If your home was built before the nineteenth century, you may need to do a bit more in depth research, but the results can be very rewarding! The best place to start is to determine whether your house used to belong to a landed estate.
Estate collections often contain some of the earliest records for the land and how it developed. Until the nineteenth century, a large amount of land and property in Britain was held by a select number of aristocratic families. The records associated with these estates were passed down through the generations for hundreds of years and can help to give us a picture of the people who lived and worked the land leased by them. If your house is situated in an area that used to belong to one of these estates, then it is likely there could be pre-nineteenth century records relating to it. We hold collections for several of these landed estates in the Kirklees area, such as the Ramsden, Whitley Beaumont and Savile estates. They contain documents such as maps, plans and surveys, rentals, deeds and leases, wage records and much more.
Maps and Surveys
Before cartography become more widespread in the nineteenth century, the landed aristocracy were some of the only people who could afford to have maps made. Estate maps are one of the best places to start when researching if your, or your ancestor’s property was situated on one of these landed estates as they often contain tenant’s names and numbered fields. Below is a map of the Whitley Beaumont estate and the accompanying survey.
Each tenant in the survey volume has been assigned a letter next to their name. For example, Joshua Beaumont has been assigned ‘n’ and below is a list of numbered fields. Using both the letter and the field numbers, we can locate the different parcels of land he rented from the estate on the map. Maps such as these can help to define the boundaries of your land, and the accompanying surveys can sometimes even include comments on the tenant’s character and family history.
Deeds are not only great records to use for house history research, but can also be an excellent resource for family history as they typically provide information on familial relationships. They generally provide information on previous owners or occupiers, and can sometimes include their occupations. They can also provide information on houses or estates that no longer exist. The majority of deeds are held at our Wakefield office which has one of only five surviving Registry of Deeds, which contains memorial copies of over seven million deeds from 1704 to September 1970. You can find out more about the Registry of Deeds here.
Below is an early example of a deed written in English. Most deeds were written in Latin until around 1550 onwards. In this lease, John Kaye of Woodsome Manor, Almondbury, grants the annual rent of all his lands and tenements in his estate in Slaithwaite to his brother William Kaye and his wife, for the terms of their lifetime. Before land registration was made compulsory, the deeds to a property acted as proof of ownership and detailed any ancient rights of way which existed over the owner’s land. They were therefore carefully passed down from generation to generation to ensure their title was secure. Early deeds can often be found in estate or solicitors collections and can be used to research the development and growth of land and estates.
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