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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Taxes, Lists, Business, Electoral and Insurance Records  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Legal Recognition of Documents

Stamp Duty
After a competition for a new form of taxation that could be collected easily and cheaply and did not impinge too much on the poor, the stamp duty was introduced in 1694. Payment of the duty was denoted by an impressed, or less frequently, by an adhesive stamp. Special supplies of stamped paper were made available for the many classes of legal instruments such as conveyances, mortgages, insurance policies, documents of court proceedings, grants of probate and administration. The adhesive stamps are known as fiscal or revenue stamps by collectors, and are to be found on all kinds of documents, even occasionally on marriage certificates (McAlpine).

Further details regarding the history of stamp duties can be found in Dagnall’s tercentenary volume (Creating a Good Impression: Three Hundred Years of Stamp Duties & the Stamp Office, 1994). Three stamp duties of particular interest to genealogists are:

1765 Stamp Act for North American Colonies
Parliament approved a Stamp Act for the North American colonies in March of 1765 in order to finance military expenses there. Documents now requiring an official stamp of the British Empire included:
Ÿ Almanacs
Ÿ Appointments to civil office
Ÿ Apprenticeship articles
Ÿ Bills of sale
Ÿ College diplomas
Ÿ Court papers (most)
Ÿ Harbor passes
Ÿ Leases
Ÿ Liquor licenses
Ÿ Newspapers (and advertisements within them)
Ÿ Playing cards (on the ace of spades).
Ÿ Dice
and much more.

The symbolism of everything from official business to recreation being controlled by British imperial authority was not lost on the colonies in North America. When the first consignments of stamped papers arrived in ships major riots ensued, most famously the Boston Tea Party. The Act was repealed in 1766.

1712-1855 Stamp Duty on Newspapers
The government considered newspapers a convenient source of tax revenue and introduced a Stamp Duty of one penny (1d) per whole sheet and a half-penny (½d) for a half-sheet from 1712. (One whole sheet was folded to make a four-page newspaper). These taxes were increased five times between 1756 and 1815 with the result that only the literate and affluent could buy newspapers. This situation changed when the Stamp Duty was reduced in 1836 and finally abolished in 1855 resulting in a huge increase in provincial titles, and greater accessibility for the poor.

1710-1811 Stamp Duty on Apprenticeship Indentures
In 1710 a tax or duty was imposed on apprenticeship bindings. Four kinds of apprenticeships were exempt:
Ÿ Those where the indenture fee (or premium) was under one shilling, typically those to relatives.
Ÿ Apprenticeships paid for by the parish, usually pauper children whose parents were on relief.
Ÿ Those at the expense of a charity, which could be a public charity or an individual bequest.
Ÿ Apprenticeships in the many industries that did not exist at the time of the 1563 Statute (Hey), the most notable being the 18th century cotton trade.

Naturally, people avoided the tax if they could and there were masters who avoided paying the duty and thus did not get their apprentices registered. Nevertheless it is estimated that up to one million apprenticeship bindings are recorded in these books, mostly to masters in England, Wales and Scotland, but also a few abroad.

Collection of taxes caused records to be made, hence genealogists are eternally grateful for any government taxation!

The Inland Revenue Apprenticeship Books are divided into two sets according to where the payments were received:
Ÿ City registers where the tax was collected in London on apprenticeships anywhere.
Ÿ Country registers containing entries, made in London, for the indentures for which duty had been paid to district collectors and sent in batches to London. The Scots Indentures are with the country registers but listed separately.
From 1710 to about 1752 the registers contain:
Ÿ Number of the indenture.
Ÿ Date tax paid and indenture registered. The books record tax paid up to 1811, but the latest indentures registered therein were signed in 1808.
Ÿ Name of apprentice and father, or mother if she was widowed, or guardian, and residence. From 1752 to its demise in 1811 the father’s name is not given.
Ÿ Name and trade of the master, and his residence.
Ÿ Term of the indenture.
Ÿ Premium paid to the master.
Ÿ The amount of tax (duty) paid by the master, assessed at 6d for every £1 up to £50 (2.5%), and 1s for every £1 over £50 (5%). Note that the duty had to be paid within two months of signing the indenture, or double was charged up to a maximum time of one year after the end of the apprenticeship, thus a span of up to eight years. The duty was raised in 1804 to a sliding scale from 15s to £20.

These Inland Revenue records are at the Public Record office in IR 1 with indexes called Apprentices Of Great Britain from 1710-1762 and 1762-1774 in IR 17 and on film . There is no index yet for those for 1775-1811.

Chart :
Summary of Inland Revenue Apprenticeship Records 1710-1811
These are on 49 films, starting at 0477624
Date Reg’s Books IR 1 Indexes (IR17 Number of Indentures
1710-1752 Father given Apprentices + Masters on film 250,000
1753-1762 Father Apprentices on film. Masters on 4 non-circulating fiche 6344869*
1775-1811 1775-1811 250,000 (Gibbens) 750,000 (Camp 1998)

Some county indexes have also been made, for example for Surrey, Sussex and Wiltshire, and these may include entries to 1811.
Chart : Dashwoods from Index to Apprentices of Great Britain IR 17
Book Folio Year Apprentice/Father Master Fee
13 194 1733 Christopher/Richard Jos POTTLE, Blandford, surgeon £10.10.0
46 94 1719 Jarrett/Richard of Cockley Thomas VERE, Norwich, merchant 100
2 114 1713 John/Thomas of Coventry, vintner William LEE, citizen & apothecary 50
22 208 1761 John/Richard William MASON, New Inn, Mddx gent £262.10.0
54 151 1762 John/- [sic Joseph] George FLASHMAN, Exeter, watchmaker £31.10.0
52 213 1757 Mary/ Mary COOPER, Lynn, milliner 20
12 53 1730 Robert/Richard of Watcombe John WAY, Lyons Inn, Mddx attorney 168
52 157 1756 Robert/- George GROSE, Wareham, Dorset, currier 6
18 214 1749 Scampton/Ann Thomas HOLLINGSWORTH, bookseller Lynn 17
49 84 1729 Thomas, Whippingham/- William HARDING, Whippingham wheelwright 6
14 162 1736 Thomas/John Samuel WEDDELL, citizen & draper 60
It can be seen that those after 1752 have no parent given, and that there is an error in the index. The original reads Jos: but the entries above and below are both for John!

Chart : Inland Revenue Apprenticeship Books of Great Britain.
Town Registers 1710
[England–there is a separate list of Scots Indentures]
These were all Common Indentures + Counterpart collected by Wm Ward to Jno Ward at Leicester
Rec’t date Master, residence, trade Apprentice, parent, residence Apprentice start date Yrs Fee & tax
Mar 6 Sam: Selby of Hoebrooke, Derby frame work knitter of London Wm s/o Jno Woodhouse of Makeny in parish of Duffield, Derbyshire husbandman Mar 6 7 £3
Mar 14 Sam: Spibye of town & county of Nottingham grocer John s/o Sam: Spencer of Brewhouse Yard, Nottingham Mar 14 7 £40
Apr 4 Wm Webster of Bingham, Nottinghamshire taylor Tho: s/o Robt Chamberlin of Musson, Leicestershire labourer 3 Apr 7 £3
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Taxes, Lists, Business, Electoral and Insurance Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.