The following is a timeline of dates of important changes in England affecting historical research, including explanations of any abbreviations used. If you have any other dates that you feel are important to historical research, please email the County Administrator by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page titled 'Contact Us'.
arrives in Kent Bishopric established in Canterbury
Diocese of Rochester created.
book compiled by William the Conqueror and being a survey of all the lands of England with names of all respective tenants-in-chief and their sub-tenants.
Keepers of the Peace were elevated to Justices and empowered to determine cases as well as to bring them. Quarterly sittings commenced during 1363. The courts were empowered to try criminal cases and settle matters related to county administration, e.g. requirements pursuant to Poor Law, appeals to settlements and removals of the populace, granting of recognizances, administering militia substitutions and repair of highways and bridges.
College of Arms
founded by Richard III and being the sole authority for the granting of armorial bearings in England and Wales from that time to the present day. Maintains thorough records concerning all grants of arms and registrations with pedigrees of thousands of families.
First Visitation of the Heralds of Arms
Heralds' county visits to investigate the claims to the right to arms of residents. The visitations occurred every 13 years up to and including 1688. Many have been published.
Act of Supremacy
by Henry VIII ended the Pope's formal authority in England and led to the establishment of the Anglican Church of England. An oath was tendered to all men over the age of 14 and required the swearer to assert that the children of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were rightful heirs to the throne.
dissolution of the smaller monasteries is enacted.
Oct. 1536 to Jan. 1537
Pilgrimage of Grace
A major Tudor rebellion primarily occurring in the 6 northern counties of England against the policies and Ministers of Henry VIII. Discontent of the populace toward religious and secular issues, such as "that no infant shall receive the blessed Sacrament of Baptisme bott onlesse an trybette be payd to the king" and the dissolution of the monasteries.
suppression of the larger monasteries is commenced.
dissolution of the friaries is commenced.
5 Sept. 1538
Keeping of Parish Registers
injunctions to every parish in England and Wales, ordering the parson to enter every Sunday in the presence of the wardens, or one of them, all the baptisms, marriages, and burials of the previous week with the day and year of the event, in a book which was to be kept in a two-locked coffer, under pain of a fine of 35. 4d., to be applied to the repair of the Church.
Keeping of Parish Registers
Edward VI, reissued in 1547 the registration injunctions of Cromwell almost word for word, with the exception that the fine of 33. 4d. for neglect, was to be assigned to the "poore mens box of that parishe." In the same year one of the visitation articles of the diocese of Canterbury was "Whether they have one Book or Register safely kept, wherein they write the day of every Wedding, Christening, and Burying."
Temporary return to Roman Catholicism under Mary Tudor
Widespread revolts in support of Protestantism erupt.
4 Jan. 1555
Parliament's Grand Bill
restores the Catholic situation as it existed prior to 1529 but preserves the rights of Elizabeth to worship as she sees fit. Widespread persecution of Protestants includes the execution of deprived churchmen and those adhering to the Protestant faith. Cardinal Pole directed that the Bishops in their visitations were to inquire, "If the parish priest had a Register with the names of those who were baptized, of the sponsors, of the married, and the dead."
Separatists, later Independents, formed by Robert Brown
Cardinal Pole's Articles
touching the clergy was one "Whether they do keep the Book or Register of Christenings, Buryings, and Marriages, with the name of the Godfather and Godmother."
Anglican Church of England
Elizabeth I formally endorsed Anglican Church of England. Taxes, fines, punishments introduced for dissenters.
Oath of Supremacy
By the Second Act of Supremacy enacted during the first years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth all beneficied clergy and crown officials were bound to swear an oath against papal authority on penalty of death. The registration injunctions were also again issued in almost the identical phraseology used under Henry VIII and Edward VI, with the slight alteration that the defaulting penalty was to be divided equally between the poor and the repair of the church.
founded by John Knox through his "Confession of Faith", which provided the basis for the Church of Scotland. John Knox had been fiercely antagonistic toward Mary, Queen of Scots after her ascension to the throne.
