestors’ ship where little or no
other information can be found, or if records for an ancestor appear to end
abruptly with no explanation.
List of Royal Navy Post Captains 1714-1830, version 4
Published by the Navy Records
Society this is a list of 2830 men arranged by date of posting to the rank of
post captain. It provides the following details:
Date of posting to rank of post captain;
In some cases date or year of birth;
The dates they were then later promoted through
the ranks of Lieutenant, Commander, Rear-Admiral, Vice-Admiral and Admiral;
Month and year of death
Details of their fate e.g. retired, lost, died,
This list can therefore again provide brief details of the
career of those reaching the rank of post-captain and provide a starting point
for further research. Paul Martinovich states:
of birth and death can reveal interesting information about the circumstances
of an individual, and of post captains in general. Generally speaking, anyone
who was posted before the age of 25 was either particularly lucky or
well-connected, and often both. The youngest post captains were usually the
beneficiaries of flagrant acts of nepotism by their admiral relatives”
Details of being decorated for
their service may be found:
Published biographical sources
have been used alongside muster rolls, service certificates, Greenwich hospital
in-pensioner records, passing certificates and survey returns to create this
database. It contains more than 18,000 individuals “all
those who fought in Nelson’s fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar. This includes
Royal Navy commissioned and warrant officers, ratings, supernumeraries and
Royal Marines……..[which] over time aims to provide genealogical and service
details about these individuals”, so
again could be a good starting point for research providing basic information
as can be seen in the example below:
The database can be searched by surname
only or by an advanced search including:
Approximate age on 21 October 1805
Rating / rank
Marione’s The Complete Navy List of the Napoleonic Wars, 1793-1815
available on CD and is
described as “The Complete Navy
List contains the names of more than 11,000 commissioned officers who served in
the Royal Navy from 1787 onwards, up to those who entered the service before
1817. The information, which has been collected comprises individual’s careers,
their personal lives, their parents and families, the honours and pensions they
earned, and much more, and extends into what they did after the Great War”.
The Ayshford Trafalgar Rollby Pam and Derek
This Roll contains the names and details of over
21,000 men who were on the musters of the British ships on 21st October 1805
(although still on the musters, some men had been discharged before the
The ship on which he served
Rank or rating
In most cases his age and place of birth.
Other details such as families, former trades, pensions, awards, medals,
physical descriptions, pictures, injuries sustained, illnesses and date of
death where records/documents survived.
CD includes a program which allows you to search
and analyse the data in many different ways.
Band of Brothers: Lives and Memorials by Peter Hore
In terms of biographical information, this
book is a good starting point for those officer in command of the ships. It
contains a short biography on each of those commanding officers, not only who took
part in the Battle of Trafalgar, but also took part the Battle of the Nile and
the Battle of Copenhagen and the Baltic. It is important to note that Captain
Thomas Hardy and Captain Thomas Fremantle are biographed in the sections “The
Battle of the Nile” and “The Battle of Copenhagen and the Baltics”
respectively, the remaining officers are biographed in the section “The
Campaign of Trafalgar” suggesting that Hardy and Fremantle appear to be the
only two officers who fought alongside Nelson for a number of years prior to
and during his command in the Napoleonic Wars.
These biographies provide
information as to where they were born/spent their childhood years, although they
concentrate on providing a brief factual account of their routes into the Royal
Navy, the ships they sailed on, under whose command they sailed, the ranks they
held on each ship and thus their progression through the ranks. They provide
details of their role in the Battle of Trafalgar and in some cases their
relationship with Nelson himself. They also provide brief details of their
careers after the Battle of Trafalgar, when they died and where they are
buried. This is the “bare bones” of their career from which a timeline can be
drawn for easy reference.
The Naval Biographical dictionary by W O’Bryne, 1849
This, as its title suggests, is
an A–Z (by surname) dictionary of nearly five thousand naval officers, “whose
names are contained in the ‘Navy List’ for January, 1845”.
Its usefulness in terms of those who served at the Battle of Trafalgar is
therefore limited to those still living and listed on that Navy List for January
1845 but if it is known an ancestor was still living at that time then it is
certainly worth referring to.
an A – Z dictionary it is easy to search for an ancestor by their surname. Each
man listed has a biography of their career (some longer than others!).
back to our Midshipman, Francis Gray, O’Bryne’s book provides brief details of
his three brothers who he lost in the Navy and tells us he was married with two
sons and three daughters. It details his career in the Navy from entering in
1803 as a First Class Boy
on board the Pegase under Lieutenant Commander Edward Crouch. He became Midshipman in 1805 serving on the Orion
in the Battle of Trafalgar. It goes on to detail his continued service on the
Orion until December 1813 and thereafter his service on board the ships Fortune
and Venerable. It describes how “He had previously distinguished himself
in the month of Oct. 1809, in jumping overboard when the ORION was refitting in
Portsmouth Harbour, and rescuing the life of a boy named Edw. Simmons, who had
fallen overboard, and could not swim” and how “On 7 of the following June, having passed his examination nearly five
years, he was appointed Acting Lieutenant of the PIQUE….to
which frigate the Admiralty confirmed him on 26 of the next Aug”. It
describes his further service assisting “Capt.
