Further records for pre 19th century research (Part 2)

Pipe Rolls 1581 to 1591

Recorded the penalties for recusancy under the 1582 Recusant Act, in particular for failing to attend Protestant services. From 1581 if anyone converted to Catholicism or attempted to convert anyone else to Catholicism, the penalty was death.

A further Act was passed forbidding Catholic education of children.

From 1586 failure to pay a fine would result in a recusant losing land they owned, a penalty which, from 1604 could be imposed in place of the £20 per month fine.

Includes the names and fines imposed on Catholics yearly; largely written in Latin and arranged by county; held by the Exchequer – copies provided to the Chancery.

Available at:

  • National Archives series E372 and E352 (not digitised)
  • Catholic Record Society publication: ” Recusants in the Exchequer Pipe Rolls, 1581-1592 ” by T. J. McCann 12 (not digitised)

An index of Pipe Rolls is also available at the Pipe Roll Society

Inquisitions post Mortem

An inquisition post mortem (or escheat) was an enquiry held from the 13th century until 1660 by the Crown when a tenant-in-chief died to identify the tenant’s heir and ensure he took possession and swore fealty to the king.

They detail the tenant in chief’s manor(s), date of death, name, age and relationship of his heir.

Although the records only applied to tenants in chief, many humbler people are mentioned incidentally in the inquisitions as subtenants, trustees, jurors or witnesses.

A report on the inquest was made to Chancery and there are two types of document: the inquisition post mortem itself and the entries on the Fine Rolls, both of which are in Latin. They date from 1235 to 1649 and are held by TNA in C 132 to C 142, and E 149 to 150.

Indexed calendars of the inquisitions have been published by HMSO for 1235 to 1422 and 1485 to 1509. Published indexes to the inquisitions for certain counties have been produced, particularly by the British Record Society.

Poll Books

Poll books were used to record those who voted, but they are extremely rare prior to 1696. An Act of 1711 required poll books to be deposited with the Clerk of the Peace, so their survival increases after this date.

They list the names of voters, their parish of residence and the candidate for whom they voted. The names of the freeholds and their owners who had the vote are arranged alphabetically, usually by parish, but occasionally by township, ward, or hundred. The poll book states whether the freeholder owns land or a house, or both, and his occupation is given, such as farmer, gentleman, mercer etc. The candidate for whom each freeholder voted is listed, and often at the end of the book there is an index of the freeholders and an analysis of the voting in that year for the county or borough. Sometimes, the specific address of the voter is given and the address of the property that provided the entitlement to vote, if different.

The last general election for which poll books were produced took place in 1868.

Local archives will usually have the most complete set for a county. Many have been published by family history societies. Ancestry.co.uk have indexed, and has images of, the collection of the Guildhall Library as well as a small collection from various counties. A small collection from 1830-1837 is available http://www.findmypast.co.uk.

Electoral registers

Electoral Registers were introduced in 1832 and list the names of electors in general elections, their address and their qualification to vote, arranged in alphabetical order by parish. They have been compiled every year save for 1916/1917.

Electoral registers had to be deposited with the Clerk of the Peace and most are now held by local archives, local libraries and the British Library. A guide to the registers and where they are deposited is found in Electoral Registers Since 1832; and Burgess Rolls by Jeremy Gibson. The British Library collection is available online from 1832-1932 through http://www.findmypast.co.uk. The electronic electoral register from 2002 to the present day is available on a number of websites, including http://www.findmypast.co.uk. Ancestry.co.uk has a number of electoral registers indexed with images, including for London and Surrey from 1832 up to the middle of the 20th Century.

Monumental Inscriptions

Where legible the name, age and date of death of the deceased is given at the least. An occupation, place of origin or information on military service may also be recorded.

Often families were buried together or in adjacent plots revealing family relationships. They are especially useful in identifying children who died in infancy of whom the researcher may otherwise be unaware.

Recording memorial inscriptions is important because of weathering. Local authority sometimes did this. They retained the original transcripts but deposited copies with the Registrar General. TNA holds transcripts of inscriptions from around 170 burial grounds in series RG 37. Many family history societies have also been engaged in monumental inscription work and have built up enormous collections of transcripts. Some of these have been published and they are listed in Raymond’s county volumes of genealogical bibliographies or in Specialist Indexes for Family Historians.

Indexes and images can also be found at http://www.findagrave.com and http://www.deceasedonline.com. These projects are ongoing and the websites are continually updated. There is a large collection of monumental inscriptions for various counties in England and a national collection for Scotland on http://www.findmypast.co.uk.

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