An essential method of making sense of historical document is transcribing the original. The Amanuensis Monday blogging prompt suggests transcribing documents is a good idea, because it:
- makes a copy
- transforms the original into searchable text
- forces focus on details
This is a start, but only hints at the processes involved. A transcript is a faithful copy that preserves the characteristics of the original as much as possible, making a useful copy for further analysis and research. The process of transforming an old hand-written document into a computerised one is not just a matter of typing the words. Diplomatic (the study of documents) and palaeography (the study of hand-writing) skills are a great help in producing a good transcript.
The example I use here is a manorial court record of a property transaction. The diplomatic study of this kind of record reveals their structure and the reasons why they follow a particular pattern. The manorial court held sessions periodically at which various matters concerning the governance of the manor were presented. Consequently the court recorded sessions and within each session one or more cases to dealt with each matter. The court at Claverley typically presented the legal event of a surrender of a property to the lord of the manor as a one case, and the legal event of an admission of a tenant to a property as a separate case. This reflected the legal technicality of copyhold property transfers where property always reverted to the lord of the manor before being granted to a new owner.
I have not included images of the original court books because I only have poor quality images and do not have any permission to reproduce the original. These two related cases come from:
Manor of Claverley. Court Book 1833-1848. Session 25 April 1844. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, USA. film no 1951756.
Inevitably, some characteristics of the original do not translate easily into electronic text. Description of the layout on the original pages, identification of my digital image files, and other explanatory comments are in square brackets. Each line of text has been reproduced as on the original and line numbers added within each case. I do this for difficult to read documents because it makes finding the place within the repeated phrases much easier.
[page number] (544)
[new court session starts half way down the page]
Manor of Claverley} to wit
25th April 1844
- The Court Baron purchased of Thomas Whitman
- Esquire Lord of this manor held at the dwelling house of
- John Crowther called the Kings Arms situate in Claverley
- within this manor on Thursdays the twenty fifth day of
- April in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred
- and forty four and in the seventh year of the reign of her
- present Majesty Queen Victoria Before Francis Harrison deputy
- Steward there and in the presence of Christopher Gabert and
- Edward Crowther two copyholders of this manor.
[case 1 not transcribed as it does not concern people of interest]
[I photographed the start of the court session, then skipped to the cases of interest on a later page.]
[page number ?query not the page following the previous image.] (561)
[case x starting half way down page]
- To this Court come John Wilson of Aston within this
- manor Farmer and Samuel Nicholls late of Catstree in the
- parish of Worfield but now of Bridgnorth in the county of Salop
- Gentleman Devisees in trust named in the last will and testament
- of John Felton heretofore of Hopstone but late of Draycott within
- this manor Yeoman late copyholder of this manor deceased
- in their own proper persons and in consideration of the Sum
- of three hundred and fifteen pounds seven shillings of lawful
- British money to them the said John Wilson and Samuel Nicholls
- in hand well and truly paid by Sarah Ward Nicholls of
- Catstree aforesaid Spinster before the passing of this surrender
- as and for the purchase money for the hereditaments hereinafter
- mentioned surrender into the hands of the Lord of this manor
- by his deputy Steward aforesaid by the rod according to the custom
[page number] (562)
- of this manor All that piece or parcel of land called or known
- by the name of Mill Hill and all that newly erected messuage or
- dwelling house and outbuildings on the same piece of land or some
- part thereof with the appurtenances formerly Grosvenors and
- late Onions’s[?] situate in the township of Sleathton in the manor
- of Claverley in the county of Salop formerly in the occupation
- of John Felton and now of William Ferrington or his undertennants
- containing by admeasurement three acres one rood and sixteen
- perches or thereabouts being by computation the half of one
- third part of a nook of land To the use and behoof of the
- said Sarah Ward Nicholls her heirs and assigns for ever at
- the will of the Lord according to the custom of this manor
[undeciferable mark in margin]
- To this Court comes Sarah Ward Nicholls of Catstree in
- the parish of Worfield in the County of Salop Spinster in her own
- proper person and by virture of a surrender to her use at this
- Court made by John Wilson of Aston within this manor
- Farmer and Samuel Nicholls late of Catstree aforesaid but now
- of Bridgnorth in the said County of Salop Gentleman Devisees in