John Marshall in the conduct of the Quarantine Establishment at Standgate
Creek” and how he later “had the
direction of the Police department of Chatham Dockyard” after which he “went, on half-pay for the purpose of joining
the merchant-service, and has not been since officially employed”.
Navy Biography by John Marshall 1760-1823
This comprises 12 volumes
providing biographies of all Flag Officers, Superannuated Rear-Admirals,
Retired Post Captains, Post Captains 1798 – 1806, Naval Operations of the
Burmese War of 1824-26, Post Captains 1822 –1831, Commanders, Post Captains
1806 – 1811, and Post Captains 1812 – 1822, as extracted from the Admiralty
list of sea officers. These records are somewhat difficult to navigate. Anthony
Gary Brown in
providing a much easier reference index
to Marshall’s work, states “the rather
eccentric organisation of Marshall’s work that usually necessitates the
researcher knowing something of the service seniority of a given officer in
order to hazard which volume will contain his entry; and, even armed with this
knowledge, a tedious amount of double-checking of Marshall’s own indices in the
various volumes is usually necessary”. The biographies are similar in
content to O’Bryne’s Dictionary although perhaps more detailed at the works do
concentrate of the higher ranking commissioned offices on which they is perhaps
more available official information than the lower ranking officers which can
be found in O’Bryne’s Dictionary.
another A-Z list by surname of Commissioned officers who served in the Navy
from 1660 to 1815, thus including the period of the Napoleonic wars and the
Battle of Trafalgar. It is based on the
original work commenced by David Bonner Smith who was the Admiralty Librarian
from March 1932 to May 1950. He died in December 1950 before completing the
work which was then completed by the Royal Navy College,
Greenwich, in collaboration with the National Maritime Museum. A number of versions of
this original list have then been published over the years including a version
by C G Pitcairn Jones published by the National Maritime Museum,
Greenwich in 1979.
The list is compiled from numerous
sources including the Navy Lists and provides each officers rank(s), the
year(s) in which he served in that/those rank(s), the date of retirement and the
date of death.
The list is also available to search
at www.ancestry.co.uk. The
list is limited to Commissioned officer and therefore any Warrant Officers and
lower ranking officers such as Midshipmen will not be included.
Originally published in 1913 and re-printed for the bicentenary
celebrations of the Battle of Trafalgar in 2005 this book is arranged by ship
and lists over 1,250 officers who served at the Battle of Trafalgar, including midshipmen,
surgeons, clerks, boatswains and carpenters as well as commissioned officers,
for 850 of which there are details of their careers. It also includes brief
service history of every ship including the little schooner Pickle.
One of the aims of the TNA’s Trafalgar Ancestors project “is to eventually revise, extend and bring up
to date Mackenzie’s Trafalgar Roll”.
Who in Nelson’s Navy by Dr Nicholas Tracy (2008)
This purports to be the very latest
book containing biographies for two hundred Officers who served alongside
Nelson in the Napoleonic wars. It is not limited to those who fought at the
Battle of Trafalgar. The A-Z chapters make for easy reference to find an
“Each biography, of around one
thousand words, describes the events in these men’s careers and sets their
achievements within the context of the wars. Their early lives and promotions
are detailed as well as their marriages and family lives. Indeed, the
extraordinary web of personal and service relationships that emerges is one of
the fascinating themes of the book”
Mammoth Book of How It Happened Trafalgar by Jon E. Lewis
This book contains around 70
first-hand accounts not just of the Battle of Trafalgar but of the period 1793
to the Battle of Trafalgar and the aftermath set out in four parts. The
accounts are by officers of varying ranks and include some of those from the
French and Spanish fleets as well as the British fleet.
It is of limited use to family
historians given the small number of officers whose account contribute to this
book but may provide a first-hand account by an ancestor. There are of course
many by Nelson himself others are by Captains, Colonels, Midshipmen,
Second-Lieutenants, along with extracts for ships logs.
