Friday 26 April 2013

To the Manor Born

I have always been fascinated by family relationships and how kinship networks were used and relied upon in the medieval and Tudor periods.

I have been using a lot of manorial documents recently and what I find particularly fascinating is the way that even quite ordinary families can be traced over the centuries. The sixteenth and seventeenth century manor court documents for Kinlet (the home of the Blount family in Shropshire), for example, contain a number of references to members of the Southall family. They also appear in the records of the Borough Court, held at nearby Cleobury Mortimer, at the same time.

Southalls also appear in the1589 Glebe Terrier for Kinlet (a survey of church property), as well as the 1524-7 lay subsidy, which is a tax record. Tax records in particular can be an excellent way of following families through the ages. The 1327 lay subsidy for Earnwood, a manor in Kinlet parish, lists a Nicholas de Southall, who is the earliest member of the family that I have come across. John and Petronilla Southall appear in the 1381 poll tax return for Kinlet and can probably also be identified as family members – perhaps John was Nicholas’s grandson?

I would be very interested in hearing from any members of the Shropshire Southall family to see whether they remained in the same area or eventually moved away. One of the main areas of my research focuses on the Blounts and I have heard from a few current day members of the family, which is always great. One of the central aims of my project on the Blounts, which I am working on at King’s College, London, is to get the information out to a wider audience, particularly engaging with people in the local area. I trained as an archaeologist and am particularly interested in people rather than big themes – I want to know what people were doing, how they lived their daily lives etc. Family history can be an excellent way of achieving this and genealogists often carry out work that is useful to a wider audience specifically through the narrow nature of their focus.

Anyway, if you are interested in Tudor and medieval records for family history or more general historical research, look out for some of my articles in Your Family Tree magazine, which is available at newsagents in the UK or online. My articles on the main records for tracing ancestors back to 1066 (issue 126) and medieval tax records (issue 127) have already been published. An upcoming article will focus on early chancery records (issue 130 – June 2013). I also post information about my articles on my website -

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