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Protestation Oath Returns/Oath of Allegiance (Nonconformist) (Including Ireland)

Nature of Source

Records from an oath of protestant loyalty taken by all males over the age of 18, organised parish by parish. The oath was used as a way of establishing the number of Roman Catholics in England in order to tax them more heavily. The oaths were effectively a census of all adult males. The local minister or churchwarden recorded the names and then returned them to parliament.

Coverage is patchy, with only about one-third of all English parishes covered and virtually no Welsh coverage. Those who refused to sign are also recorded.

Also consult two other oaths of loyalty, 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 (TNA) 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
Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy
Sacrament Certificates (Oath of Allegiance)

Where Found

House of Lords Library (The Parliamentary Archives)
County Record Offices
Society of Genealogists (Returns for some parts of the country)
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

1641 - 1642

Genealogical Value

Names, parish address, sometimes occupations. Useful for surname distribution analysis.

Further References

De Jong, Gwyn. Index to Oxfordshire Protestation Oath Returns 1641-42; Oxfordshire Family History Society, 1993


Gibson, Jeremy & Dell, Alan. Protestation Returns 1641-42 and Other Contemporary Listings: Federation of Family History Societies, 2004 (The book covers the Collection in Aid of Distressed Protestants in Ireland; Subsidies; Poll Tax; Assessment or Grant; Vow and Covenant; Solemn League and Covenant. The book is available in preview at Google Books)


Websites (Parliamentary Archives: Protestation Returns) (Find your ancestors in the 17th century)
(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) (Catholic Encyclopedia: English Post-Reformation Oaths) (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]) (Parliamentary Archives: Map Search. The is a service allows you to search for records from the Parliament Archives online catalogue by place. There is currently one set of records held by the Parliamentary Archives available to search via the map interface - the Protestation Returns, which are the closest record we have to a census from 1642) (SoG Data Online: Coventry Protestation Oath Return 1642. Members of the Society of Genealogists are able to view these records for free via their existing membership. Non-members can carry out free surname searches but will need to join the society to view the full record details) (1641 Depositions Online: Transcripts and digitised images of depositions, examinations and associated materials from the 1641 Irish Catholic Rebellion. The material relates to Irish, English, and Scottish born Protestants) (Protestation Returns 1642 for St Anthony in Roseland, Cornwall) (Online Parish Clerks: The project is run by volunteers who collect and transcribe parish records for a chosen Parish and make the data available for free online. The range of information covered includes Apprentice Indentures, Census Returns, Parish Registers, Bastardy Bonds, Settlement Certificates & Removal Orders, Militia/Muster records, Directories, Land Tax Assessments, Workhouse/Poor Law records, Churchwardens Accounts, Tithe Apportionments, Wills, Poor Rate Payers, Lay Subsidies, Protestation Returns, MIs, Church Memorials and Hearth Tax records. Old parish maps and photos are often included)

Some transcriptions and indexes published at a local level.

CD Roms (Cornwall Protestation Returns 1641; Somerset Protestation Returns)
Lincolnshire Family History Society
(Lincolnshire Protestation Returns 1641/2)