- trust named in the last will and testament of John Felton
- heretofore of Hopstone but late of Draycott within this manor
- Yeoman late a copyholder of this manor deceases desires to
- be admitted tenant to the Lord of this manor according to the
- custom of this manor of and to All that piece or parcel of land
- called or known by the name of Mill Hill and all that newly
- erected messuage or dwelling house and outbuildings on the same
- piece of land or some part thereof with the appurtenances formerly
- Grosvenors and late Onions’s situate in the township of Heathton
- in the manor of Claverley in the county of Salop formerly in the
- occupation of John Felton and now of William Ferrington or
- his undertenants containing by admeasurement three acres one
- rood and sixteen perches or thereabouts being by computation
- the half of one third part of a nook of land To whom the
- Lord of this manor by his deputy Steward aforesaid by the
- rod according to the custom of this manor hath granted the
- premises aforesaid with the appurtenances and seizin thereof
- To have and to hold the same premises with the appurtenances
- unto the said Sarah Ward Nicholls her heirs and assigns
- To the use and behoof of the said Sarah Ward Nicholls her heirs
[page number] (563)
- and assigns for ever at the will of the Lord according to the
- custom of this manor by the rents and customary services
- therefore due and of right accustomed and for such estate and
- ingress[?] the said Sarah Ward Nicholls doth give to the Lord
- for a fine six pence half penny and four sixth parts of a
- farthing and she is admitted tenant thereof in form aforesaid
- and doth to the Lord fealty
- [signature] Fran[cis] Harrison
- Deputy Steward of the said manor
[end of court session, another session follows]
Now we are ready to start analysing the information contained in this property transaction. I will tackle extracting data in the next instalment. If you fancy some homework, try answering the following:
- How many people are mentioned?
- How many places are referred to?
- Who lived at Catstree?
- How many ‘facts’ (e.g. John Wilson was a Farmer on 25th April 1844) are contained in this transcript?
© Sue Adams 2013
How did I do?
I have achieved the publication of 50 marriages, 24 from Dad’s side and 26 from Mom’s side, listed in calendar order below. The seed was planted when I was obsessing about the word count for my Masters degree thesis, which was supposed to be up to 16,000 words. The total 50 Marriage Mondays word count comes to 30,788 ‘words’, but includes tables, captions and anything else WordPress blogging software thinks is a word.
Other objectives were:
Close, I took a 4 week break between 25 March and 15 April, so these posts were published out of calendar order. One other post filled in a week when there was no marriage (30 July). The publishing calendar was invaluable. Now I need to make another one.
Yes, some cousins made contact, but writing made me reconnect with people and make new contacts.
Putting the marriages into historical context and sharing a useful output.
I think I achieved this, do you?
Re-visiting my database, data verification, and properly recording sources.
Mixed progress. The database still needs work. I have found a lot of new information, but most has not been entered into the database. I have been re-evaluating my research procedures and developing ideas about what genealogical software should really do. Some material not included will be refined, expanded, and possibly submitted as a paper to FHISO.
- Stamp duty and authenticity of legal documents
- Citation and Verification or ‘Where the hell did I get this from?’
- Which Church? – Church and State Jurisdictions
- Hold the Front Page and 1960s Social Care of the Elderly
- Parish Register copies – Microfilm, Fiche, Transcripts, Abstracts and Indexes
- Parish Register Inconsistencies and Finding a lost website
- English Civil Registration Tools – FreeBMD, FamilySearch England Jurisdictions 1851, and A Vision of Britain
- Making the Connection between Civil Registration and Census Records
- A Wartime Wedding
- Of this parish – Residence requirements for marriage
- Online Search and Index Adventures with Ancestry and Findmypast
- Name change and Insurance
- Baptist Marriage and Birth records
- Civil Marriage and Witness Identification
- Is it George or Jack? Engagement photograph identification
- A Boxing Day Marriage by Licence
- Marriage Banns and Putting Faces to Names
- Now you see it, now you don’t – IGI and FamilySearch
- Following the Farmers – A Research Plan
- Representing Multiple Marriages and Crossing Connections
- Copies of Copies, Citation and Source Evaluation with FamilySearch
- Women in the Property Records of Clent Manor
- Common Surname Trouble – Adams in Birmingham
- Naming Patterns as Evidence of Kinship
- Vanishing Artifacts – the Gravestone and Silver Spoon
- Skipping Down the Generations – Ancestral Surname used as a Middle Name
- Marriage on Facebook and a Customised Chart
- The Girl Next Door? Local History, Maps and Back-to-Backs
- Evidence of Illiteracy among the Bargees of Britain’s Venice
- Who’s who? Digital Photo Annotation
- Non-conformist Marriage by an Authorised Person
- The Housekeeper, the Valet and Grand Connections
- GRO Index Discrepancy or Name Variations?