William Dillan, HMS Defence, writes on the 29th May 1974 when
engaged with the French, writes
had never seen a man killed before. It was a most trying scene…[gory account of
how the man was injured]…The captain went over, and, taking the poor fellow by
the hand, pronounced him dead”
As darkness fell and the fighting
ceased until dawn he goes on,
selected one of the topsail halyard tubs on the forecastle, and coiled myself
as well as I could inside of it, where I took a snooze which I enjoyed. And
felt more refreshed when I woke by the tars than I should have done had I gone
to bed: at least I thought so.”
And he goes on at the end of the
number of men thrown overboard that were killed without ceremony, and the sad
wrecks around us taught those who, like myself, had not before witnessed
similar scenes that war was the greatest scourge of mankind”.
The battle itself is described in
great detail and perhaps not to be read by the faint hearted but this and many
of the other accounts set out in this book really put you in the sailors’ shoes
and bring their experiences to life!
There are also a number of Appendix,
one of which is entitled “Life and death in the Royal Navy, 1973 – 1811”, which
includes accounts of life on board ship in the navy during this period, written
by Ordinary Seaman, but which provide a good picture of general life on board.
Chronicles and Naval Chronicle, 1799-1818: Index to Births,
Marriages and Deaths by Norman Hurst 1989
A monthly publication from 1799 to
1819 which provided news of campaigns, promotions and some announcements of naval
births, marriages and deaths with a list of those named in those publications
in a chronological and alphabetical order under the sections Births, Marriages
and Obituaries having being collated by Norman Hurst.
Publications such as the Gentleman’s Magazine and the Illustrated London News sometimes included stories and news of officers, as
sometimes did local and national newspapers and journals. At an officer’s death it is almost
certain that at least the local newspaper would have included an obituary,
giving a summary of their career.
The above in no way provides a
complete list of sources available, however they are perhaps the most useful in
determining whether an ancestor took part in the Battle of Trafalgar, their
ship, their rank, details of their career both before and after the Battle. There
are also numerous books which provide a more general insight into the Battle of
Trafalgar and serving in the Royal Navy in the late 18th and early
19th century which may also help provide an overall picture of the
life a navy officer ancestor may have had such as The Trafalgar Companion by Alexander Stilwell and Trafalgar, The Men, The Battle, The Storm
by Tim Clayton and Phil Craig.
 “The Immortal Memory”
information board in the Nelson Exhibition at The Royal Navy Museum, Historic
 “The Immortal Memory”
information board in the Nelson Exhibition at The Royal Navy Museum, Historic
 “a boy aged 16 to 18
under training, who had previously served for between 9 months and 18 months
rated as “boy 2nd class”, shown sufficient proficiency in seamanship
and accumulated at least one good conduct badge (the requirements varied
between training ships). His rate of pay was increased on being promoted”.
 including addendums and
historical and explanatory notes
It is agreed by the authorities
on the etymology of surnames that few if any surnames of a hereditary nature were
evident in England before the Norman Conquest in 1066. Second names can be
found but they are in the form of bynames and nicknames which were not passed
between generations. Such bynames and nicknames developed, it is believed, to
differentiate those with the same common personal
name living in the same place.
Such bynames and nicknames may have
identified the person in many ways including by their occupation, location, topography,
personal names (patronymic/matronymic), other family relationships,
physical appearance, physical characteristics and mental and moral
characteristics. I will discuss these in more detail later.
There were three main foreign
influences on the English language over the centuries prior to the Norman
Danish, particularly in the east and north east
of England between 793AD and the Norman Conquest, with the influence of the
Vikings who brought Danish to the English shores;
German, particularly in southern England with
the influence of the Anglo-Saxons from the 5th century until the
Norman Conquest, who had a Germanic vocabulary and is often referred to an “Old
English” being the earliest form of the English language;
Latin which of course was the official written
language until into the 17th century, and in legal documents until
By the time of the Norman
Conquest, surnames were already in use in some European countries although were
certainly not universal. When the Norman Barons became landowners following the
Norman Conquest, there were in fact only a few who possessed surnames which had
been inherited (often however from only one or two generations back) e.g. de
Tosny, Warenes, Mortimer and Vernons.
Norman Barons who did not have
hereditary surnames soon began to adopt them. More commonly they adopted locative
type surnames by reference to their family’s chief residence, which was often
still in Normandy, rather than the name of their English manor. Some Norman
Barons were content with adopting patronymics (e.g. this may have been the case
if their father still lived at their family’s chief resident in France),
nicknames such as Walter Giffard
and even occupational names such as Haimo the Steward.
Having said the above, it is
still with some uncertainty as to which, why and how these Norman “newcomers”
adopted their surnames. There are no records from the time of the actual
invasion to confirm which Barons came over at the time of the conquest and
which came over in the immediate aftermath. The first record available is the
Doomsday book of 1086, some twenty years after the invasion. It should also be
noted that by the 12th and 13th centuries many junior
members of the Baronial families began to adopt new surnames!