Instrument of Association
The murder of William of Orange and the uncovering of the Throckmorton plot by Francis Throckmorton, a nephew of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I led to the drawing up of an 'Instrument of Association' binding those taking it to give their 'lyves, landes and goodes' in defence of the Queen.
25 Oct. 1597
Constitution of Convocation
of the archbishop, bishops, and clergy of the province of Canterbury, and approved by the Queen under the great seal of Great Britain, directed the more careful keeping of parochial registers, which were pronounced to be of the greatest utility (permagnus usus). The registers were for the future to be kept on parchment, and parchment copies were to be made of those old registers which were on paper. For the prevention of guile or negligence in the keeping of the registers, it was enacted that the whole of the entries of the previous week were to be read out openly and distinctly by the minister on Sunday, at the conclusion of either mattins or evensong. The names of the minister and wardens were to be appended to every page of the register on its completion. Lastly it was ordained that a copy of the parish register was to be sent by the warden annually within a month after Easter, without any fee, to the diocesan register, and there to be kept faithfully among the episcopal archives. Unfortunately, these "Bishops' Transcripts," were fitfully and slovenly kept in many places.
Provision of the Poor Laws.
A system of Settlement was laid down by law, and from 1697 parochial churchwardens were empowered to issue a parishioner with a settlement certificate acknowledging his right to their aid. Armed with this, a poor man could travel and take up residence elsewhere, and the wardens of his new parish would accept him because they had documentary evidence on which to return him, if necessary, to the parish that acknowledged responsibility for him.
re-iterated 1597 order enacting that a parchment book was to be provided at the expense of the parish, wherein were to be copied former paper registers, "so far as the ancient books thereof can be procured, but especially since the beginning of the reign of the late Queen." The safe keeping of the register was to be entrusted to "one sure Coffer with three Locks and Keys," to be in the several respective custody of the minister and the two wardens. The provision for the public weekly reading of the register was not repeated. The Sunday register entries of the past week by the minister, in the presence of the wardens was again enjoined and so too was the order for the annual transmission of the bishops' transcripts, though the exact date was changed to within a month after 25th March.
Jacobean loyalty oath
a response to the gunpowder plot of 1605 in an effort to expose Catholics who were actively disloyal to the King. It was not intended to be universally prescribed, and was only to be taken by those persons aged over 18 who were convicted or indicted for recusancy.
founded by John Smyth
In taking the Protestation Oath the swearer promised to defend "the true reformed religion expressed in the doctrine of the Church of England" and expressed his "duty of allegiance" to "maintain and defend His Majesty's royal person and estate, as also the power and privilege of Parliaments". Parliament ordered all males over 18 to take the oath.
Relief for distressed Protestants in Ireland
A collection ordered by Charles I from every parish for the relief of English Protestant settlers in Ireland that had been ousted by the Catholic Irish. Lists of receipts include many women and can be used to supplement the contemporary Protestation Returns.
became known as Independents
becomes the foundation of Church of England (Commonwealth period). Civil parish officers are appointed by Cromwell to perform and maintain records of births, marriages and deaths. Few of these survive unless the civil officer had previously been associated with the parish during ecclesiastical rule, such as a former clerk of the parish church. Many people travelled to such parishes to have their church rites performed. Thus it is always advisable to examine the registers of nearby parishes for this time period.
17 Aug. 1643
Solemn League and Covenant
An oath subscribed by "We, noblemen, barons, knights, gentlemen, citizens, burgesses, ministers of the Gospel, and commons of all sorts, in the kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland" for the purposes of reformation and defence of religion, the honour and happiness of the King, and the peace and safety of the three kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland.
6 Dec. 1644
Register Book of velim
it was ordered that "it be referred to the committee for bringing in the ordinance for the establishing the Directory, to bring in a clause in that ordinance for registering the time of baptising of children, and their parents' names, and for registering of burials." In the same year it was further ordained that "there shall be provided at the charge of every parish or chapelry, a fair Register Book of velim to be kept by the minister and other officers of the church, and that the names of all children baptized, and of their parents, and of the time of their birth and baptising, shall be written and set down by the minister therein, and also the names of all persons married there, and the time of their marriage; and also the names of all persons buried in that parish, and the time of their death and burial; and that the said book shall be shewed by such as keep the same to all persons reasonably desiring to search for the birth, baptising, marriage, or burial of any person therein registered, and to take a copy or procure a certificate thereof."
