Further records for pre 19th century research

Lay Subsidies

Records from a tax levied on movable property rather than land usually raised as and when needed to fund for example, a military campaign. The poor were exempt from the tax as was clerical property.

In the early 13th century it was levied at one tenth of the value in towns, boroughs and the royal demesne, and one fifteenth elsewhere. It was also therefore known as the fifteenth and tenth until its abolition in 1624.

Between 1334 and 1524 only village totals are given because fixed sums were required from each vill (or township) so names of individuals (unless they were aliens), were rarely recorded.

From 1523 taxpayers’ names are again provide with the rate being based on the value of an individual’s moveable goods, their wages or their income from land, whichever was the greater. The Great Subsidy was levied for four years from 1523. It applied to everybody over the age of 16 who had income from land, taxable goods worth more than £2 per annum or a wage more than £1 a year. The rate was 4 pence in the pound (which varied over the years). Since it had a low threshold, many taxpayers were recorded. Roman Catholics and other nonconformists were forced to pay double rates.

They are available at TNA in series E l79 and E359, at County record offices and Local Family History societies.

Poll Tax

A poll tax is a tax on individuals, first introduced in England in 1377. The tax records provide information about people who are rarely, if ever, mentioned in other documents. They sometimes listed the entire household including the children. Parish officials collected and compiled lists of residents over the age of 15 or 16 depending on which year the tax was levied. They can therefore provide names, occupations, parish addresses and family relationships.

The tax was levied in 1377, 1379, 1381, 1513, 1641, 1660, 1677, 1694 and1698. It is thought that perhaps a third evaded payment but despite this, a high percentage of the population was documented. The clergy paid poll taxes in 1377, 1379, 1380, and 1381.

The records are held by TNA in series E 179, those from the 17th century can usually be found in local record offices.

Tudor and Stuart Muster Rolls (16th and 17th Century)

Assessments of adult able-bodied men between the age of 15 and 60 who could be available for service, including the weapons “harness” and armour of the wealthiest, to form a militia to keep the peace and defend a locality.

The earliest records survive from 1522 and are of special significance as they were the result of a covert and duplicitous attempt by Henry VIII’s chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, to obtain a general valuation that could be used to raise a forced loan. The musters list all landowners with the value of their lands as well as all males over the age of 16 with the value of their goods. Occupations are sometimes noted.

They are arranged by hundred (or wapentake etc) and by parish. Those unfit for service or too poor to possess the necessary weaponry were excluded from the rolls.

Gibson and Dell note the repositories where they can be located and give details of those that have been published. TNA (SP 1, 2, 10, 12, 14, 16,17 and E 101, 36 and 315), CROs and the British Library are the main repositories.

Solemn League and Covenant

The Vow and Covenant was taken by members of the House of Commons and House of Lords.

Solemn League of Covenant 1644 was an agreement in which Scotland agreed to support the English Parliamentarians in their disputes with the royalists and was signed throughout England and Scotland – demonstrates support against Catholics.

Provides names, village, parish and occupation of all those who took the oath and Catholics who refused to sign. Remaining records cover about one third of the country. Available at County record offices amongst parish records

Protestation Oath Returns

Record those swearing the 1641 the Protestation Oath.

Charles I introduced an Oath of Allegiance requiring all men over the age of 18 years to deny catholic beliefs. Those who refused lost most of their estates, both real and personal. Provides names, village, parish and occupation of all those who took the oath and Catholics who refused to sign. Remaining records cover about one third of the country. Available at the Parliamentary Archives, but also at:

•              National Archives series SP282 or El79

•              Society of Genealogy – for some parts of the country

•              London Metropolitan Archives – City of London and various London districts

•              County record offices

Hearth Tax records

A tax of one-shilling half yearly, payable at Michaelmas and Lady Day, on each hearth or stove in a residence. The occupier paid the tax but for empty house the owner was liable.

The exempt were paupers, persons in houses worth under 20s a year, who only had one or two hearths and chattels worth less than £10.  Landlords of exempt leaseholders were liable for paying the tax after May 1664. Charitable institutions such as hospitals and almshouses were exempt as were industrial hearths but businesses with ovens, such as bakeries or forges, had to pay.

The assessments form a directory of names and although occupations are rarely given, descriptions are sometimes recorded. They reveal who was the head of the household at a certain date and an individual’s disappearance can indicate their date of death or migration elsewhere.

Assessments dating from 1662 to 1666 and 1669 to 1674 are held in the Subsidy Rolls of E 179 in TNA. TNA online database provides details of the places covered by the surviving returns, enabling the researcher to find the relevant records.

Some are also available online http://www.hearthtax.org.uk, and the website contains useful information on the hearth tax and its implementation in each county.

Land Tax records

Land Tax, calculated at the rate of four shillings in the pound, was collected between 1693 and 1963, although the most extensive surviving records are for the period 1780 to 1831. The records consist of assessments and returns that list landowners and from 1772 the occupiers of the property. Until 1831, Catholics were charged double.

It was assessed annually or quarterly on real and personal property of those who had land worth more than 20 shillings annually and also on specific public pensions and salaries. The records therefore give some indication of financial status, specifying the type of land, the amount of assessed and the amount paid. Poorer people were not listed.

The surviving records are listed in Gibson and Medlycott and Mills and most are to be found in CROs or local archives. Some counties’ land tax records are now available on http://www.ancestry.co.uk and http://www.findmypast.co.uk.

From 1798, taxpayers could commute their future land tax to a one-off payment that was equivalent to 15 years of tax, though they were still usually included in the lists up to 1832 because of the voting qualification. The commissioners, therefore, prepared registers listing those that were liable to tax in 1798. These are held by TNA in IR 23

Window Tax

A tax on the number of windows in a property from 1696 until 1834, charged a flat rate of two shillings with a supplementary amount from 1778, according to the property’s rateable value. From 1696 to 1766, additional tax was paid on houses with more than ten windows, on seven or more windows between 1766 and 1825 and those with eight or more windows from 1825 to 1851.

Many people avoided paying the tax that revenue fell by blocking up windows. Sometimes they were then unblocked once the inspectors had gone.

The occupiers were liable to pay the tax, Those who didn’t pay the church or poor rate were excused and some windows were exempt from tax, such as those of business premises that were attached to a residence, or hospitals, churches, chapels, charity schools and workhouses, although they were still assessed but granted an exemption certificate.

Surviving returns are listed in Gibson, Medlycott and Mills and are usually found in CROs, though some are scattered elsewhere, including in series E 181 at TNA.

They usually provide the name of the taxpayer (address if in a town), number of windows and the tax collected. Sometimes occupation was noted.

Militia lists 1757 to 1831

Following the Militia Act of 1757 able-bodied men were conscripted into the militia by ballot although clergy, teachers, seamen, apprentices, peace officers and peers were amongst those excused.

All parish constables were ordered to keep an annual list of every man aged between 18 and 50 apart from those excused. The lists were then organised into hundreds or wapentakes, with each providing one company for the county regiment of militia.

Lists between 1758 and 1831 usually record the names of all men in the relevant age group, including those excused, with occupations and a note of any infirmities.

These lists, together with the militia muster rolls, should be complete annual censuses of all men aged 18 to 50 from 1758 to 1762, and aged 18 to 45 from 1762 to 1831.

Surviving militia lists are usually found in CROs. Gibson and Medlycott list, by county, the location of surviving militia records along with details of any indexes or published lists. The actual service records of officers and those of other ranks will be found at TNA with indexed and imaged militia attestations from 1806-1915 at http://www.findmypast.co.uk.

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