England Catholics in Additional Early Non-Catholic Records (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Non-Anglican Church Records  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).


Catholics in Early Non-Catholic Records (cont.)

Chart: Return of Papists in Winchester Diocese 1767
FHL film 1544503
A variety of amounts of detail were provided as shown here.

Eling, Hampshire
No Papist or reputed Papist within the Parish. [signed] Samuel Speed, vicar, Sep 12 1767
Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey
Papist professed - Mary Makraw, wife of John, labourerr, age 70 years, resided in Kingston 20 years.
Papists reputed- Thomas Waterhouse, surgeon and man midwife, age 55 yrs, resided in Kingston 30 yrs.
Wife of - Butler, painter, age 50 yrs, resided in Kingston 20 yrs.
Edward Sangwin, labourer age 34 yrs, resided in Kingston 10 yrs.
St. George, Southwark, Surrey
Examples among 42 people listed
Patrick McRayner, male age 50, dealer in lemons, resided 7 yrs
Alice McRayner, female age 40, resided here 7 yrs
Patrick McRayner, male 7 yrs, resided here 7 yrs
Nicholas McRayner, male 6 yrs, resided here 6 yrs
Elin McRayner, female 13 yrs, resided here 7 yrs
Elizabeth McRayner, female 10 yrs, resided here 7 yrs
Hannah Wilson, female age 52, dealer in greens, resided 10 yrs
Luigi Donini, male age 17, drawer, resided here 1 year
Elizabeth Hays, female age 60, gentlewoman, resided here 1 year
Catherine Quare, female age 40, broker, resided here 40 years
James Hughes, male age 40, distiller, resided here 20 years
Elizabeth Hughes, female age 30, [no occupation] resided 30 years
‘22 males, 20 females, total 42. The above is as near as can be got at a true list of all the Papists or Reputed Papists in the said Parish. [signed] Leonard Howard D.D. Rector, 21 Sep 17676.
Farlington, Hampshire
John Blunden, male age 35, labourer working on the turnpike road, renting part of a cottage on Purbrook Heath, parishioner of Wymering. Resident here 6 years.
Elizabeth Moulton, female age 23, born Catherington, spinster, maid servant at Mr. Bridger’s on Purbrook Heath, resident 1 ½ yrs
Portsea, Hampshire
One man age 50, victualler, born Portsea.
One man age 40, tailor, resident 20 years.

Oaths of Allegiance

These were required at the beginning of each new reign. Catholics had refused to take the Oath of Supremacy for over two centuries, but in 1778 the Catholic Relief Act provided a special oath of loyalty to the crown for them, but lower and middle classes generally felt no need to do this.

Lists of Recusants

It is worth noting that any list of Non-Anglicans can include Catholics and in certain parts of the country, for example Lancashire, these are likely to constitute a sizable number, if not the majority.

Sacrament certificates

Gandy (Pocket Guides to Family History: Tracing Nonconformist Ancestors. PRO Publications, 2001) sums these up nicely ‘Catholics should not be in them, so appearance is evidence of either apostasy or hypocrisy’!

Land tax

This tax was inaugurated in 1692 and Catholics were charged double until 1829 so can be identified. The returns are with the Quarter Sessions and have largely been filmed.

Papists Estates

During the long period when Catholics were not allowed to own land, many had trusted Protestant friends in whom they vested their land, and some lawyers specialized in this business. However, when he died the nearest Protestant was able to claim the land, which would give rise to court records with much genealogical detail. An example of an inquisition post mortem from a manor court, which recognizes the heir to the deceased’s estate, is that of Thomas Wiseman of Wimbish, Essex, 1586, on film 0,599,708.

After the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion over 3,000 Catholics from Lancashire alone were involved with the Forfeited Estates Commission. Since most were not affluent and would have fallen on poor relief they were not prosecuted.

Until 1778 Catholics could not officially be executors or administrators of wills, nor guardians of children, but sympathetic Protestant friends would often assist in disguising such acts, for example by wording a will so that named executors dispose of estates as they see fit or according to my mind which they know.

During the penal period Catholics could not be educated at the universities since this would involve denying their beliefs. Some did go, nonetheless, and many went instead to the Inns of Court on London where the oath was not applied so rigorously.


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Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Non-Anglican Church Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

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