England Public Records

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=== Oaths  ===
 
=== Oaths  ===
  

Revision as of 17:54, 15 August 2014

England

Contents

Oaths

Researchers will come upon various documents containing oaths of loyalty to the crown and to the Church of England from the 16th to the 19th centuries, but particularly during the civil war and inter-regnum and after the restoration of the Stuart monarchy. Persons required to swear oaths of loyalty were those holding civilian public office or in the armed services, thus such documents help to identify members of certain professions, occupations and religious groups. The most commonly found records with their general dates are as follows, and Cannon (The Oxford Companion to British History, 1997) and TNA research guide D4 should be consulted for further information:

Thirty Nine Articles of Faith from 1511

These doctrinal statements were originally proposed in 1511 to define the position of the reformed Church of England on a number of matters of faith and order. Persons required to subscribe [literally writing one’s name at the bottom of a document] were the clergy, schoolmasters (to 1850), parish clerks (to the end of the 19th century), sextons, and until about 1750 some physicians, surgeons and midwives. Documents showing the lengthy articles can be found in archives; I found one on a Leicestershire FHL film 1469785.

Subscription is still required of the clergy but since 1865 only a general affirmation rather than assent to each article separately. The diocesan Subscription Books contain the records of those subscribing, an example being those for Norfolk 1637-1800 in a book edited by Carter (1937), but with a separate personal name index on FHL film 0453023 enabling access through the Request for Photocopies form.

Oath of Supremacy 1559

These oaths acknowledged Elizabeth (or whomever was the reigning monarch) as supreme governor of the church and was demanded of all ministers, judges, graduates and mayors.

Protestation Returns 1641-1642

The unrest and tension leading up to and during the Civil War caused a number of lists concerning the religious persuasion and loyalty of subjects to be made. The first and largest of these was the Protestation Return, which was an oath of loyalty to the new Protestant Parliament although ostensibly to king Charles I. Pearl (1992) calls it the greatest vote of no confidence in an English King since John and the Magna Carta (1215).

Parliament initiated it in May 1641 when members themselves took it, and the next year ministers, churchwardens, constables and overseers of the poor took the oath before justices of the peace. These officials were then to ensure that every male over 18 (and some women) took the oath and had their names recorded, usually in February to March 1641/1642. One of the principal objects was to discover resistance to the Protestant religion, primarily by identifying and listing recusants (Roman Catholics) who refused to swear the oath and who were thereby barred from holding any public office. These lists are the nearest thing the researcher can get to a complete census of adult males for the next two centuries.

Chart: The Protestation Oath

I, A.B., do in the Presence of Almighty God, promise, vow, and protest to maintain and defend, as far as lawfully I may, with my Life, Power, and Estate, the true Reformed Protestant Religion, expressed in the doctrine of the Church of England, against all Popery and Popish Innovations, within this realm, contrary to the same Doctrine and according to the Duty of my Allegiance, His Majesty’s Royal Person, Honour and Estate, as also the Power and Privileges of Parliaments, the lawful Rights and Liberties of the subjects, and every Person that maketh this Protestation, in whatsoever he shall do in the lawful pursuance of the same; and to my power, and as far as lawfully I may, I will oppose and by all good Ways and Means endeavour to bring to condign Punishment all such as shall, either by Force, Practice, Counsels, Plots, Conspiracies or otherwise, do any Thing to the contrary of any Thing in this present Protestation contained; and further that I shall, in all just and honourable ways, endeavour to preserve the Union and Peace betwixt the Three Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland; and neither for Hope, Fear, nor other Respect, shall relinquish this Promise, Vow and Protestation.


It is estimated that returns survive for approximately a third of English parishes (Camp 2001). It is rare that all adult males were included, and actual signatures or marks occur in only a minority of parishes and townships; typically the officials just produced a list all written in the same hand (see statistics in Gibson and Dell’s The Protestation Returns 1641-1642 and Other Contemporary Listings, 2004).

Chart: Dashwoods in Somerset Protestation Returns
Feb-Mar 1641/1642 From Stoate and Howard.

PARISH
NAMES
Sampford Brett*
John DASHWOODE
Stogumber
Francis DASHWOOD
Robert DASHWOOD
Robert DASHWOOD
Watchet St. Decumans
George DASHWOOD
Henry DASHWOOD

*In Sampford Brett, a note states that Nicholas Marten refused to take the protestation’. In the subsidy roll of 1641 Nicholas Martin and his wife are noted as recusants.