The period during which Oliver Cromwell and his son, Richard, held power and authority in England and Wales and marks the time commencing with the execution of Charles I to the restoration of Charles II.
24 Aug. 1653
Civil Parish Registers
Ministers were required to give up their register books to laymen, who were to be called "parish registers." These new officials were to enter all publications of banns, marriages, births, and burials. For marriage entries they were empowered to charge a fee of I2d., and 4d. for each entry of birth and burial. The lay register was to be chosen by the householders of each parish on or before 22nd September 1653, and as soon as he had been sworn and approved by the local justice, his appointment was to be entered in the register book. The enactment by this same Act brought in civil marriage.
Society of Friends
(Quakers) founded by George Fox
performed before justices during the Protectorates of Oliver and Richard Cromwell (1653-1660) were legalised by Act of Parliament (12 Car. ii, c. 33) during the latter part of the year.
Burial in Woollen
First act enacted requiring all burials to be in woollen in an effort to protect the wool trade from imports of silk cloth.
Declaration of Indulgence
enacted by Charles II
Burial in Woollen
Act re-affirmed requiring all burials to be in woollen in an effort to protect the wool trade from imports of silk cloth. An affidavit signed by the parish clerk was required to be made attesting to such burial. A fine was levied for failure to comply with the Act. Eventually, during 1814 this Act was repealed.
Act of Toleration
enacted by William and Mary gave everyone freedom to worship at their choice, Roman Catholics excepted. Few registers of dissenters exist prior to this time.
became closely affiliated as the United Brethren
Parish Register Taxation
A short-lived Act was passed whereby a tax of 2/- was levied on each birth, 2/6 for a marriage and 4/- for a burial. In order to assure that tax was collected, the incumbent was to be notified of any births within 5 days whereupon he was to receive a fee of 6d for recording them in the parish register. Bachelors and widowers were also taxed. The tax was rescinded in 1706.
the loyalty oath embodied in the "Act for the better security of his majesty's royal person and government" pledging loyalty to the Sovereign was administered to holders of public office following the discovery of an attempt to assassinate William III and was reminescent of the 1584 Association. Subscribers were to "heartily, sincerely, solemnly profess, testify and declare, That his present Majesty, King William, is rightful and lawful King of these Realms", and promised to revenge the King's death should an assassination attempt prove successful. Under the Act of Parliament only officeholders were required to swear the oath. In some parts of the country the rolls were also subscribed by most residents of substance. Many rolls for 1696 are located in The National Archives among the Chancery records (class mark C213/68-92). Other rolls can be found at the county record offices as part of the Quarter Sessions series.
Onset of many Baptist and Independent meeting houses. Roman Catholics still prohibited from worshipping, buying or inheriting land
required to be signed by all holders of public office pursuant to an "Act for the further Security of His Majesties Person, and the Succession of the Crown in the Protestant Line", declaring that "our Sovereign Lord King William is Lawful and Rightful King of this Realm" and abjuring "any Allegiance or Obedience" to the young James III. Following the death of William III a further Act was passed amending the text of the oath to account for the change of monarch.
Act of Union
united Scotland with England and Wales to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain
Records of Apprentices.
From the year 1710, whenever a boy was apprenticed to a trade a stamp duty had to be paid, and these records of the binding of apprentices survive to provide the name of the apprentice, that of his father or widowed mother, and his master, as well as his parents' abode. Churchwardens and overseers of the poor were empowered to apprentice to husbandry any child under the age of 16 whose parents they judged unable to maintain him. If a master could be found in a neighbouring parish, this form of apprenticeship was often a convenient way of getting rid of a pauper child, because the apprenticeship conferred settlement after a period of forty days. "Husbandry" for a boy and "Housewifery" for a girl, simply meant being a servant on the land or in the house: later, in the industrial revolution, it might mean life in the mill, or even down the mine.
