Medieval Genealogy Difficulties | The Nosey Genealogist's: Help Me With My Family Tree
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Medieval Genealogy Difficulties

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist on October 23rd, 2011

If we are to go back before the start of Parish Records being kept, in England that would be the year 1538, then no official records will have been complied on who was born, married or died in the country. It may have been the case that the priest in charge of a parish kept notes of what was happening in his church, but there was no official or standard form that they would have been kept in.

Records for the landowning members of society are much more likely to have been compiled than for the poorer classes of England. That said, however, records of people from the time do exist in the form of documents complied for other purposes rather than to detail the life events of a particular person.

Many of the records that have survived were produced for the Exchequer, Chancery and the law courts, or they relate to the land laws of the country.

A problem, for us in the twenty first century looking back, is that these records from medieval time are most often written in Latin and an abbreviated form at that.  English began to be used from the late fifteenth century in more informal documents, but even so we are then faced with the old handwriting of the era and so it is not such an easy task.

The National Archives website has some useful tools in the form of online in-depth learning guides. These can also help you learn basic Latin skills useful for tackling the documents that you may come across. See the Beginners’ Latin and Palaeography guides.

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