- 20th Century sources – Electoral rolls, Google Maps and Land Registry
- Picking up the Tailor’s Thread through Trade Directories
- Provenance of a Personal Collection – Archival Accession, Arrangement and Description
- Linking the Jeweller’s chain through Trade Directories
- Is a Rare Surname easy to find? Searching for Barrowclift with Ancestry and FindMyPast
- Keeping it in the Family?
- Religious Affiliation and Who’s the mom?
- Pieces of Evidence – Corroborating a Family Tale
- Wills and Location – Further Evidence supporting the Inherited Family History
- Engagement Evidence – The Diamond Ring
- The Wife’s Whisper – Indirect Evidence from the Manorial Court
- Postcard Correspondence with In-laws
- Housing and Economic Status
- Cousins and a Golden Wedding Anniversary
- Death, Divorce or Desertion?
- Isa and Charlie – Double Tragedy
- The School Master and Seed Cake
© Sue Adams 2013
Family folklore from my paternal grandparents stated that we descend from Bargees, people who lived and worked on canal boats. It has often been said that Birmingham has more canals than Venice. To this day, Birmingham is a hub of Britain’s canal and navigable waterways network. In the early industrial revolution, canals were the transport backbone. As an early industrial centre, Birmingham developed an extensive canal network between the 1760s and 1830s, with connections to countrywide destinations. The Grand Junction Railway the first rail line to serve Birmingham, linking with Liverpool and Manchester, opened in 1837. By the time of this marriage in 1874, canals were still an important part of the goods transport network, but were challenged by the rise of rail.
Bride: Caroline Spencer, aged 18
Groom: Samuel Barton, aged 21, Carter
Date: 5 April 1874
Location: Bishop Ryder church, Birmingham
Father of Bride: Edward Barton, Boatman
Father of Groom: John Spencer, Wood turner
Witnesses: John Cartwright, Mary Ann Barton
The occupation of the groom’s father, Edward Barton as a boatman supports the family story. Census, marriage and birth records show both Edward and Samuel worked as boatmen, but also did other jobs.
|Year||Edward’s occupation||Samuel’s occupation|
Notice that signatures of Caroline Spencer, Samuel Barton and witnesses Mary Ann Barton (Samuel’s sister) and John Cartwright are all recorded as his or her mark X, indicating that these people could not write. The 1911 census return for Samuel and Caroline contains indirect evidence of their illiteracy, as the schedule was signed by their 19 year old son, Henry, rather than head of the household Samuel.
|Name||Birth Year||Year recorded as Scholar|
|Edward Barton’s children|
|Samuel Barton’s children|
Unlike the 1871 Scottish census, English censuses do not directly record attendance at school. However, ‘Scholar’ commonly recorded in the occupation column for children of school age, might be an indicator of some education. Some of the children of Edward and Samuel Barton appear to have attended school after 1870. As the absence of ‘scholar’ could be due to accidental omission or error, it is not strong evidence of a lack of education.
The Elementary Education Act 1870 established local school boards which could enforce byelaws requiring children to attend school between the ages of 5 and 13, where there was a school within 3 miles of the child’s home. The school boards could raise funds from the rate payers, but still required fees from the parents. Poor parents who could not afford fees or loss of the children’s income may have tried to avoid the compulsion to attend school. Although the Bartons lived in back-to-back houses they were part of the canal boat community that distrusted officialdom. In response to public health concerns two acts requiring the registration of canal boats were enacted in 1877 and 1884. The legislation proved unenforceable and ineffective as Benjamin Browning, a Medical Officer of Health noted in 1879 due to
“the reluctance of the boatmen themselves to have registration effected, since their children are at once brought under the ken and domination of the School Board.”
© Sue Adams 2013