Unlock The Past will be at

Unlock the Past Cruises

Manorial records for family historians - new guide book -


Manorial records for family historians
with examples of how to identify and locate your ancestor’s property

by Geoffrey Barber
published October 2017

  • print edition
     - paperback, 80 pages
     - ISBN 978 1 925323 75 7
     - UTP0131 - $20.00
  • ebook edition
     - 80 pages
     - ISBN 978 1 925323 76 4
     - UTP0131E - $9.95

The manorial system, introduced to England and Wales by the Normans, lasted until 1926 and the surviving records can provide wonderful insights into the personal lives of our ancestors.

Henry Chandler wrote in 1885 that manorial records ‘enable us to drop down suddenly on an obscure English village five hundred year ago, and almost to see with our own eyes what the inhabitants are doing’. However, it seems that few genealogists understand manorial records
and how the manor operated. The aim of this book is to cut through a complex mix of social and legal history to give family historians the knowledge and confidence to start utilising these records. The rewards are immense.

The book also contains many examples of how records from the manors of Rotherfield in East Sussex and Datchurst alias Hildenborough in Kent were used by the author in his own research.



  • Introduction
  • Access to manorial records
  • The origins of the manor
  • The manor: an overview
  • Social structure on manorial estates
  • Freemen (free tenants)
     - Villeins (unfree tenants)
     - Administration of the manor
  • Land tenure
     - Demesne land
     - Copyhold or Customary tenure
     - Freehold land
     - Leasehold land
  • Manorial courts
     - Court Leet
     - Court Baron
  • A description of the Manor of Rotherfield, Sussex in 1400
  • Locating property using manorial records
     - Example 1. Widow Barber's Cottage
     - Example 2. Drapers
     - Example 3. Bonnetts
  • Conclusion
  • Glossary
  • Further reading
  • Index