Register Pages to be Ruled
An order was made to the effect that all register pages were to be ruled and numbered. The order was widely ignored and clerks continued to record in their registers without the benefit of guiding ruled lines while neglecting to number their entries.
"An act for the further security of his majesty's person" (1 George I, c. 13) required holders of certain public offices to take the oaths of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration as defined in that Act first binding the swearer to "be faithful, and bear true Allegiance to his Majesty King George" and the second, ostensibly an anti-Catholic oath, condemning as "impious and heretical, that damnable doctrine and Position, That Princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope" could be deposed or murdered by their subjects or any foreign power.
27 May 1723
"An Act to oblige all Persons being Papists..., and all Persons... refusing or neglecting to take the Oaths appointed for the Security of His Majesty's Person and Government..., to register their Names and real Estates" (9 George I, c. 24, as defined in the previous act of 1 George I c. 13). The Act required "every Person and Persons" aged 18 years and older to swear loyalty oaths to King George by 25 December 1723. Those who refused to take the oaths were to registers their names and real estates by 25 March 1724. Individuals who refused to either swear their allegiance or register their property risked forfeiting their estates. The oaths administered were those of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration. A large proportion of these oaths were recorded at courts of Quarter Sessions.
27 May 1723
Catholic Taxation Act
"An Act for granting an Aid to His Majesty by laying a Tax upon Papists" was designed to raise the sum of £100,000 through a tax imposed upon all Papists aged eighteen years and over, and was in addition to the existing double land tax already imposed upon Roman Catholics. The Act detailed the amounts to be raised from the Catholic communities in each English county. Those liable to pay the additional tax were defined as anyone who refused to take the oaths of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration as embodied within the 1715 Oath Act. It was designed to deter Catholic powers on the continent from supporting any future attempts at restoring the Stuart monarchy by highlighting the potential impact upon Roman Catholics in Britain.
arrived in London and Oxford
English adopted as official language for public records
Until this date, legal documents were in Latin.
formed but most did not break away from the Church of England until 1780s
Protestant Dissenters' Registry
set up at Dr. Williams Library in London, closed 1837 with 50,000 entries
split and some became the Congregation of Unity of Brethren
Protestant Episcopal Church
came into existence
Change to the Julian Calendar.
(24 Geo. II, c. 23)3 September became 14 September. In the middle of the 18th century, two changes were made in the English calendar. The first, moved the official start of the year from 25th March to 1st January, so changing January, February and March from being the last three months of the old year to the first three of the new year. The second, by "losing" eleven days from September, was from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian, bringing England into line with the rest of Europe where the Gregorian system had been used since 1582. As the new system was adopted by some before its official introduction, great care must be taken in transcribing extracts containing dates in January, February and March before 1752. The correct procedure is to transcribe the dates in both Old Style and New: 2nd February 1603 Old Style, should be shown as 2nd February 1603/4.
1 Jan 1753
Commencement of the provisoes of Hardwicke's Marriage Act
Most significant contribution to family history research comes with the commencement of the prosions of Hardwicke's Marriage Act, or, an "Act for the Better Prevention of Clandestine Marriages," which was proposed by Lord Hardwicke and passed during 1752. The first and foremost important point in research that comes directly from the operation of this law is that every marriage, other than those of Jewish or Quaker faith, had to be performed at a parish church of the Church of England. Marriages were not permitted at chapelries of the Church of England unless special dispensation had been granted to that chapelry. Therefore, when looking for marriages that occurred between 1 Jan 1753 and 1 July 1837, when the then new provisions took precedence over marriage ceremonies, you can be assured that the couple had to marry a Church of England parish church. Again, the only exemptions were those allowed to Quakers and Jews to permit them to marry within their own places of worship.
