The Wife’s Whisper – Indirect Evidence from the Manorial Court

This week’s entry in the 50 Marriage Mondays series features my 7x great grand-parents, the parents of Mary Pearman who featured in Women in the Property Records of Clent Manor.  Their marriage is recorded in the parish register:

Bride: Sara Waldren
Groom: Nicholas Pearman
Date: 16 July 1679
Location: Clent

Nicholas Pearman owned copyhold land in Clent, which was regulated by the manorial Court Baron.  Clent’s manorial court records three collections of land parcels, called a copy, numbered 3, 5 and 35, by the steward (the main court official)[1].

The Latin Court Record

On 21 October 1718, Nicholas transferred copy no 5 to John Raybold junior and copy no 3 to John Wight senior[2].  A challenge of reading manorial court record before 1733 is that they are in Latin.  Legal Latin is often heavily abbreviated.  In the example below I have denoted expanded abbreviations by enclosing them in <>.  The entry for 1718 transfer of copy no 5 commences:

Ad hanc Cur<iam> vener<unt> Nicolaus Pearman e<t> Ric<ard>us Pearman filium e<t> hered<em> apparen<tis> p<re>d<ictum> Nicholai in propriis p<er>sonis suis e<t> sursum reddider<unt> in manus D<omi>ni pr<e>d<icte> p<er> sene<sca>ll<u>m suum pr<e>d<itus> sec<undu>m consuetud<inem> man<er>ii pr<e>d<icte>  Totum illud messuagium sive tenementum in quo Joh<ann>es Raybold Jun nunc inhabitat

Which translates as:

To this Court came Nicholas Pearman and Richard Pearman, son and heir apparent of the aforesaid Nicholas, in their own persons, and they gave up [surrendered] into the hands of the Lord aforesaid by his steward aforesaid according to the custom of the manor aforesaid:  All those messuage or tenement where John Raybold now dwells in

The entry goes on to describe the property (a house, garden, workshop, one and a half acres of land called Ashfurlong) and its location in relation to properties owned or occupied by neighbours Joseph and Samuel Penn, Benjamin Tristram, John Jones, Samuel Welch, Richard Cox, and mentions the Bell Inn and Hollow Cross.  Working out exactly where it was is a whole other problem to be investigated another time.  Finally, the entry includes the legal transfer of ownership to John Raybold.

The Wife Whispers

Where is Nicholas’ wife Sarah?  Why is Nicholas’ son, Richard, involved?

The custom (i.e. law) of Clent manor dictated that property was inherited according to the ‘Rules of Descent of Common Law’ i.e. the eldest son or other male heir, and wives were entitled to a third of the estate as her ‘Customary Dower’.  What does this record tell us about family relationships?

As Richard was the son and heir apparent, we know that he was:

  • legitimate – Nicholas was married to his mother
  • the eldest surviving son
  • an adult (over 21) – he was acting in his own right

So, Nicholas at one time had a wife, with whom he had a son, Richard, born in 1697 or earlier.  At the time of the 1718 transaction only Richard was still alive to give up his rights to the property so it could be transferred.  We have indirect evidence of a marriage that occurred before Richard’s birth, even though Sarah whispers nameless from the grave.

The Son’s Inheritance

When Nicholas died in 1724, his remaining land, copy no 35, was inherited by his heir[3].  You are thinking that should be Richard, aren’t you?  However, the court records that Richard had died, so the property he would have inherited passed to the next male heir, his brother John.  What does this tell us about Richard?  It tells us he had no surviving wife or son, but not whether he was widowed or had daughters.

The son-in-law

This property transfer is very much a family affair.  John Raybold married Mary Pearman, daughter of Nicholas and Sarah, in 1714.  Note that the house (messauge or tenement) described in the 1718 copy no 5 transfer was already occupied by John Raybold.  I would not be surprised if John Wight, the other property recipient also turns out to be a relative.

Does the information from the property records agree with the parish registers[4]?

