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Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy (Catholics) (Nonconformists)

Nature of Source

Records generated from those compelled to take oaths of allegiance and supremacy acknowledging the monarch as the supreme head of the Church of England. The regulations were laid down in the Corporation Act of 1661 and the Test Act of 1673 and applied to anyone aspiring to hold public or military office or any position of trust. This provision effectively barred nonconformists, dissenters and Roman Catholics from gaining official positions.

If the person lived within thirty miles of London the oaths were taken in the Court of Chancery, Exchequer or King's Bench, otherwise the oaths were taken at the local Quarter Sessions. Those taking the oath also had to obtain a Sacrament Certificate which proved the person had received the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, in other words the Church of England communion.

Following the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, everyone, including women, over the age of 18 was compelled to swear an Oath of Allegiance following the passing of the Oaths Act. Lists of those who signed before the Justices of the Peace or refused to take the oath are normally available at county record offices amongst the quarter session records. A further oath of supremacy was added which caused severe problems for Roman Catholics who were being forced to reject the Pope as their religious leader. After the discovery of another Jacobite conspiracy known as the Atterbury Plot an Act was passed in 1722 requiring 'every Person and Persons' to swear loyalty oaths to King George I by 25 December 1723. These oaths of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration represented the last nationwide swearing of loyalty to the Crown. The whereabouts of surviving returns can be found at the History Working Papers Project.

Catholics refusing to take the oaths of loyalty were required to register their names and estates at quarter sessions or face the seizure of their property. The Forfeited Estates Commission was responsible for overseeing the seizure of the estates and details can be found in the close rolls held at TNA.

Under the terms of the Sacramental Test Act of 1828 the regulations were loosened so that would-be officials only to swear not to injure or weaken the Protestant church and not receive the sacrament. In times of war the records also contain a list of militia personnel. From 1778 under the terms of the Catholic Relief Act, Catholics were able to sign a new oath of allegiance with returns held in series PC 1 at The National Archives giving names, addresses and occupations. Certificates of those refusing to take the oath in the 1714 Security of the Sovereign Act are in C 203.

Also consult other oaths of loyalty such as the Vow and Covenant of 1643 and the Solemn League of Covenant of 1644. The Collection in Aid of Distressed Protestants in Ireland of 1642 also contains lists of individuals. The collection was organised in support of Irish protestants subjected to widespread persecution. Surviving material is held at The National Archives in series SP 28 or E 179. Following the restoration of Charles II, funds were raised to finance the return of the monarchy. The Free and Voluntary Present to King Charles II was collected in 1661 but represents the more wealthy. Surviving records are held in series E 179 at The National Archives or in County Record Offices. See Gibson's Hearth Tax and Other Later Stuart Tax Lists for the whereabouts of the records.

Also see
Association Oath Rolls
Protestation Oath Returns
Returns of Papists' Estates (Details of Roman Catholics who refused to sign)
Sacrament Certificates (Oath of Allegiance)

Where Found

The National Archives ( C 193/9, Chancery entry book of officers sworn by the Clerk of the Crown; C 184, Chancery Oath Rolls and Entry Books; C 214, Chancery Oaths of Allegiance and Test Oaths; C 215, Chancery Enrolments of Oaths; CP 10, Court of Common Pleas: Attorneys' Oath Rolls; KB 24, Court of King's Bench Oath Rolls and Files; KB 113, Court of King's Bench Attorneys' Oath Rolls; E 169, Exchequer Oath Rolls; E 200, Exchequer Solicitors' Oath Rolls; E 3, Exchequer of Pleas Attorneys' Oath Rolls; CHES 36, Palatinate of Chester Oath Rolls; DURH 3/217, Palatinate of Durham Roll of oaths of allegiance and conformity; CP 37, Court of Common Pleas Rolls of oaths of allegiance taken by Roman Catholics from 1778 and of Clergymen taking office)
County Record Offices (Quarter Session Records)
London Metropolitan Archives
(City of London Rolls held in the City Of London Sessions records including lists of papists. Other lists of oath takers and papists are also available at the archives covering various London districts)

Period Covered

1606 - 1828

Genealogical Value

Name, address and occupation of individual.

Further References

Bevan, Amanda. Tracing Your Ancestors in The National Archives: The National Archives, 2006


Gibson, Jeremy & Dell, Alan. Protestation Returns 1641-42 and Other Contemporary Listings: Family History Partnership, 2004


Gibson, Jeremy (ed). Politics and Loyalty in Post-Revolution Oxfordshire: The '1690' County Parliamentary Poll: The Association Oath Rolls, 1695-6: Family History Partnership, 2011


Websites (Catholic Encyclopedia: English Post-Reformation Oaths)
(History Working Papers Project: The 1723 oath rolls in England: an electronic finding list, complied by Edward Vallance, University of Roehampton. The site lists surviving returns county-by-county as well as background information on the various oaths of allegiance) (Friends of Devon Archives: Devon and Exeter Oath Rolls, 1723. The site includes extensive background information including the Historical Context and a Glossary of Terms) (Texts of the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy) (Finding Georgian Ancestors and Tracing Ancestors Using Oaths of Allegiance)

Online Databases

Online Catalogues (Listing of online catalogues for the partial whereabouts of records including Access to Archives [A2A])
(Friends of Devon Archives: Devon and Exeter Oath Rolls, 1723. Name Index of transcribed entries from the 1723 oath of allegiance covering Devon. The site also has a Surname Index to pre-1723 oaths)
(Ireland, Catholic Qualification & Convert Rolls 1701-1845. Explore over 50,000 records of Irish Catholics who swore loyalty to the crown or converted to Protestantism) (Genhound: Hertfordshire calendar to the sessions minute books 1689-1831 including dissenters and papists rolls; Hertfordshire list of nonconformist chapels in 1829; Yorkshire North Riding Register of Oaths of Dissenting Protestant Preachers, 1791-1818; Hertford Quarter Session Rolls 1702 to 1706 including lists of names in receipt of Sacrament Certificates 1761 to 1828; Hertfordshire Oaths of Allegiance 1702 to 1732, 1723 to 1723 [In 1722 an Act was passed requiring 'every Person and Persons' to swear loyalty oaths to King George I by 25 December 1723]; North Riding Quarter Sessions Oaths of Supremacy and Allegiance)
(Devon, Plymouth Borough Records 1519-1905. Various records from the borough’s administration including Oaths of allegiance)
(Friends of Devon's Archives: 1723 Oath of Allegiance Rolls for Devon and Exeter) (Bath Record Office: Bath Ancestors Database: Bath Loyal Association Petition, 1792-1793)