From the Doomsday book it can be
seen that many of the minor Lords and Knights who came over with the Barons and were
rewarded with landholding by way of “tenant-in-chief”, had not yet adopted
surnames, at least not hereditary surnames. It is worth noting that the
Doomsday book only provides details of those landowners and tenants of land who
the King was able to tax, thus the “ordinary” person does not feature and
records for those of the lower classes of society do not really begin until the
13th century, such as the Assize Rolls which do include all classes
although most are landowners.
The adoption of hereditary
surnames was slow; given our fast pace of life today, it could almost be
described as “snail pace!” Research conducted indicates that some wealthy English
London families had adopted hereditary surnames by the late 12th
century, with the majority of the Norman tenants-in-chief in southern England,
the Midlands and East Anglia and wealthy English families living in the leading
provincial towns, such as Winchester, York, Norwich, Lincoln,
having adopted hereditary surnames by the early to mid-13th century.
It should be noted however this distinction between the Normans and English
families becomes clouded in this period when the English began to adopt first
names of Norman origin.
Norman tenants-in-chief elsewhere
in the country had adopted hereditary surnames by the late 13th to
early 14th century as had Burgesses, families from urban areas and
the foot soldiers of the Norman Conquest (and later immigrants) whose ancestors
became farmers, craftsmen, servants etc.
In the south ordinary Englishmen
in rural areas (farmers, craftsmen, servants, merchants etc) had largely
adopted hereditary surnames by the mid-14th century, although there
were some families still without. In the north it took a whole century longer
and by the early to mid-15th century it was rare to find a family to
not have a hereditary surname. One reason for this may be due to socio-economic
consequences of the “Black Death” which spread throughout England in 1348 and
which within 3 years had killed a third to a half of the population, “killing”
with it many newly formed surnames, particularly where the whole family died
(which was often the case).
The Black Death hit the lower
classes of society in much greater numbers than the higher classes perhaps
because they were more able to avoid or escape infected areas or because they
have better access to what health care there was at the time. This resulted in
a shortage of farmers and farmer labourers with many farms being left vacant.
These were often taken over by families moving in from other parts of the
country, spreading both their own surname and possibly the “trend” of adopting
surnames into the northern areas.
Having stated all the above, with
the development of surnames being so slow and varying in different areas of the
country, where surnames are first recorded in lay subsidy rolls and poll taxes
in the 14th century it is without any certainly that they can all in
fact be described as hereditary surnames without the supporting genealogical
evidence; some may have simply been bynames which were not passed to their
children. One reason for this could be that the “surname” was given to them by
an official who drew up the rolls of tax payers.
As already stated, it is not
until the 15th century that it is thought most people of English
origin had a fixed hereditary surname, even then, perhaps because of the recovering
population after devastation of the Black Death, there are new surnames
appearing in the Tudor subsidy rolls. It can however be said that the number of
new surnames did not grow at the same rate are the growth in population because
of the practice of hereditary surnames. Again having said this, there were
always exceptions and families could still be found in the 16th and
17th centuries without a surname, particularly in the northern city
and isolated areas of South Lancashire.
Essentially new surnames were being created throughout the centuries following
their introduction until the 16th and 17th century when
the written records of people became much more prevalent (parish registers,
parish records, the array of non-conformist records, legal records, government
and official records etc.).
But how were surnames adopted? In
a variety of ways.
Many names brought over by the
Normans (both at the time of the Conquest and by later immigrants) were
anglicised through the centuries. For example “-ville” would be replaced with
“-field” so Grenville became Greenfield, Semerville became Somerfield. Some
names such as Beauchamp and Guillaume (amongst many) were altered for ease of
spelling and pronunciation by the English, again being spelt phonetically. So
Beauchamp became Beecham and Guillaume became various forms of William.
personal names began to be adopted by English families and this was to the
decline of earlier Anglo-Saxon personal names. It is interesting therefore to
note that many surnames in the 14th century were “formed from [Anglo-Saxon] personal names no
longer then in use”
thus suggesting these were in the period between c.1150 and c.1470
adopted initially as bynames and eventually hereditary names as their use as
personal names declined. Reaney
states “A number of personal names which
are not recorded in Old English
after the eighth or ninth centuries reappear in Middle English. Some of these
names are evidence only by their occurrence as surnames, others by their first
record in the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth century”. He goes on to set
out three pages of Anglo-Saxon personal names which survive in modern surnames,
e.g. Grente (Grant), Eadweard (Edward), Ealdrœd (Aldred, Allred), Herewearld (Harold). This demonstrates
one way in which names have come and gone and been adapted/anglicised through
Bynames and resulting hereditary
surnames adopted from personal names are usually patronymic, that is, they are
from the personal names usually of the father. A much smaller number were matronymic,
that is, they are from the personal names of the mother.