Plenty of protestation returns are available in print and in microform, for example:

  • Webster’s (Protestation Returns 1841/2 - Notts./ Derbys , 1980) indexed transcription of Nottingham (and three Derbyshire) parishes.
  • Howard’s (The Devon Protestation Returns, 1641. Published by the authors , 1973) indexed transcription of Devon.
  • Stoate and Glencross’ (The Cornwall Protestation Returns, 1641, 1974) indexed transcription of Cornwall.
  • Facsimiles of Protestation Returns for Sheldon and Cookbury, Devon (normal list of names) and Covenham, Linconshire (unusual as it has all original signatures or marks) are given by Markwell and Saul (Facsimiles of Documents of Use to Family Historians, 1987) pages 74-75.

Most extant original Protestation Returns are in the House of Lords Record Office, but others occur in parish chest materials, including parish register books and vestry minutes. Lawson-Edwards (The Protestation Returns 1641-2. Genealogists’ Magazine Vol. 19 #3, page 84-85.) listed transcriptions and non-transcribed originals in 1977, and Gibson and Dell have a more detailed survey done in 1995, see chart below. Entering Protestation Returns on a title search on the FamilySearch Catalog brings up the county lists of originals and transcriptions where available.


Chart: Finding Protestation Returns—Data from Gibson and Dell, further discoveries and transcriptions may have been done since 1995.

COUNTY
COVERAGE
PUBLISHED
Bedfordshire
None
None
Berkshire
Substantial
Some
Bristol (city)
None
None
Buckinghamshire
Slight
None
Cambridgeshire
Slight
None
Cheshire
Slight
None
Cornwell
Near complete
All extant
Cumberland
Near complete
None
Derbyshire
None
None
Devon
Near complete
All extant
Dorset
Near complete
All extant
Durham
Near complete
All extant
Essex
Slight
None
Gloucestershire
None
None
Hampshire
Slight
None
Herefordshire
None
None
Hertfordshire
Slight
None
Huntingdon
Near complete
All extant
Kent
Substantial
None
Lancashire
Substantial
Some
Leicestershire
None
None
Lincolnshire
Substantial
All extant
London (city)
None
None
Middlesex (not London)
Near complete
Some
Monmouthshire
None
None
Norfolk
None
None
Northamptonshire
None
None
Northumberland
Slight
All extant
Nottinghamshire
Near complete
All extant
Oxfordshire
Substantial
All extant
Rutland
None
None
Shropshire
Slight
None
Somerset
Substantial
All extant
Staffordshire
Slight
None
Suffolk
None
None
Surrey
Slight
All extant
Sussex
Substantial
All extant
Wales except Denbighshire
None
None
Wales, Denbighshire
Slight
None
Warwickshire
Slight
None
Westmorland
Substantial
All extant
Wiltshire
Slight
All Extant
Worcestershire
Slight
None
Yourshire East Riding
None
None
Yorkshire North riding
Slight
None
Yorkshire West Riding
Slight
Some[1]

Loyalty Lists

It is probable that the 1640s loyalty lists were only taken in strongly Parliamentarian/Protestant areas and certainly no national collection of them was made. They are occasionally found in parish registers or with other parish chest materials, thus one for Somerset (1641) with 14,350 names is known and there is another of the same year called the Remonstrance known only from an example from Cheshire. Some examples are noted by Gibson and Dell (The Protestation Returns 1641-1642 and Other Contemporary Listings, 2004), but they did not aim to do a thorough survey of loyalty lists. The two most commonly found are:

  • Vow and Covenant 1643
    The Vow and Covenant organized in June 1643 was an opportunity to show loyalty to Parliament and the Protestant church during this unsettled time.
  • Solemn League and Covenant 1643-1644
    This further declaration was taken in late 1643 to 1644, and affected all men over 18 who were to subscribe their names in the book or roll along with their neighbours.[2]

References

  1. Christensen, Penelope. "England Religious and Political Oaths (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/England_Religious_and_Political_Oaths_%28National_Institute%29.
  2. Christensen, Penelope. "England Religious, Loyalty and Other Lists (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/England_Religious,_Loyalty_and_Other_Lists_%28National_Institute%29.