LAND REGISTRY DIGITAL ARCHIVE
If your forebears owned property then the Land Registry’s Digital Archive could reveal some home truths about their lives says Gill Blanchard
WThe ‘1862 Act Register’ archive contains details of around 2,000 English and Welsh properties, often accompanied by copies of deeds and mortgages. It can be searched by owner’s names and place, but does not list tenants. Access is free and there are no restrictions on using copies as long as the Land Registry is acknowledged. However, while land registration began in England and Wales in 1862, many listings begin much later, added as the properties changed hands or were built.
Each register had different sections. The ‘Register of Estates with an Indefeasible Title’ contains details of each property. The first paragraph usually begins by stating the name or address of the property. While there is a range of different types of entries
If your ancestor owned property, then the Land Registry’s Digital Archive could reveal some home truths about their lives, says
Gill Blanchard hile many people are aware they can obtain modern Land Registry records, few know about this government department’s free digital archive, which was released on the gov.uk website in 2014. As part of its open data commitment, 272 original leather-bound registers dating from 1862 have been scanned, digitised and indexed at: digitalarchives.land registry.gov.uk/1862/search. 272 original leather-bound registers dating from 1862 have been scanned, digitised and indexed
recorded in this section, the most common type is notifications of sale with a reference to its location on a map. Although the maps were drawn up to illustrate the size of each property, this part of the collection has not been fully digitised.
The second section lists the first registered owner, and when and to whom it was subsequently sold. Another section lists whether a property was ever mortgaged or leased to tenants. This has a fascinating observations column in which is noted any relevant information about people’s marital status, dates of deaths and marriages, next of kin, occupations and last-known addresses.
The percentage of all properties and land listed is not huge (though there is a lot of information for those that are covered). This is illustrated by the search I made for 15 different surnames, some very common. Only three brought up any results. The surname ‘Harrison’, for example, has 27 results, the first 21 of which relate to the same property.
The accompanying index provides the title number (1456), the volume, page and image numbers and names of the first owners listed – Walter Blanford Waterlow and Reverend John Newman Harrison. Scrolling through the rest of the results shows the names of subsequent owners. However, it is necessary to look at the entries to see where a property was located. Reverend Harrison’s property was first registered in 1869 and goes up to 1936. The title itself includes details of sales, bequests in wills, dates of deaths and marriages, relationships, and the addresses and occupations of those named.
One thing to watch out for with the name search is that there seems to be no way of identifying how many separate entries there are for people with the same surname without scrolling through all the results. However, once something of interest has been identified it is possible to filter the search to see all the pages that relate to a particular property by adding the title number in a search box under ‘additional field’.
Searching under parish names also gives an idea of how few properties in England and Wales were registered at this time. The city of Norwich, for instance, has only 50 results, while Lakenham which was then a separate parish on the edge of the city has 57.
Other hamlets such as Catton have none. However, the number of results does not equate to the total number of properties in a place. This is because there might be several pages for one property, each of which comes up as a result. Conversely, there might be descriptions of properties on the register entries that relate to
multiple properties, particularly if it was an estate being sold.
For example, title number 3009 in Lakenham has 15 pages in the register relating to it. First registered in 1881, they reveal it as land formerly ‘copyhold’ of a manor on which multiple houses were built in the mid- to late-1800s. The registry entry primarily relates to a rent charge (annuity) payable on that land to a Margaret Elizabeth Trafford Southwell under the will of a relative who died in 1838.
There is information from deeds and wills, details of family relationships and copies of documents, including an 1832 marriage. Several pages list tenants and owners of houses with rights of way through passageways and across gardens dating up to the 1970s and cross-referenced to a map.
Overall, it provides invaluable insights into how this piece of farmland became part of a city suburb. However, none of the individual houses mentioned is indexed. I would therefore recommend browsing all deeds in an area of interest to see the full extent of what is included in the same way one would search uncatalogued bundles of deeds in a record office.
Although the 1862 Land Registry archive is relatively small, it is a fabulous resource. A lot of detail can be uncovered about the owners, occupants and places by using it in conjunction with census returns, poll books, electoral registers and trade directories.
Above: Cottages at Blair Athol. Uncover more about your kin with land registry records
Land registration in England
and Wales began in 1862