There are a variety of patronymic
Those which are taken exactly from the personal
name such as Thomas, Owen, Duncan, and usually formed prior to the 13th
Those where a personal name has been suffixed,
most commonly with “-son” as in my maiden name of Richardson. These type of
surnames were mostly commonly found in northern regions of England (such as
Yorkshire (my native county)) and could also be formed from hypocoristic
personal names, that is short forms of names such as Dick (for Richard)
becoming Dickson or Dixon. It is said they were formed between the late 13th
and mid-14th century largely amongst small free tenants or unfree
tenants who were in the greater numbers in the norther regions;
Those where a possessive “-s” was added to a personal
name such as Richards. These type of surnames were most commonly found in
southern regions of England (such as the South East Midlands, East Anglia,
Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Herefordshire) and their history and growth
parallels that of “-son” in the northern regions. Kinley goes so far as to
suggest “There was in fact something in
the nature of a boundary running across the north Midlands, to the north of
which surnames ending in ‘-son’ became numerous, and to the south of which
surnames in ‘-s’ became common”;
From those with a possessive “-s” we also get names ending in “-x” when such names have become
written, e.g. Dix, Rix;
Those where personal names such as Ellis and
Henry, Will and Adam with the suffixes “-cock” and “-kin” added to hypocoristic
version of them i.e. Elcock and Hancock, Wilcock, Wilkin, and Adcock, Atkin.
Such suffixes were found in all regions from the mid-13th century
usually in those of the lower classes as with the cases of “-son” and “-s”
Those where a personal name has been prefixed
with “Fitz-” (from the French fils de)
“Mac-”/”Mc-” (Ireland (prefixed to father’s name), Gaelic parts of Scotland,
Isle of Man) , “O-” (Ireland prefixed to grandfather’s name);
Those personal names originating in Wales,
although having now spread throughout Britain, which were originally prefixed
with “Ap-” (where the name began with a consonant) or “Ab-” (were the name
began with a vowel) meaning “son of” e.g. Ap
Roger (son of Roger), Ab Adam (son of Adam). Such names were common in
Wales until the 16th century after which many ‘dropped’ the “A”
leaving surnames beginning with “P” or “B” such as Price/Pryce/Pryse from Ap Rhys and Bowen from Ab Owen;
Patronymic surnames, in the early
years as I have stated above were more likely to be bynames not inherited thus
John may have been known as Richardson because he was the son of Richard, but
his own sons were more likely to have been known as Johnson, son of John.
Clearly this poses some difficulty for the genealogist in trying to trace this
family back beyond the first ancestor with the known hereditary surname.
Unfortunately, as yet I have not traced my Richardson ancestors beyond the
mid-19th century, although not through the lack of records, through
the lack of time to conduct my own family research! Interestingly though the
Richardson ancestors I have traced to date are in the northern counties of
Lincolnshire and Yorkshire where it appears the surnames is most likely to have
The way in which patronymic
surnames evolved does mean that when studying the origins of such names, there
is highly unlikely to be one origin and it is almost certain that not all
families with the same patronymic surname will be related no matter how far the
surname can be traced back even where the families were from the same area.
This is largely the result of the decreasing number of personal names in the
early years of the development of bynames into hereditary names as discussed
Matronymic names should also be
mentioned, albeit they were adopted as bynames and surnames in much fewer
numbers and most likely where the mother was an heiress; or possibly where the
child was illegitimate (although until the 18th century it was more
likely that fathers would acknowledge such children with the child taking the
father’s name). Matronymics were also ‘adapted’ by the addition of suffixes and
prefixes in the same was as patronymics, e.g. “Emmot” from Emma, “Fitzmeriet”
and “Margisson” from Margery.
Bynames and Surnames also
developed from place-names (locative surnames), most of which have developed
since the Norman Conquest. Perhaps the most obvious names in this category are
those ending in “-ham”, “-ton”, “-by”,
“-thorpe”, “-ford”, “-holme”, “-mouth” etc which are frequently endings of
place-names. However not all are so obvious:
Spelling of place-names themselves have changed,
in much the same way as language and surnames have changed through
pronunciation and spelling as discussed elsewhere in this assignment,
particularly given many of these types of surnames were adopted from pace-names
in the 12th to the 14th centuries;
Place-names have come and gone – many locative
name originate from villages, hamlets and small homesteads which no longer
exists, particularly following “the
conversion of arable to pasture and the enclosure of open fields, mostly in the
period from about 1450 to 1550”.
