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Surveys: Custumal, Extent, Rental & Terrier (Manorial & Medieval)

Nature of Source

Records from the manorial surveys detailing the land, property and tenants. Generally surveys will list all the tenants who held property within the manorial boundary. The surveys would have been updated periodically so a run of surveys can help identify an individual over time.

The manorial documents relate to an insular world of the manor in which the lord of the manor exercised almost complete authority over his tenants in a single administrative unit within an estate. Therefore manorial documents deal to a great extent with the tenant's obligations towards the lord of the manor, including the rental payments due to the lord. In order to extract revenue from his tenants it was imperative for the lord to know the exact whereabouts of each tenant. It must be remembered that a manor might spread beyond a contained area and could include lands not geographically connected and that manorial boundaries do not necessarily exactly correspond to the parish boundary.

The four surveys are as follows:

Custumal surveys were compiled in the 12th and 13th century but were limited in scope and do not contain much detail on the tenants or the land. However they could record the tenants' holdings and obligations including rents owed to the lord of the manor. A rent roll is often included in the survey, but could be a separate document. The surveys may include maps and were written in Latin until 1734.

As the lord of the manor became more professional in his management of the land under his control, the need for more detailed surveys increased. The Extent Surveys, successor to the Custumals, listed and valued every building and piece of land on the manor or demesne. The surveys will normally include a list of tenants. It may describe the manor boundary and may include maps. They were written in Latin until 1734.

List of tenants and their dwellings sometimes written in house order within the village showing the rents payable in cash or produce. The rentals were compiled or renewed on an annual basis and arrears due are also shown. The rentals are often kept with the estate accounts and maps. Use trade directories too look up the names of the major land owning families in a parish. Rental surveys remained in place into the early 20th century. Please note that in later surveys a named tenant did not necessarily reside at the dwelling recorded in the survey. They were written in Latin until 1734.

Topographical description of each individual piece of land held by each tenant. Individual tenants are not usually recorded. The terrier may include maps. Where manors overlapped the tenant will still be named and state which manor the land belonged to.

Manorial surveys can be useful in determining the manor boundary and surveys from the sixteenth century onwards often open with a detailed description of the manor's boundary. The description refers to landmarks and features of the landscape and should provide sufficient evidence to plot the boundary on a modern map. A well produced survey also referred to the parish or parishes that formed part of the manor.

To avoid legal disputes over land ownership and so protect his interests, many lords of the manor commissioned surveyors and cartographers to produce maps of his lands. Mainly from the latter part of the sixteenth century, these maps provide a clear picture of the lord's lands. Eventually with the advancement in land measurement and surveying technologies, maps replaced written surveys.

The documents were written in Latin until 1734 but generally follow a set format with standard phrases. After the Reformation the most important manorial function was dealing with property occupancy.

Other miscellaneous records covering the workings of the manor could include rent rolls, presentments, manor accounts, minute books, estreat rolls, suit rolls, call books, maps, steward's papers, surrenders, fine books. Many of these documents will at least provide evidence of a person's location at a particular time. Some of these documents are sometimes incorporated into court rolls and surveys. The history of a manor can also be found in the Victoria County History series which may also indicate the whereabouts of surviving documents.

Also see
Court Baron/Customary Records
Court Leet Records
Estate & Family Records
Maps & Gazetteers

Where Found

County Record Offices (Manorial records including court rolls. 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)
The National Archives (The Manorial Documents Register. The Manorial Documents Register identifies the nature and location of manorial records. To access the catalogue, click on ‘Advanced Search’, then click on ‘Record Creators’ and select ‘Manor’ from the dropdown list)
British Library (Manorial court rolls)
Lambeth Palace Library (Records from church owned estates)
Parliamentary Archives (Archives of the House of Lords)
Bodleian Library (The Bodleian Library is the main research library of the University of Oxford with their holdings including estate records, deeds, rolls and maps. Their activities can be followed on Facebook and Twitter)
Other corporate bodies
Private collections

Period Covered

1100 - 1350

Genealogical Value

Name of landowner and names of tenants, rent payable, type of tenure, land held, name of property and location possibly with description.

