Chancery Records, how can they be used to reveal intriguing historical connections?
We are always on the look out for more unusual records to make connections for the family and social historian and Chancery Court records fit the bill.
The Chancery Court evolved during the C15th, it’s role was to decide upon an equitable solution in cases for which the common law could provide no remedy.
That in it’s very essence is why the Chancery Court records are such a useful tool for family and social historians.
- The suits were brought by the plaintiff in the form of a written bill of complaint which would then be followed by a written answer from the defendant. Written responses would then flow backwards and forwards between the two.
- Being in the written form rather than the oral, means that where they survive they are available to us
- The disputes were often about property
- Many cases involved relatives, so tricky family connections can be traced
- They were written in English rather than Latin
- They were quite biographical, giving information such as age, address and other incidental pieces of personal information
- They stretch back from the C19th to the C15th
So what are the downsides to the Chancery records?
They were rarely dated but a date can be guessed at from the name of the Chancellor to whom it is addressed
The early ones can be difficult to read and you have to able to take a guess sometimes at the truth of the ‘facts’ laid bare. A little expansion of the truth was not unusual in the proceedings..