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Charter Rolls

Nature of Source

Records from royal and private charters which were legal documents recording a variety of grants of lands, honours and privileges. The areas covered charters included the granting of rights to lands, markets liberties, privileges, immunities, exemptions and peerages and the creation of private corporations including towns and cities. Grants of lands and conveyances are of most interest to family historians. The charters were recorded on Charter Rolls lodged with the Court of Chancery. After 1517, charters appear on Patent Rolls.

Royal charters were also used to confirm an earlier charter. Earlier charters were copied into books and included copies of title deeds and charters of privileges issued by private individuals. These copies, known as cartularies, date from about 690 CE and were mainly associated with the monasteries.

Where Found

The National Archives (C 53, Charter Rolls, 1199-1517)
British Library (Manuscripts Collections Charters and Rolls. Also see the guide ‘Charter, roll and seal collections’)
County Record Offices (ARCHON Directory: Find the details of a UK archive from a searchable list of over 2,500 archives The catalogue can be found on the TNA Discovery home page)
Private holdings
University Libraries

Period Covered

1199 - 1517

Genealogical Value

Names of donors and witnesses. Occupation of donor. Family relationships. Details of the land or rights.

Further References

Chambers, Paul. Medieval Genealogy: How to Find Your Medieval Ancestors: Sutton, 2005 Buy Now on Amazon
Davis, G.R.C. Medieval Cartularies of Great Britain: a Short Catalogue: Longmans, 1958 (Guide to published cartularies)  Buy Now on Amazon
Durie, Bruce. Documents for Genealogy & Local History: The History Press, 2013  Buy Now on Amazon
Hardy, Thomas Duffus, Sir. Rotuli Chartarum in Turri Londinensi Asservati, 1199-1216 [Charter rolls conserved in the Tower of London]: Record Commission, 1837 (Transcribed with indexes)  Buy Now on Amazon
Mullins, E. L. C. Texts and Calendars: An Analytical Guide To Serial Publications: Royal Historical Society, 1958 (Whereabouts of published material)  
Mullins, E. L. C. Texts and Calendars II: An Analytical Guide To Serial Publications 1957-1982: Royal Historical Society, 1983  Buy Now on Amazon
Public Record Office. Calendar of the Charter Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, 1226-1516: Public Record Office, 1903 (Some volumes available to download at the Internet Archive)  
Stevenson, David & Stevenson, Wendy. Scottish Texts and Calendars: An Analytical Guide to Serial Publications: Scottish History Society, 1987 (Whereabouts of published material)  Buy Now on Amazon

TNA Research Guide: Royal grants in letters patent and charters from 1199

Websites (Charters guide) (Royal Charters guide) (British Library: Manuscripts Collection Reader Guide 5: Charter, Roll and Seal Collections) (British Library Help for researchers Manuscripts: Ongoing collections: Charters and Rolls) (National Library of Scotland: Scottish History Society: Scottish Texts and Calendars by David and Wendy Stevenson. Digitised access to original sources on Scotland's history and people) (Medieval Glossary) (English Monastic Archives: Archives Database. Database of documents held by monasteries up to the 16th century)
Bibliography of British and Irish History (Catalogue subscription site describing books and articles about British and Irish history produced by a partnership between the Royal Historical Society, the Institute of Historical Research and Brepols Publishers. The catalogue includes the Guide to Record Societies and their Publications (Texts and Calendars) published by the Royal Historical Society which is a guide to transcriptions, calendars and indexes published by the individual participating record societies. A list of participating societies is available here)

Online Databases

The Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England (PASE: An online database that aims to register every recorded individual who lived in Anglo-Saxon England from late sixth to the end of the eleventh century. The database is a collaboration between King's College, London and the University of Cambridge and include sources such as chronicles, saints' lives, charters, inscriptions and coins)
(University of Sheffield: Lands of the Normans in England, 1204-1244: The database contains details of over 2,000 individual documents collected from over 100 historical sources. Nearly 3,000 different people and places appear in the database, and there are over 13,500 links describing the relationships between these people and places including. For a full list of historical sources see here)