Minimum age for marriage set at 16 thereby raising the previously accepted age for marriage of girls from 12 to 16 and of boys from 14 to 16. Individuals under the age of 21 years still needed the consent of their parents to a marriage before the marriage would be permitted to proceed. On marriage records individuals that are over 21 often have their age listed as "full age" rather than an exact age.
First Catholic Relief Act
to relieve the burden of followers of that faith
1 Oct. 1783
The Stamp Act
(23 Geo. Ill, c. 71) Tax of 3p per entry instituted which was to be paid on every entry of a birth, christening, marriage or burial. Some churches and parishioners refused to record their vital events (baptisms and marriages). Some families took their children to be baptised, or marriages to be performed, to parishes that were sympathetic to the burden that had been placed on them by the government. The levy was collected directly by the incumbent of the parish and he was allowed to retain 10% as a commission.
The Stamp Act
Provisions in this act were extended to non-conformist events.
Second Catholic Relief Act
permitting the conduct of ceremonies and the registration of churches and priests
The Stamp Act
Taken for statistical reasons only, but a few returns that give names have survived from 1801-1831 and are usually to be found stored in the parish chest of a parish.
became known as Congregationalists
1 Jan 1813
Commencement of the provisoes of Rose's Act
Rose's Act "for the better regulating and preserving of Parish and other Register of Births, Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials in England" (52 Geo. Ill, c. 14), had the effect of requiring the Church of England rites of baptism, marriage and burial to be recorded in a completely new and uniform manner. Baptisms were to include the occupation of the father, or mother, as the case warranted, as well as the place of residence of the parents and the name of the cleric performing the ceremony. Occupation and place of residence, although not seeming to be of much significance can greatly aid in keeping families of similarly named parents in proper relationship to their respective children. Burials were to begin recording the age of the deceased, the name of at least one parent if the deceased was a child, the occupation and place of residence of the deceased, or in the case of a child the occupation and residence of the child's primary parent. Again, the name of the cleric performing the ceremony was added. Marriages were to be recorded in a precise format that was supposed to allow for the stipulation of the bride and groom's respective marital status at the time of the marriage and their respective places of residence. To the marriage entry was added whether the marriage took place by banns or licence and the signatures of two witnesses along with the signatures of the parties to the marriage. And, again, the name of the cleric performing the marriage was also added. All of these tiny pieces of information - clues to relationships - can assist one in researching their family history.
Catholic Emancipation Act
ended all statutory religious, political and social persecutions of Roman Catholics
Gave the voting franchise to many more people and introduced electoral registers.
Poor Law Amendment Act
The commencement of the second period of poor relief in England and Wales. The old parish system of poor relief was abolished and the first Boards of Guardians of the poor was introduced.
1 July 1837
The start of the General Register of Birth, Deaths and Marriages in England and Wales.
First Nominal Census
requiring the names of all members of a household to be recorded along with a generalized statement of place of birth and the provision for the rounding down of ages over 15 by 5 years to the nearest 0 or 5, e.g. a person aged 59 was to be recorded as aged 55 and a person aged 23 was to be recorded as aged 20. Occupation was also included but no relationships of the individuals within a household to the head of the house was made until 1851. The nominal census returns continued decennially to 1911 being the latest census to be released to the public arena.
1 Jan 1859
Principal Probate Registry established
The jurisdiction of proving Wills and granting of probates was removed from the ecclesiastical courts to the District and general Probate Registry as of 1 January.
Christian Revival Society
formed by William Booth
Parliamentary elections became secret
Until this date, poll books were considered to be public records, revealing how a person had voted.
1 Jan 1875
Amendment to Civil Registration
now made registration of births, marriages and death compulsory, imposed a penalty for late registration and no longer permitted inclusion of a father's name on the birth certificate of an illegitimate child unless that father was present at the registration of the birth.
Christian Revival Society
changed its name to the Salvation Army
Official Methodist marriage registers
Lloyd George's "Domesday"
An Act that imposing a duty on the increase in value of land when sold creating millions of records required for the full and proper administration of the Act.
Most adherents accepted union with the Presbyterians to form the United Reformed Church