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England, How to Use Land Records
Guide
Introduction
Records that document ownership and transfers of land are called title deeds. Only the counties
of Yorkshire and Middlesex (excluding the city of London) had registries of deeds, which began in
the early eighteenth century. England did not have a national registry of deeds until 1862, and
even then registration was voluntary. Compulsory registration began in some areas in 1899 and
gradually become the standard throughout the country. Therefore, since most title deeds were not
registered, finding records to document ownership and transfers of land can be complicated.
For more information about land records, see Background.
What You Are Looking For
You are looking for land records pertaining to your ancestors and their property, which may:
• Name family members.
• Identify relationships.
• Give details of marriage contracts.
Steps
These two steps will help you find and use land records.
Step 1. Learn more about land records.
To learn more about specific types of land records, follow these links to informative Public Record
Office leaflets:
LAND CONVEYANCES
• Enrolment of Deeds, and Registration of Title
• Trust Deeds (Lands for Charitable Uses), 1736-1925
• Feet of Fines, 1182-1833 (leaflet not yet available)
COMMON LANDS
• Common Lands
CROWN LANDS
• Crown & Royalist Lands: 1642-1660
England, How to Use Land Records
Research Guidance
Version of Data: 08/08/01
2
LAND ENCLOSURES
• Enclosure Awards
LAND INHERITANCE
• Land Inheritance: Court of Wards and Liveries, 1540-1645
TITHE RECORDS
• Tithe Records in the Public Record Office
Step 2. Find land records.
While original land records are held in England, the Family History Library has microfilm copies of
many land records. These include the records of the Registries of Deeds for:
• Yorkshire:
1. West Riding
2. North Riding
3. East Riding
4. City of York
• Middlesex
For more information about finding land records, see Where to Find It.
Background
Description
Technically, land in England was owned by the Crown. The feudal manorial system was
introduced into England by the Normans in the late eleventh century. Land was held directly from
the Crown by tenants-in-chief in return for services, such as providing knights in times of war. A
tenant-in-chief, who held several manors, might sublet some of his manors to other men in return
for similar services. These other men were "mesne" lords of the manor. They in turn had tenants
on their manors who gave similar services to them. The mesne lord appointed a sheriff, a bailiff,
and other officers to help him run the manor. This was the feudal system of land ownership and
management.
Manors came in all sizes. Some were smaller than a parish, and others were large enough to
encompass several parishes. Though some manors survived into the twentieth century, most
were broken up or reverted back to the Crown much earlier. The feudal system of owing service
to the lord of the manor died out before the eighteenth century and was replaced by rent or lease
payments paid in cash to the landlord.
Tenants held land by either:
• Freehold.
• Leasehold.
• Copyhold.
Transfers of land from one tenant to another, or from a tenant to his or her heir, was done by title
deed. Before 1862, title deeds included:
• Conveyances.
• Wills.
• Trust deeds.
England, How to Use Land Records
Research Guidance
Version of Data: 08/08/01
3
Land records tend to be difficult to use because:
• Few are indexed.
• Handwriting is hard to decipher.
• They may be written in Latin.
• They include unfamiliar legal terms.
Land records provide limited details about the lives of the parties to the deeds, but they are a
main source of information for land ownership and are particularly valuable when church records
are not available.
Where to Find It
Family History Centers
Most Family History Centers will not have microfilms of land records in their permanent
collections, but centers can borrow microfilms from the Family History Library. There is a small
fee to have a microfilm loaned to a Family History Center.
Family History Centers are located throughout the United States and other areas of the world.
Find a Family History Center near you.
Family History Library
The Family History Library holds some English land records, mostly on microfilm. There is no fee
for using the microfilms in person. For a list of English land records available at the Family History
Library, look in the Family History Library Catalog. Go to What to Do Next, select the catalog, and
look for land records for England or Great Britain, or a specific county.
If you can supply an index reference, you may request photocopies of land records from the
library for a small fee. You will need to fill out a Request for Photocopies form with the index
reference and the library microfilm number of the record. The microfilm number is available from
the Family History Library Catalog. Send the form and the fee to the Family History Library.
See Library Services and Resources for more information about using the Family History Library
and Family History Centers.
In England
Land records are held by both the Public Record Office of England and by county repositories
and libraries. Addresses for many English repositories can be obtained by choosing "Repository
Lists" on the ARCHON home page. Addresses for public libraries can be obtained from Public
Libraries on the Web.

August 2011 edits

Hi Anthony, you've added a wealth of information to this article. I've made some formatting changes, mainly changing the use of heading level 1 to level 2. As the page title uses level 1, the main sections of a page should use 2 with further subsections using 3, 4 etc. I have also changed the single line breaks into double, so that the text is broken up more an is easier to read/scan. It's great to have someone with your experience contribute to the wiki. --Steve (talk | contribs) 10:24, 10 August 2011 (UTC)

Many thanks for tidying this up and also for your kind words. I hope that the article may help someone somewhere. AnthonyJCamp 18:56, 11 August 2011 (UTC).

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