I received this question from xxxx: "Hi Paul. I've been talking with a friend of mine who at one time was a researcher, I asked her how I could trace my family tree back beyond the 1530ish years, I was told that at this time there was the Dissolution of the Monastaries and that all the records at this time were taken over by the Cathedral and that the records are at County Hall. Is this correct?"
Although this is a question about Norfolk it has general applicability to England and Wales. So I thought I'd post an answer here:
Sort of, xxxx. There are some records at County Hall, but nothing like what you will find from after that date in terms of church records. Before that you will find things like poll tax records, window and hearth tax records and local manorial court records. As you might imagine, not all records survive and no records purport to be census-like or comprehensive. If your ancestor was rich, or had land, or was a bad person, you might spot a reference to them. Otherwise, they could well have passed under the radar screen, or would have if they had radar screens!
For example, here is an extract from the Northrepps Court Leet from 1493: "Margaret atte Hoo, otherwise Howes, of Southrepps widow, kept a dog which worried sheep in Northrepps field, John Howes described as common malefactor with cows and and many beasts. Jugga, wife of said John Howes said to be a common scold and sower of discord between her neighbours."
Sounds like an episode of East Enders (a British soap opera), doesn’t it?!
Three good ways of finding out the kinds of record available at local record offices:
1 - go there and ask
2 - use A2A and other online resources
3 - get yourself a subscription to a family history magazine and watch for the articles on older material availability!
Hope this helps a bit
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