Throughout your research you may come across marriages that seem to involve your ancestors, yet you are not entirely convinced. It could be someone else with the same name, or perhaps the location of the marriage seems odd. Whatever the reason for your doubt, there are times when you would like more evidence before you are sure the marriage is the one you are looking for. This is the page for such an occasion. It explains record sources that will almost never directly mention marriages, but that could put an ancestor in a certain place at a certain time, or give another vital clue which could be the evidence you need. They also help build the story of your family history, and can make fascinating reading.
Not to be confused with a parish register, which is a specific type of document, a parish record is a general term covering any type of document written about a particular parish. They will usually have been written by someone who would help the priest in his daily activities, such as a verger, or by the parish priest himself. Parish records have been kept for hundreds of years, and cover all kinds of subjects, ranging from recipes that cure dog bites to feuds amongst parishioners. You will find some surviving parish records in your county record office. Types of record include:
The bizarrely named glebe terrier is a survey of land belonging to a church. Terrier comes from the Medieval Latin terrarius, meaning of the earth and glebe is an area of land within a parish used to support a parish priest. Surviving glebe terriers are relatively frequent between 1604 and 1800, with scattered records outside these dates. Again, they can be found in your county record office.
Vestry minutes record all kinds of business, some of which may mention an ancestor and provide an interesting story as well. Some of the subjects which have been recorded include:
- Fining people for bringing paupers into the parish
- Fining people for turning scabbed beasts onto the common
- Fining people for refusing public office
- In 1825 at Clifton, Bedfordshire, minutes recorded the names of 85 people vaccinated against an illness
- In 1773 at Pertenhall, Bedfordshire minutes record the conditions under which the parish would lend its fire engine to it neighbours
Before the 19th century the economy of Britain was heavily based on agriculture. Much of the population would have their own land to cultivate, which was divided in a very complicated way. Instead of each proprietor having all their land in one field, they would have several small parcels of land spread across different fields. It made the land into a patchwork of tiny farming plots. With an ever increasing population and improvements in farming, it was vital that the system became more efficient, and so over time these plots were exchanged, sold, and amalgamated, gradually turning the land into large fields, each owned by one farmer.
Throughout the medieval period much of the population lived under the jurisdiction of a Lord of the Manor; a person who owned a large area of land called a manor (it was also sometimes called a fief). Each manor had a manorial court, which was a place where legal matters would be resolved relating to that manor and its people. Everything decided in court was recorded, leaving us many revealing historical documents which still survive today. They include court rolls, surveys, maps, terriers, and all other documents relating to the boundaries, franchises, wastes, customs or courts of a manor. You can search some of them online at The National Archives Manorial Documents Register (MDR).
These are lists of people and businesses relevant to a certain place and year. Many genealogy websites allow you online access to these lists, with each site having different ones. Lists to watch out for include:
- 1783 Bailey’s western directory
- 1797 Universal British trade directory
- 1823 & 1830 Pigot’s directories
- 1840 Robson’s directory
- 1852 Slater’s directory
- 1856, 1873 & 1889 Kelly’s directories
- 1890, 1895 & 1900 Eyre’s Plymouth & Devonport district directories
- 1893 & 1897 Kelly’s directories
- 1901 Venning’s East Cornwall directory
- 1902, 1906, 1910, 1919, 1923, 1930 & 1939 Kelly’s directories
- Cassell’s Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland