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Close Rolls (Medieval & Courts)

Nature of Source

Records of correspondence known as Letters Close which gave orders and instructions to royal officials and subjects, issued by the Court of Chancery. The original Letter was sealed and folded and could not be opened before breaking the seal and are therefore referred to as Letters Close, although the information was not considered confidential. The Letters were later copied onto the rolls. Letters Close could also be used by private individuals to enrol land related documents such as deeds of sale, wills, leases and quit claims as well as naturalisation between 1844 and 1873, name changes and enclosure awards.

The distinction between Letters Patent and Letters Close had disappeared by Henry VII. One of the main differences between them was that a Letter Patent was an open document whilst a Letter Close was issued sealed and folded. Many Close Rolls have been calendared, indexed and transcribed. Court of Chancery records were also kept on Charter Rolls, Fine Rolls and Patent Rolls. Following the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, Catholic wills were supposed to be enrolled on the Close Rolls.

Also see
Charter Rolls
Court of Chancery
Fine Rolls
Patent Rolls

Where Found

The National Archives (C 54, Chancery and Supreme Court of Judicature: Close Rolls. The series includes annual calendars)

Period Covered

1204 - 1903

Genealogical Value

Names, occupations, addresses, land held, family relationships, date of death, wills

Further References

Chambers, Paul. Medieval Genealogy: How to Find Your Medieval Ancestors: The History Press, 2005 Buy Now on Amazon
Hardy, Thomas Duffus, Sir. (ed.). Close Rolls, Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum, 1204-1227, 2 vols: Record Commission, 1833  
Close Rolls of the Reign of Henry III preserved in the Public Record Office 1227-1231, 14 vols: H.M.S.O, 1902-1938 (Further volumes cover up to 1509. Search for 'Calendar of Close Rolls preserved in the Public Record Office' at the Bibliography of British and Irish History)  


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) (Guide to Close Rolls)  (Letters Close guide) (Links to online access to published calendars of Charter, Close, Fine and Patent rolls) (Some Notes on Medieval English Genealogy) (Medieval Glossary) (Foundation for Medieval Genealogy : The Foundation was established in 2001 by a group of British genealogists and historians with a special interest in the medieval period. The Library Catalogue provides a bibliographic catalogue of secondary source material for medieval genealogy and heraldry) (Lands of the Normans in England, 1204-1244: The historical sources. Guide to sources in The National Archives including Charter Rolls (C 53), Patent Rolls (C 66), Close Rolls (C 54), Fine rolls (C 60), Pipe rolls (E 372), Duplicate Chancellor's rolls (E 352), records of the General Eyre and commissions of assize and gaol delivery (JUST 1), Final concords or Feet of Fines (CP 21/1) (The Middle English Compendium. The site offers access to and interconnectivity between three major Middle English electronic resources: an electronic version of the Middle English Dictionary, a HyperBibliography of Middle English prose and verse, based on the MED bibliographies, and a Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse, as well as links to an associated network of electronic resources) (Medieval and Early Modern Sources Online [MEMSO]: The database contains a large repository of state papers, chronicles, accounts and correspondence from the archives of Britain, Ireland and continental Europe)

Online Databases

Ancient Petitions, Henry III - James I (Details of petitions contained in TNA series SC 8 pursuing grievances which could not be resolved at common law, or requests for a grant of favour. Searches can be made directly in the TNA Discovery Catalogue with the reference for the petition or a general search within the series)
British History Online (Calendars of Close Rolls, Patent Rolls, Fine Rolls. The site consists of a digital library of British historical sources developed by Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust. The site is free to use with a search facility linking users to full transcripts of various sources. The contents of British History Online can also be searched at Connected Histories together with a number of other 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)