What’s avail­able on­line and in the ar­chives

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All Chancery Court records are held at The Na­tional Ar­chives ( TNA) in Kew. The in­dex­ing is slightly com­pli­cated but there are good on­line re­search guides to what is avail­able, in­clud­ing on the TNA’s own web­site (­sSGW) and on Fam­i­lySearch (­sMiv).

Bills and An­swers

The Bills and An­swers are known as the ‘plead­ings’ and are grouped in sev­eral dif­fer­ent classes, ref­er­ence num­bers C 1- C 16. The ref­er­ence num­bers are ap­prox­i­mately chrono­log­i­cal, al­though there are sev­eral con­cur­rent se­ries – par­tic­u­larly for the pe­riod c1649 to 1714, where there are six dif­fer­ent se­ries. Some cases cross be­tween one se­ries and an­other, par­tic­u­larly when a counter- claim was brought, and it is al­ways worth search­ing through all of the se­ries.

Th­ese records are grad­u­ally be­ing de­scribed on­line and are there­fore search­able. Its re­search guide to Chancery records in­cludes an up­dated list of what level of de­tail for each se­ries is in­cluded in Dis­cov­ery. This can vary from the sur­names only of just the prin­ci­pal plain­tiff and the prin­ci­pal de­fen­dant, to the full names of all the plain­tiffs and de­fen­dants, the place in­volved, and the gen­eral sub­ject of the case. Where the place name has been in­cluded in the de­scrip­tion, it is wise to search for this, as many cases do not in­volve the fam­i­lies of the plain­tiff or the de­fen­dant but an­other re­lated fam­ily. For ex­am­ple, in one case be­tween Thomas Spring­batt and Fran­cis Gif­fard there are five gen­er­a­tions of the Mundy fam­ily de­scribed, as the case in­volved a pos­si­ble en­tail of lands granted in her will by Mary Mundy. The vil­lages in­volved were Wils­ford and Charl­ton in Wilt­shire.


The De­po­si­tions are di­vided into Town De­po­si­tions (C 24) for those taken in the Lon­don area, and Coun­try De­po­si­tions (C 21 and C 22) for those taken else­where. Dis­cov­ery does not in­clude the names of the in­di­vid­ual wit­nesses, but many of th­ese can be found in the Ber­nau In­dex at the So­ci­ety of Ge­neal­o­gists. See TNA’s re­search guide for ex­actly what is in­cluded in the Ber­nau In­dex.

Cause Books

The Cause Books (C 32) are very help­ful for 19th- cen­tury records and run from 1842 to 1880. They sum­marise each case and list the doc­u­ments that com­prise the case.

Masters’ Re­ports

Masters’ Re­ports (C 38) can in­clude de­tailed ref­er­ences to the plead­ings, but also cer­tifi­cates such as proof of sale of prop­erty.

De­crees and Or­ders

De­crees and Or­ders (C 33) are of­ten purely ad­min­is­tra­tive but can record the fi­nal judge­ment. Other records re­lat­ing to cases such as the Masters’ Ex­hibits, Masters’ Doc­u­ments, Pe­ti­tions, and Af­fi­davits are also all held at TNA, and ac­cess to th­ese is via on-site in­dexes. Some fi­nal de­crees are en­rolled in the TNA class C 78 and th­ese are be­ing pho­tographed and in­dexed by the An­glo Amer­i­can Le­gal Tra­di­tion ( in­dex.php/Chancery_ Fi­nal_ De­crees).

Chancery Court records are be­ing added to TNA’s Dis­cov­ery cat­a­logue

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