England Research Guidance: Births, 1066-1537Edit This Page

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Contents

Search Strategy

Search the following record types in the order listed.

1. Probate Records, Pre-1858: Probate records

Probate records are court records dealing with the distribution of a person's estate after death. Probate records pre-date church records and many other types of records for England. Probate records include wills, testaments, administrations (admons), inventories, codicils, act books, and bonds. In these records you may find names and relationships. Probate records are well indexed.

Before January 1858, Church of England courts had the responsibility to prove wills and other probate records. Each county in England was under the jurisdiction of more than one church court, and the highest court of all was the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Do you know the county where your ancestor lived in England? 

If so, go back to the Wiki page for England, select a county, and click on the link for Probate Records.

If not, go to the Wiki page for the records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.

2. Manorial Record: Manors

Manorial records are private records of an estate held by a lord of the manor. They include court minutes listing tenants, leases, land transfers, manorial appointments, rental fees, and petty crimes. In these records you may find names and relationships of tenants. Sometimes you can trace a family back several generations.
What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name in manorial records. 

3. Quarter Sessions: Court records

Court records are government documents concerning civil matters. Most court records name people who were defendants, plaintiffs, jurors, or witnesses. In these records you may find a person's residence, occupation, physical description, family relationships, name of spouse, and some death and marriage information. Court records seldom provide birth information but may give ages.

Use court records after you have searched other records. Court records tend to be difficult to use because the handwriting is hard to read and they include unfamiliar legal terms.
What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name in quarter session records.

4. Inquisitions Postmortem: Land and property

An inquisition post mortem is a record of the estate of a deceased person who held land directly from the king. A summoned jury determined the extent of his or her possessions and who was entitled to inherit them. In these records you may find the name and birth date or age of the heir and a description of the property. Names of tenants and jurors are also given.
What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name in an inquisition post mortem.

5. Occupational Records: Occupations

Occupational records provide information on a person's employment or training for a craft, trade, or profession. Knowing a person's occupation can distinguish him or her from other individuals with the same name. Occupational records may include name, age, residence, sometimes father's or widow's name, and other information about a person's life and family. Some types of occupational records are apprenticeship and freemen records; trade, guild, or livery records; and histories of occupations.
What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name in occupational records.


6. Biography: Biography

A biography is a history of a person's life. A biography may provide an individual's date and place of birth and names of parents, as well as other details. Look for biographies in biographical dictionaries and encyclopedias, society journals, periodicals, and local histories. Verify information in biographical sources.
What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name in a biography.

7. Family History: Genealogy

The term family history describes a variety of records containing personal and family information gathered by researchers, societies, or archives. These records can include published family histories, pedigree charts, family group records, research notes on families, correspondence, ancestor lists, research exchange files, record abstracts, and collections of original or copied documents. Family histories can be excellent sources of information that can save you valuable research time. Because these records are compiled from a variety of sources, the information must be carefully evaluated and verified for accuracy. Internet genealogy sites can be helpful in researching a specific family name. If your ancestor emigrated from another country, look for more information in his or her country of birth.
What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name in a family history.

8. Church Monuments: Cemeteries

Church monuments are memorials to wealthy, noble, royal, or other distinguished people. They are often brass plaques, stone statues, or effigies placed inside the church or on church grounds. Information on monuments may include names and dates only. Many church monuments have been transcribed and published.
What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name in a church monument record.

9. Land Records: Land and property

Land and property records are records of land ownership and transfers. Use land records to learn when and where an individual lived. In these records you may find names, dates, addresses, occupations, a description of the property, terms of land transfers, and names of heirs, relatives, and neighbors. Land records usually do not provide birth, marriage, or death information but may give clues that can help you find records that do. Land records include surveys, grants, deeds, registers, and plat maps.
What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name in land and property records.

10. Visitations: Visitations, Heraldic

The government commissioned men called heralds to periodically visit all areas throughout the country to grant and regulate the use of coats of arms. Heralds granted coats of arms to knights, gentlemen, landed gentry, and others entitled to bear them. In these records you may find names, dates, places, and relationships. Sometimes these records may help you trace the descent of a family. These records include coats of arms and visitation pedigrees. Verify heraldic information.
What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name in heraldic visitation records.

11. School and Alumni Records: Schools

School and alumni records are lists of individuals who attended a school, college, or university. In these records you may find name, age, date and place of birth, residence, father's name and occupation, marriage information, and other biographical details. School records list teachers, students, and graduates.
What you are looking for
Your ancestor's name in a school or alumni record.

12. Chancery Court Records: Court records

Court records are government documents concerning civil matters. Most court records name people who were defendants, plaintiffs, jurors, or witnesses. In these records you may find a person's residence, occupation, physical description, family relationships, name of spouse, and some death and marriage information. Court records seldom provide birth information but may give ages.
Use court records after you have searched other records. Court records tend to be difficult to use because the handwriting is hard to read and they include unfamiliar legal terms.

Chancery court records document numerous of litigative causes brought forward to, or against the government in concerning estate, property, business, civil matters. Most of these records name many people who were defendants, plaintiffs, jurors, or witnesses, family members and/or relatives. In these records you may find a person's residence, occupation, physical description, family relationships, name of spouse, and some death and marriage information. Chancery court records seldom provide birth information but may give ages. From the 12th Century, there are recorded, over 11 million court cases. These cases are available to search in successive indexes at The National Archives' online catalog.

Indexes and abstracts of Chancery Court records are available at the Family History Library. Go to the library catalog and do a Place search for England then click on the topic of Court Records. Also look under Court Records--Indexes.

Chancery Court records are mostly written in Latin, tend to be difficult to use because the handwriting is hard to read and they include unfamiliar legal terms. 

13. Church Records: Church records

Church records are parish, chapel, or congregation registers created by church authorities. They contain baptisms or christenings, marriages, and burials. In these records you may find names and dates and places of births or christenings, marriages, and burials. In the absence of a birth date, use a christening or baptism date.

However, church records of value do not survive before the establishment of the Church of England in the 1530's. Parish registers began in 1538. They may contain marriage or burial information that will help you find further information about pre-1538 ancestors.

What you are looking for:
Your ancestor's name in church records.

Do you know the parish where your ancestor lived?

If yes, go to the Wiki page for that parish.

If not...

Do you know the county where your ancestor lived?

If yes, search the FamilySearch Catalog, FamilySearch.org, and other family history web sites for indexes to church records which cover the whole or a large part of a county.

If not, search the databases on FamilySearch.org and other family history web sites for information about your ancestor.  

For more information about church records, go to the England Church Records page.

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  • This page was last modified on 25 July 2014, at 18:20.
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