Further References

Bailey, Mark. The English Manor c.1200 - c.1500: Manchester University Press, 2002 (Preview available from Google Books)

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Bennett, H.S. Life on the English Manor: A Study of Peasant Conditions 1150-1400: Cambridge University Press, 1937 Buy Now on Amazon

Chambers, Paul. Medieval Genealogy: How to Find Your Medieval Ancestors: Sutton, 2005

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Durie, Bruce. Documents for Genealogy & Local History: The History Press, 2013

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Ellis, Mary. Using Manorial Records: Public Record Office, 1997

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Franklin, Peter. Some Medieval Records for Family Historians: FFHS, 1994

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Harvey, P.D.A. Manorial Records: British Records Association, 1999

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McLaughlin, Eve. Manorial Records: McLaughlin, 1996

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Oates, Jonathan. Tracing Your Ancestors from 1066 to 1837: Pen and Sword Books, 2012

Palgrave-Moore, Patrick. How to Locate and Use Manorial Records: Elvery Dowers, 1985

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Park, Peter. My Ancestors were Manorial Tenants: Society of Genealogists, 2002

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Stuart, Denis. Manorial Records: An Introduction to Their Transcription and Translation: Phillimore, 2005

Westcott, Brooke. Making Sense Of Latin Documents For Family And Local Historians: Family History Partnership, 2014 Buy Now on Amazon

Winchester, Angus J. L. and Straughton, Eleanor A. Sources in Local History: Finding and Using Manorial Records: The Local Historian, 2007

TNA Research Guides:
Manors: further research
Using the Manorial Documents Register and how to find manorial lordships

Websites (Guide to manorial records) (Medieval Glossary) (TNA Guide: Looking for records of a manor) (Manorial Glossary) (Manorial Glossary) (Manorial Glossary from the Manorial Document Register) (Glossary of Manorial Terms from the Manorial Society of Great Britain) (Feudalism. The site includes a Feudalism Pyramid showing the hierarchical structure of feudal society) (Some Notes on Medieval English Genealogy) (Legal Terms in Land Records)
Manorial Records (Guide from the Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service)
English Manorial Court Records as a Source for Eighteenth- and Nineteenth Century Families, by Cecil . Humphery-Smith (Types of manorial record) (Life in a Dorset Manor: This pack studies the lives of ordinary people from medieval times up to the twentieth century, through the activities of the manor)

Online Databases

Online Catalogues (Listing of online catalogues for the partial whereabouts of records including Access to Archives [A2A], National Register of Archives [NRA])
Manorial Documents Register (Partial whereabouts of records) (Tenants of the Manor of Newcastle under Lyme, 1700-1832)
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) (The website lists all freeholders, copyholders and tenants living on the Manor and Forest of Macclesfield around 1611)
(Wotton Survey, Kent, 1557-1560. Transcribed survey of land owned by the Wotton family whose estate covered 6,000 acres in nearly every part of the county, from Ringwould in the east to St Mary Cray in the west and from Cliffe on the Thames estuary to Lydd on Romney Marsh) (SoG Data Online: Index to the Manor of Markeaton, Mackworth & Allestree, Derbyshire 1650-1851)
(University of Sheffield: Conisbrough Court Rolls. Conisbrough was one of the important royal manors of Yorkshire. The Court Rolls provide a unique account of the working lives and relationships of its inhabitants. Discover the historic workings of a manor and learn more about Conisbrough and how its past has contributed to its present) (Durham University Library: Family and Local History Records: Bishopric and Cathedral Estates, 16th-20th centuries. Manorial records from the estates and manors in County Durham and Northumberland as well as in Allertonshire and some other parts of Yorkshire. The records include the property transactions of leasehold and copyhold tenants)

CD Roms (Cornwall Manorial Rentals and Surveys)