There maybe/may have been more than one place
with the same name.
Care therefore needs to be taken
when researching locative surnames, in particular consulting old maps from as
close to the period in which the earliest form of the surname is known. Locative
surnames do not appear to have been more popular in one area or another,
although different areas may have had their own characteristics. For example,
the ending “-thwaite” is most often found in West Yorkshire,
Lancashire and the Lake District (of Norwegian influence) whilst “-thorpe” is most often found in areas
to the East of the Pennines
(of Danish influence).
Further, some names which appear
to be locative may come from a different origin altogether i.e. origins from a
personal name or an occupational name (see later). Kinley
refers to the surname Arnold which
could be from Arnold in Nottinghamshire, Arnold in North Yorkshire or indeed
from a personal name; also the surname Stirrop
which could be from Styrrup in Nottinghamshire or could be an occupational
It must also be remembered that
locative names may derive from French place-names, particularly where their
origins are in the first century or so following the Norman Conquest as
Related to locative names are
those which originate from topography, that is, from a feature of the land
where a person lives, both natural and man-made e.g. hill, bridge, wood etc. Many
of these type of names were formed in a similar way to patronymic names, by the
use of suffixes. The most common suffixes included“-er” as in “Bridger” and “-man”
as in “Bridgeman” both of which could be also be of occupational origin i.e.
someone who worked on bridges. Other examples include Brooker/Brookman,
Churcher/Churchman, Forder and Hilman
Topographical bynames and
surnames may also have the possessive “-s”
or the suffix “-son” added again
similar to patronymic names. Such variations are more commonly found from the
beginning of the 16th century although a small number can be found
in the 14th and 15th centuries. It is often the case that
earlier versions of the surname for the same family are without the “-s” adding to the complication for
genealogists of tracing the earlier ancestors. Such plural endings on names
often arose where there were a number of the topographical feature in one area,
i.e. more than one bridge close to where a person lived, possibly they lived
between two bridges etc.
Prepositions were also often used
with topographical names, more so than with any otjher type of surname,
although they could be found with locative names too. The most common
prepositions is thought to be “atte”
as in “atte Bridge” and “atte” Wood. But other examples include “under”,
“over”, “by”, “beneath” and “above”. They were often, in the early days,
particularly before the 15th century, in the French equivalent, such
as “de”, “de la”, “de le” and “del”. Most of these propositions began
to be ‘dropped’ or ‘merged’ in the 14th and 15th centuries,
thus producing modern versions such as Atbridge/Attbridge and Attwood/Atwood.
Occupations also gave rise to an
array of bynames and surnames, including those holding certain state or church
office such as Abbot, Constable, Bishop, Sheriff etc. and ranks or status in
society such as Freeman, Burgess, Knight, Mayor, Lord etc. Occupational bynames
and surnames are perhaps amongst the earliest to become established, an obvious
way to distinguish people with the same name if they had different occupations,
this is particularly so for the most popular occupations such as smiths
(locksmith, blacksmith etc), bakers, taylors, cooks, turners, millers etc. As
Kinley states“In most villages there would be only one or
two smiths, one or two tailors, and so forth, so that the occupations in
question were sufficiently distinctive to mark out a man from his fellow
villagers, hence were suitable for use as surnames”.
Occupation names however are
often not that obvious:
Regional variations – different names were often
used for the same occupation in different parts of the country. For example, “Brewer and Brewster, Deemer and Dempster
(‘judge’), Dyer and Dyster or Dexter, Fuller and Folster, Kember, Kemster or
Kempster (a ‘comber’ of wool or flax), Hollier and Hollister, Lister and
Litster, Palliser and Pallister (maker of palings), Sanger and Sangster
(‘singer’), Shaper and Shapster (‘tailor’ or ‘seamstress’), or Webber and
Arising from different languages – Latin, Welsh,
They can be confused with topographical names as
in Bridger discussed above, oher examples given by Kinley include “Bedster” more likely to be from a
Sussex village now lost, and “Docker”
more likely to be from Docker in Cumbria;
One could be forgiven for thinking my married
name of “Pettyfer” is from the French
“Petit Four”, I must admit this was my
first thought, deriving from someone who made them, how wrong I was! It is in
fact from the French pied de fer (iron
foot) so from a nickname (see below) or occupation (a foot soldier);
They could be names of “tools” of a trade rather
than the occupation itself. Reaney
uses the examples of a metal worker who “could
be called both Seintier or Bellyeter” from the type of bells he made and “William le Pinour ‘maker of combs’ was also
called le Horner from the horn he used”. Also included are names such as “Kitchen”, “Kitchener”, “Buttery” and “Hallman”.
