Manorial Records for Family Historians

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Media: BOOK - paperback, 88 pages
Author: G. Barber
Year: 2018
ISBN: 9781925781649
Other: 2nd ed., b&w & colour photos, glossary, further reading, index
Publisher: Unlock the Past

The manorial system, introduced to England and Wales by the Normans, lasted until 1926 and the surviving records can provide wonderful insights into the personal lives of our ancestors.

Henry Chandler wrote in 1885 that manorial records 'enable us to drop down suddenly on an obscure English village five hundred years ago, and almost to see with our own eyes what the inhabitants are doing'. 

However, it seems that few genealogists understand manorial records, and how the manor operated. The aim of this book is to cut through a complex mix of social and legal history to give family historians the knowledge and confidence to start utilising these records. Once understood, the rewards are immense. 

The book also contains many examples of how records from the manors of Rotherfield in East Sussex and Datchurst (alias Hildenborough) in Kent were used by the author in his own research.

Access to manorial records
The origins of the manor
The manor: an overview
Social structure on manorial estates
 - Freemen (free tenants)
 - Villeins (unfree tenants)
Administration of the manor
Land tenure
 - Demesne land
 - Copyhold or Customary tenure
 - Freehold land
 - Leasehold land
Manorial courts
 - Court Leet
 - Court Baron
A description of the Manor of Rotherfield, Sussex in 1400
Locating property using manorial records
 - Example 1. Widow Barber's Cottage
 - Example 2. Drapers
 - Example 3. Bonnetts
Further reading
Appendix: The Feudal system and the hgistory of wills

"The book was easy to read and it explained the meanings of Manorial Records and terms clearly and simply. It has made my fear of utilising these records totally disappear. 5 stars." - Diana S.



3 Reviews
  • Manorial Records for family historians

    Posted by Diana Johnson on 12th Mar 2024

    A great little book. I should have read it earlier before I embarked on transcribing a number of family documents. It clearly explains the structure of the manorial system through the centuries, the development of different types of land ownership and the various roles held by members of the manorial estate. I recommend this to anyone digging deeper into their family history.

  • Great resource

    Posted by Bettina Douglas on 27th Oct 2019

    This book has opened my eyes to a new avenue of family history research I had not considered. The authors examples from his own research are helpful guides to what is possible.0
    Initially I thought it would be helpful in discovering more about one branch of my family that were clearly part of a manorial establishment. I also now realise it may be helpful in looking at other branches as well.

  • Informative

    Posted by Charles Rich on 30th Aug 2019

    I found this little book very informative and interesting as well as being easy to read. If your family history research is reaching down past the 18th century in UK then you may need the knowledge from this book to help you in your endeavours. Well done, Geoffrey Barber

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