Year Event
1679 Nicholas Pearman and Sarah Waldron were married July 16
1680 Richard the son of Nicholas Perman and Sara his wife was baptised May 31
1683 John the son of Nich. Pearman and Sara his wife was Bapt. Sept. 30
1694 Mary daughter of Nich. Pearman and Sara his wife bapt. June 10
1710 Ri: Pearman a child bur. May 21
1713 Sara wife of Nich. Pearman bur’d Jul 19
1714 John Raybould and Mary Pearman were married Feb. 12
21 Oct 1718 Nicholas Pearman & son Richard transferred property to John Raybold junr and John Wight sen
1721 Richard Pearman was buried May the 8th
1724 Nicolas Pearman was buried Apr 9th
5 Jun 1724 Nicholas Pearman died, his remaining property passed to son John

Fits like a glove!  Putting it all together, I conclude:

Nicholas Pearman property relationships

Nicholas Pearman property relationships

© Sue Adams 2013

[1] Manor of Clent, Abstracts of admissions and surrenders (1716 – 1927), pp. 3, 5, 35; 705:550/5085/1; Marcy, Hemingway and Son, Bewdley; Worcestershire County Records Office, Worcester.

[2] Manor of Clent, Court rolls. (1716 – 1752), pp. 53-54 [penned], session 21 October 1718, cases 2 & 3; 705:550/5085/2; Marcy, Hemingway and Son, Bewdley; Worcestershire County Records Office, Worcester.

[3] Manor of Clent, Court rolls. (1716 – 1752), session 5 June 1724, cases 1 & 2; 705:550/5085/2; Marcy, Hemingway and Son, Bewdley; Worcestershire County Records Office, Worcester.

[4] Church of England. Clent Parish Register 1636-1729. microfilm. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, USA. Film no 1042160, items no 7 & 8.

Locating Clent manorial landholdings and SLIG

Having recently completed the Postgraduate Diploma in Genealogical Studies with the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland, I have been looking around for further educational opportunities.

As my diploma dissertation was a study of manorial land records between 1712 and 1927, of Clent Manor, Worcestershire, England, the “Advanced Research Tools: Land Records” track presented by Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) 2012 peaked my interest.  The course runs from 23-27 January 2012.

Although my study focused on land inheritance, I had originally intended presenting results by mapping land holdings belonging to individuals or families.  However, faced with vague property descriptions, I realised this was more difficult than I had anticipated.  Of the copyholdings bought, sold or inherited by the Waldron family of the Fieldhouse, I could locate less than half.  Below is the map that I did not include in my dissertation because of these difficulties.

The Fieldhouse itself was easy (no 13), it is marked on current maps and the listed building records confirm that the house was built in the 1750s.  Some fields that were enclosed and first granted by the Lord in 1788 were described well enough for me to work out their location relative to roads and adjoining property (nos 1-7).   Descriptions referring to ancient field names that so not appear on any maps are more difficult, but I managed to find an archaeological report that gave approximate locations for a few names like Kitchen Meadow, Long Meadow and Wallfields.  So I could approximate the locations of land (the rest of the nos on the map) with descriptions like the following example:

“three pieces of land called the Halfmoon Hills containing about sixteen acres two pieces of land adjoining called the Wallfields containing about eight acres and Meadow called the Kitchen Meadow containing about six acres and one Meadow called Long Meadow containing about four acres and one close adjoining called Ollerpiece containing about two acres in Upper Clent”

Winden Field is a place name that occurs frequently in the manorial court records, but I do not know where it was.  It is thought to be the name of one of the open fields dating back to the medieval farming system.

Occasionally, land descriptions refer to the tithe map.  In Clent this dates to 1838 and records the landowners who were liable to pay tithes, a tax collected by the church which supported the clergy.  None of the land owned by my study family is directly linked to the tithe map in the court rolls, but it may be still possible to correlate the two.

So what does all this stuff about English land records have to do with and course on American land records?  Well the problems are similar and the SLIG course offers some tools applicable to land records anywhere.  The Strathclyde program is biased toward Scottish research and records (it is a Scottish university!), which some think a disadvantage for English based researchers.  However, I benefited from seeing how English and Scottish records differ and the comparison has deepened my understanding making me a better researcher.  American records will be different again, and that is interesting.

As I am based in England the main expense of attending SLIG is the airfare.  However, as RootsTech (2-4 February 2012) and APG Professional Management Conference (1 February 2012), follow a few days later, I could attend all three.  Now the airfare seems a little less extravagant!