An essential method of making sense of historical document is transcribing the original.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
This episode of the 50 Marriage Mondays series features a golden wedding anniversary. The couple were:
Bride: Ethel Simms Wilson, aged 28
Groom: George Herbert Simms, aged 26, a marine engineer
Date: 3 August 1904
Location: St Asaph’s Church, Birmingham
Father of Bride: Thomas Wilson
Father of Groom: George Frederick Simms
This is a photocopy of the wedding photograph. Apart from the couple, seated in the centre, I am sure about the identity of a few of the guests. Seated on the far right is Mary Louisa Wilson, Ethel’s eldest sister. The tiny woman standing behind Ethel is her mother, Emma Louis Wilson, nee Simms.
I think the slightly disreputable chap standing behind George is Ethel’s father, Thomas Wilson. As George was a marine engineer, the uniformed man might be a colleague, perhaps in the merchant navy. The four men to the right of the uniformed man resemble other photos labelled by various relatives as Ethel’s brothers, but I am not sure which brother is which.
Although the marriage certificate does not indicate George’s father was deceased, George Frederick Simms’ death was registered in the January-March quarter of 1897 (Wandsworth district, Vol. 1d, p. 370), and the 1901 census records Emily Simms (nee Armstrong) as a widow.
The couple were first cousins:
In 1911, George’s two cousins, George Harry Wilson and Matthew Lancelot Wilson, who were also Ethel’s brothers, lived in the couple’s household. On 3 August 1954, George and Ethel celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary which is commemorated by this photo:
Again, apart from George and Ethel seated centrally, only some party guests have been identified with confidence. Seated either side of George and Ethel are the wives of the two cousins/brothers that who were part of the household in 1911. On the left is Emily Olive Pee, wife of Matthew Lancelot Wilson, and on the right is Elizabeth Johnson, wife of George Harry Wilson.
Standing behind Elizabeth is Muriel Thompson (nee Simms), daughter of George and Ethel, and behind Emily is Muriel’s daughter, Patricia Muriel Thompson, aged 16. Muriel’s other daughter, aged 9, is the laughing girl seated on the ground. The boy next to her looks about the same age, so he might be John Simms, son of John Frederick Simms.
The men are more problematic, not least because the general lack of hair makes it difficult to judge ages. I think the man of the left is Gordon Shirley Wilson, son of Emily Pee. It has been suggested that the men either side of Muriel are her brothers, Herbert (aged 43) on the left and John Frederick (aged 30) on the right. However, the man on the right looks older than 30 to me, so I think he may be Muriel’s husband, William Ross Thompson, aged 46. The man directly behind George looks older than the other standing men, so possible candidates include Ethel’s brothers George Harry Wilson, aged 63 and Matthew Lancelot Wilson, aged 58.
If you can confirm my tentative identifications or know who the other people were, please leave a comment.
© Sue Adams 2013
Ann youngest daughter of Matt. & Sarah [Wilson] m. George Boreston of Hodgehill Nr Kidder. Ann Boreston died at Hodgehill & was buried at Kidder. issue 2 sons & 1 daughter George John Catherine
This extract makes several claims: the marriage, the residence location, Ann’s burial, and the couple’s children. Can these claims be confirmed?
A check on the FamilySearch index yields a likely marriage:
Bride: Ann Wilson
Groom: George Boraston
Date: 2 July 1778
Location: Kidderminster, Worcestershire
Family wills provide evidence of the timing of the marriage and identity of Ann’s spouse. The will of Ann’s father Matthew Wilson, proved in 1776, makes no mention of any husband, which suggests that Ann had not yet married:
I give to my four children, viz, Mary, Ann, Thomas and Joseph the sum of one hundred pounds to be paid within one year next after my decease.
The will of Ann’s uncle, William Wilson, who died in 1889, calls her Nancy (a pet form of the name Ann) and gives her husband’s surname, Boraston:
I give to my Nephews John Matthew William Thomas and Joseph Wilson (Sons of my late Brother Matthew Wilson deceased) the Sum of twenty pounds each, and to my Nieces Sarah (Wife of Crowder), Mary (Wife of Edward Pratt) and Nancy (Wife of Boraston) who are the Daughters of my late Brother Matthew Wilson the Sum of twenty pounds each
Finally Ann’s mother, Sarah, explicitly named Ann’s husband, George Boraston, in her will in 1895:
give and bequeath unto my four youngest children viz Mary the wife of Edward Pratt, Ann the wife of George Boraston, Thomas and Joseph the said sum of one hundred pounds each
A second search of the FamilySearch index, on parents named George Boraston and Ann, and filtering out all results except baptisms in Kidderminster, Worcestershire gives these children:
|William Boraston||6 October 1779|
|George Boraston||17 February 1781|
|John Boraston||30 January 1783|
|Elizabeth Boraston||24 February 1785|
|Ann Boroston||19 June 1786|
|Betty Boraston||29 April 1788|
|Catharine Boraston||28 February 1791|
|Mary Boraston||12 January 1793|
Given the marriage in 1778, these 8 baptisms commence the year after and are spaced at about 2 yearly intervals. The timing pattern of baptisms reflecting births is what I would expect to see for George and Ann. The three children named in the family history are also in the correct birth order. Further research to show that the other 5 children did not survive to adulthood would add credence to the inherited family history.
The location of George Boraston’s residence, Hodge Hill, near Kidderminster can be found on a modern map, on the eastern outskirts of the town.
Place names may persist over long periods of time, but we should check that Hodge Hill is associated with this location at earlier times. An interactive version of the 1842 tithe map is available at the Worcestershire Tithe Mapping website. The land parcel at this location, recorded as ‘Hedge Hill Farm’, refers to a farmstead owned by the Earl of Derby’s estate and occupied by a tenant, George Wilson. The farmstead is named as Hodge Hill Farm on earlier estate map created for a sale in 1833. If the tenant George Wilson is a relative of George and Ann, it would support the claim of their residence at Hodge Hill. Property records may also contain further evidence.
© Sue Adams 2013
 “England Marriages, 1538–1973″, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NKS8-2YL : accessed 28 Jun 2013), George Boraston and Anne Wilson, 02 Jul 1778. citing Family History Library film no. 435263. citing Church of England. St. Mary’s Church (Kidderminster, Worcestershire), Marriages, 1767-1789.
 Will of Matthew Wilson of Kidderminster, Worcester, made 2 Feb 1776, proved 16 July 1776. Worcestershire County Records Office.
 Will of William Wilson the Elder of Walton, Clent, Worcestershire, made 15 May 1788, proved 7 Feb 1789. Worcestershire County Records Office.
 Will of Sarah Wilson of Wannerton, made 19 January 1795, proved 2 February 1795. Worcestershire County Records Office.
 Sale plan of Park Hall mansion & estate (in Churchill & Blakedown) 1833. Worcestershire County Records Office, 705:554 BA4813.