Bynames and surnames were also
‘created’ from “nicknames” or “pet names”. These are generally said to be
amongst the fewest in surnames today as many of the medieval nicknames ‘died
out’. Amongst them today are:
Those deriving from physical appearance include
surnames today such as Little, Short, Small, Little and colours such as Brown,
Black, White, Grey, Gray and Reed, Reid and Read (from red) (colours of hair or
but not Green which is more likely of a locative or topographical origin;
Those deriving from personal habits, mental and
moral characteristics, e.g. “Blessed”, “Curtis” (from Courteous), “Good”,
“Goodchild”, “Treadwell” and “Proud”. Many such names are originally derived
from their French counterpart such as “Bonifant”
(bon enfant – good infant).
Amongst nicknames are also those
nature i.e. from mammals, birds and fish such as
“Lamb”, “Finch” and “Gurnard”;
With an increasingly widespread
use of hereditary surnames, one would be forgiven to think that tracing a
family would be made easier. But this may not the case. Why? Because surnames
were adopted and changed in a variety of ways over time, many of which have
already been discussed above. However the tracing of surnames becomes even more
complicated if we consider the impact of pronunciation and the spelling of
surnames before spelling became standardised.
I will discuss this further in assignment 4.
Two other reasons why names changed or varied also need
to be considered by the genealogist:
Families themselves may have changed the
spelling and pronunciation to either distinguish them amongst others with a
popular name (Smith/Smythe, Taylor/Tayleure) or in the lower classes to make
them sound a more distinguished family. It may also be the case that families
chose to change their own surname completely choosing a pleasanter name, this
is particularly so if the origins of the surname was as a nickname. For
example, Charles Bardsley provides an array of examples under the heading “Nicknames from Peculiarities of Disposition—
…. that which is foul- mouthed in expression….. A ‘ribaud’ or ‘ribaut’ belonged
to the very scum of society. He was a man who hung on to the skirts of the
nobility by doing all their more infamous work for them”;
le Lewed,’ or ‘William le Lewed,’ is also lost to our directories, and
certainly would be an unpleasant appellation in the nineteenth century”;
le Sot,’ or ‘Maurice Drun-card,’ or ‘Jakes Drynk-ale,’ or ‘Geoffrey Dringke-
dregges,’ or ‘Thomas Sourale’.
A more unorthodox reason but not unknown was for
an individual in a Will to make it a condition of inheritance that the legatee take
on the testator’s surname. This may often be the case if the testator has no
direct descendants to carry on the family name and a more distant relative is
to inherit. John Titford refers to two well-known families:
“Florence Nightingale’s father, William Edward Shore, who abandoned his own surname and became Nightingale in 1815
on inheriting the Derbyshire estates of his mother’s uncle, Peter Nightingale,
and that of Jane Austen’s brother
Edward, who took the surname of Knight
by Royal Licence in 1812 when he inherited and estate from his father’s cousin,
Lastly surname aliases can cause
much confusion and could result in the individual being recorded under
different surnames. For example, Smith
alias Jones could be recorded as
Smith or Jones or Smith-Jones with any one of the three names being used in
different documents/records to identify the same person. This was often the
case where a landowner held land in more than one location, he may be named
after one of the locations alias the other and vice versa in the second
location e.g. James York alias
Pickering/John Pickering alias York.
An alias may also result from
different spellings of the surname, e.g. “James
Roides alias Rodes; Simon Woodhouse alias Wydis, and John Clegge otherwise
It is clear from the above
discussion that the origins and evolution of surnames is far from straight
forward and the genealogist should always bear in mind how a surname may have
changed through the centuries. The further back in time the research the more
variants the Genealogists needs to be aware there may be and be prepared to
search all known/possible variables in an attempt to continue the ancestral
line, including potential alternative surnames bearing in mind any other
history of the family. It is also important to remember that where a surname
has varied particular care will need to be taken to ensure it is the correct
family line and not another family with a similar/same name. The more and
varied records which are researched, checked and compared, the more accurate
the research will be.
Sometimes it can be difficult to
work out what variants there may be and useful resources to help are Dialect
and Surname dictionaries.
