Manorial records – Introduction

I used to think that manorial records were cloaked in mystery and intrigue which were very unlikely to be of any interest or use to someone like me who descends from lots of ‘Ag labs’. However, these records are very overlooked and can provide information that cannot be found anywhere else.

These records are court rolls, surveys, maps, terriers, documents and books all relating to the administration of the manor dating generally from the time of the Norman Conquest until the 20th century.

First step is to find the manor, which may not have been a neatly defined piece of land but can be a collection of pockets of land in different parishes. Using gazetteers such as Kelly’s or by looking at an ordnance survey map (current or historical) you can normally identify some candidates for the area you are looking for. You could even try to track down the current Lord of the Manor in case they still hold some records, although most of them have now been transferred to archives and record offices.

The next step is to consult the TNA’s Manorial Document Register, but be aware that not all counties are covered.I would also check online and in person at the relevant County Record Office.

So, what can these records tell you? The most useful source is likely to be the court rolls which can trace ancestors from their first tenancy to the last held by their ancestors. Some properties remained in the hands of the same family by copyhold tenure which provides an undisputable line of pedigree. The court rolls will also include the names of jurors who were respected and established members of the community. This often indicates a family cluster living in the manor at a specific date in time which is really useful, especially where other records are missing or to help fill any gaps.

My own research includes the Wigstons of Leicestershire and an example (although not particularly helpful to me!) of a Wigston appearing in the Barwell manorial records is as follows (precis) –


Dated 1845

Includes John Wigson as the foreman

It links Thomas Grewcock to his wife Sarah at this time.

They were admitted as tenants to land ‘formerly in the tenure or occupancy of Widow Grewcock afterwards of David Grewcock and then of John Bennett and John Goddard.

It also tells us that they include two cottages or tenements recently built on the land which are now occupied by Thomas Peace and Jane Sapworth.

It also mentions George Grewcock who was a builder and his wife Elizabeth requesting admittance to the property.

My advice would be to look into these records, don’t discount them as they can help knock down that wall and make huge strides in your research from one set of records.

3 thoughts on “Manorial records – Introduction”

  1. Good advice, and something I need to revisit :-). Like you, I was surprised to find one of my 2x great grandparents on the manorial records, since most of my ancestors in that area were also Ag Labs. I love the interesting insights these ‘non-standard’ records can provide us with!


      1. It’s some time ago now, but if memory serves me it was a visit to the Cheshire Records Office with a friend that brought the manorial records to my attention. I possibly wouldn’t have found them otherwise. But your blog post has reminded me they are worth looking for and it’s time to take another look…


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