Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS - Gill Blanchard is a fam­ily his­to­rian, au­thor of three guides, in­clud­ing Trac­ing Your House His­tory and a mem­ber of AGRA

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 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: dig­i­ta­ 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.

Prop­er­ties listed

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

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