 First name/Baptismal
name/Christian name/given name
 e.g. Bastard, Cousin,
Husband, Kinsman, Widowson D. Kennett “The History of Surnames” page 42
 D. Hey “Family Names and
Family History” pages 31 to 32
 (meaning chubby cheeks in French) which he in
fact inherited from his father’s nickname: D. Hey “Family Names and Family
History” page 41
 Sheriff of Kent 1077 to
c.1100: D. Hey “Family Names and Family History” page 41
Well, that may be an overstatement, I’m not sure my 2 and 1/2 year old would understand if I asked her. for example, “who are your aunts and uncles?” but she would know them if a named them. She simply does not understand the terms “Aunt” or “uncle” yet but the more we talk about them in those terms and explain their relationship to us, her parents, then she will learn those relationships much earlier.
I am certainly of the view that pre-school children can and should be introduced to family history. Yesterday I spent half an hour or so with my 4 and 1/2 year old (being born in November he is one of the oldest in his pre-school class) looking at his living ancestors and showing him how they are connected. He was able to tell me who his aunts and uncles were and his cousins but he didn’t really understand how we were all connected.
You may think that this is something he should know at his age but I am sure not all children his age will do! Think about those children who are not so fortunate as to have aunts/uncles/cousins or living grandparents.
Does you young son/daughter really understand why their Aunt is their Aunt? Why their Uncle is their uncle? How they are related to their cousins? Or even how they are related to their grandparents?
Again this may seem obvious to adults but to pre-school children and those in the early school years it may in fact be not! And this is where family history begins!
Family History at a young age is all about getting to know and understand how you “fit into” your family and who are living ancestors are. Something as simple as telling your children about your own childhood and how it differs to today may grab their attention and engages them in family history.
This can be a long term project for your children and you, growing your tree by each generation as your child grows older and has more understanding. It can also be helpful in their education of history. I remember studying history at school and thinking why is this important? Why do we need to know this? Being able to put various periods and events in history into context through your own ancestors living during that period or event can really bringing history alive and help to understand how those periods and events have shaped our lives and families today.
Of course all children are different and some may have no interest at all, by why not try and wet their appetite, you never know until you try! And of course, those of you who are grandparents…..well the same applies!
Take a look at my Family pedigree tree for young children
” When you are researching your ancestors there may be times when you need to use the services of a professional genealogist or a family history researcher. So how do you know where to find a good quality researcher? The best way is by using a Member of AGRA (Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives) for research in England and Wales”http://www.agra.org.uk
Having started my business in October 2018, I decided in November 2018 that I was ready to submit my application for AGRA Associate. As is the usual process, I was invited to attend an interview with the Board of Assessors on 22nd March 2019. It seemed such a long time to wait but it came round so quickly!
As part of the interview process I was required to prepare a drop-down pedigree tree from a number of documents AGRA provided one week prior to the interview which would then be discussed at the interview. As ever I was drawn into the family from the documents provided and really enjoyed “teasing” out the necessary information to complete the required pedigree tree. Whilst no other research was required, as any genealogist will appreciate, I could not resist a little research deeper into the family. A very interesting family, on the one hand seemingly affluent but those fortunes did not favour all members of the family – perhaps it was his marriage to a servant which was his financial “downfall”?!
Anyway, pedigree tree drawn, documents thoroughly “got to grips with” I nervously attended the interview. A panel of three lovely ladies awaited me. Pedigree tree approved and onto the documents themselves. They could clearly tell I was nervous the brain just wouldn’t find the words I wanted and I was somewhat thrown by the wording of some of the questions but through discussion we got the answer they were seeking! It certainly turned out not the be the “interrogation” I had dreamed in my head it would be, non of the particularly technical questions I had imagined there would be about parish registers, census records and civil registration.
In the end I thankfully came out feeling it had gone well and was hopeful my application would be successful. I would find out by the end of the next week…….thankfully I only had 4 days to wait. Into my inbox pops an email from the Chair of the Board of Assessors. I nervously open it…. Yes my application had been accepted and I was now (subject to payment of the joining fee) an AGRA Associate.
You may be wondering why it has taken me until now to write this post. Well, yesterday I (nervously) attended my first official event as an AGRA Associate – the AGRA study day and AGM. It was lovely to finally meet members and fellow associates, a very friendly and welcoming group of like-minded people. It made me truly feel part of this great professional organisation and it always inspires and encourages when you meet so many people happy to help and support you on your career path.
AGRA not only seeks to improve and promote professional standards in genealogy through education and experience, but promotes continued professional development but provides extremely valuable networking groups. The majority of genealogists and family researchers are self employed and anyone who is self employed in any walk of life knows how isolating it can be with no daily work colleagues to just “have that coffee break” with or “grab sandwich at lunch” with. Networking groups help overcome this by bringing like-minded people together to share knowledge, practices and build strong business relationships – you never know when you may need to collaborate on a research project!.
My first networking event takes place next Friday and I am looking forward to meeting more AGRA colleagues and making new connections.