How to Use English Court Records

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== Introduction ==
 
== Introduction ==
 
 
Court records are official documents concerning civil or ecclesiastical matters. Various types of courts exist in England to handle judicial matters. They include:
 
Court records are official documents concerning civil or ecclesiastical matters. Various types of courts exist in England to handle judicial matters. They include:
 
 
* National government courts
 
* National government courts
 
 
* County government courts
 
* County government courts
 +
* Manorial courts
  
* Manorial courts<span></span>
+
Most court records identify individuals named in court cases as:
 
+
<span></span>Most court records identify individuals named in court cases as:
+
 
+
 
* Defendant. An individual or institution being charged with a crime or being sued by another individual or institution.
 
* Defendant. An individual or institution being charged with a crime or being sued by another individual or institution.
 
+
* Plaintiff. The individual who initiates a lawsuit. Also called the accuser.
* Plaintiff. <span>The individual who initiates a lawsuit. Also called the accuser.</span>
+
* Juror. An individual who sits on a jury in a court of law.
 
+
* Witness. An individual who sees an event happen.
* Juror. <span>An individual who sits on a jury in a court of law.</span>
+
 
+
* Witness. <span>An individual who sees an event happen.</span>
+
  
 
Court records usually do not include birth, marriage, or death information but will provide other valuable information such as family relationships and places of residence. Most researchers use court records after they have investigated other records. Court records are found on both country and county levels. You need to determine which court would have dealt with legal matters in your ancestor's place of residence.<br><br>
 
Court records usually do not include birth, marriage, or death information but will provide other valuable information such as family relationships and places of residence. Most researchers use court records after they have investigated other records. Court records are found on both country and county levels. You need to determine which court would have dealt with legal matters in your ancestor's place of residence.<br><br>
  
 
== What You Are Looking For ==
 
== What You Are Looking For ==
 
 
When you use these records, you are looking for court documents which may provide the following details about the lives of your ancestors:
 
When you use these records, you are looking for court documents which may provide the following details about the lives of your ancestors:
 
 
* Ages
 
* Ages
 
 
* Residences
 
* Residences
 
 
* Occupations
 
* Occupations
 
 
* Physical descriptions
 
* Physical descriptions
 
 
* Family relationships
 
* Family relationships
 
 
* Events in their lives
 
* Events in their lives
  
 
== Learn about the courts ==
 
== Learn about the courts ==
 
 
For more information about the records of specific courts, see The National Archives leaflets.
 
For more information about the records of specific courts, see The National Archives leaflets.
  
'''Chancery Court Records'''
+
===Chancery Court Records===
 
+
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=19 Chancery Proceedings (Equity Suits) before 1558]
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=19 Chancery Proceedings (Equity Suits) before 1558]
  
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* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=288 Chancery: Masters’ Reports and Certificates]
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=288 Chancery: Masters’ Reports and Certificates]
  
'''Exchequer Court''''''Records'''
+
===Exchequer Court Records===
 
+
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=160 Equity Proceedings in the Court of Exchequer]
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=160 Equity Proceedings in the Court of Exchequer]
  
'''King’s Bench Court Records'''
+
===King’s Bench Court Records===
 
+
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=177 King's Bench (Crown side) 1675-1875]
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=177 King's Bench (Crown side) 1675-1875]
  
'''Records of the Court of Request'''
+
===Records of the Court of Request===
 
+
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=143 Court of Requests, 1485-1642: a Court for the Poor]
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=143 Court of Requests, 1485-1642: a Court for the Poor]
  
'''Records of the Star Chamber'''
+
===Records of the Star Chamber===
 
+
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=141 Court of Star Chamber, 1485-1642]
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=141 Court of Star Chamber, 1485-1642]
  
'''Records of the Court of Wards and Liveries'''
+
===Records of the Court of Wards and Liveries===
 
+
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=151 Court of Wards and Liveries, 1540-1645: Land Inheritance]
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=151 Court of Wards and Liveries, 1540-1645: Land Inheritance]
  
'''Assize Court Records'''
+
===Assize Court Records===
 
+
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=154 Assizes: Criminal trials]
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=154 Assizes: Criminal trials]
  
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* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=153 English Assizes, 1656-1971: Key to Classes for Civil Trials]
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=153 English Assizes, 1656-1971: Key to Classes for Civil Trials]
  
'''Manorial Court Records'''
+
===Manorial Court Records===
 
+
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=150 Manor and Other Local Court Rolls, 13th Century-1922]
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=150 Manor and Other Local Court Rolls, 13th Century-1922]
  
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=139 Manorial Records in The National Archives]
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=139 Manorial Records in The National Archives]
  
'''Others'''
+
===Others===
 
+
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=120 Tracing 19th and 20th Century Criminals]
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=120 Tracing 19th and 20th Century Criminals<br>]
+
  
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=253 Sources for Convicts and Prisoners 1100-1986]
 
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=253 Sources for Convicts and Prisoners 1100-1986]
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== Determine which court to search ==
 
== Determine which court to search ==
 
 
Ask yourself questions, such as the following, to determine which court level to search.
 
Ask yourself questions, such as the following, to determine which court level to search.
  
 
* Did my ancestor own property?
 
* Did my ancestor own property?
 
 
* Was my ancestor a merchant or craftsman?
 
* Was my ancestor a merchant or craftsman?
 
 
* Was my ancestor poor?
 
* Was my ancestor poor?
 
 
* Was my ancestor known to have been in trouble with the law?
 
* Was my ancestor known to have been in trouble with the law?
  

Revision as of 11:52, 30 July 2008

Contents

Introduction

Court records are official documents concerning civil or ecclesiastical matters. Various types of courts exist in England to handle judicial matters. They include:

  • National government courts
  • County government courts
  • Manorial courts

Most court records identify individuals named in court cases as:

  • Defendant. An individual or institution being charged with a crime or being sued by another individual or institution.
  • Plaintiff. The individual who initiates a lawsuit. Also called the accuser.
  • Juror. An individual who sits on a jury in a court of law.
  • Witness. An individual who sees an event happen.

Court records usually do not include birth, marriage, or death information but will provide other valuable information such as family relationships and places of residence. Most researchers use court records after they have investigated other records. Court records are found on both country and county levels. You need to determine which court would have dealt with legal matters in your ancestor's place of residence.

What You Are Looking For

When you use these records, you are looking for court documents which may provide the following details about the lives of your ancestors:

  • Ages
  • Residences
  • Occupations
  • Physical descriptions
  • Family relationships
  • Events in their lives

Learn about the courts

For more information about the records of specific courts, see The National Archives leaflets.

Chancery Court Records

Exchequer Court Records

King’s Bench Court Records

Records of the Court of Request

Records of the Star Chamber

Records of the Court of Wards and Liveries

Assize Court Records

Manorial Court Records

Others

The National Archives does not hold county Quarter Sessions records and therefore does not publish any leaflets about them. Quarter Sessions records are held by county record offices and other county repositories.

Determine which court to search

Ask yourself questions, such as the following, to determine which court level to search.

  • Did my ancestor own property?
  • Was my ancestor a merchant or craftsman?
  • Was my ancestor poor?
  • Was my ancestor known to have been in trouble with the law?

The answers to these and other questions will help you determine which courts might have records of your ancestor. However, whatever the circumstances of your ancestor's life, you should start on the county or local court level and move up to the national court level.