England Land Records Glossary A to E (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: Land and Property Records including Manorial Documents and Maps  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

GLOSSARY[edit | edit source]

Note that some terms had different meanings in different parts of UK. For further definitions consult Fitzhugh (Dictionary of Genealogy, 1998), Hey (The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History, 1996), Hollowell (Enclosure Records for Historians, 2000) and Richardson (The Local Historian’s Encyclopaedia, 2003)

Absolute surrender
A sale of copyhold land
Abstract of title
Summary of prior ownership prepared when a property was about to be sold
The owner/occupier of land adjoining the one under consideration
Strictly, the lands next to the shorter sides of the piece of land in question; the longer sides are said to lie alongside others. Also used to mean all adjoining pieces of land
Originally the amount of land a single team of oxen could plough in one day. Commonly 0.4 hectares or 4 roods.
An Act of Parliament; part of the Statute law
Issue of copy of manorial court roll allowing possession of property
The right to appoint a cleric to a benefice
Transfer of property
A small fine levied by a manor court for some misdoing in the open field system. The person was in mercy of the lord.
Ancient demesne
Land that had belonged to the crown in 1066. The tenants had special privileges even though they were not tenants-in-chief.
A sub-tenant occupying a smallholding.
The rights and duties belonging to a property e.g. submission to manor court, grazing rights, fines payable to lord, a pew in church.
Area measures
1 acre = 4 roods
1 rood = 40 square rods (poles or perches)
1 perch = 16½ feet
Land enclosed from former waste, especially woodland. See Intake.
Person to whom rights are transferred
The transfer to another of a right, interest or title to property
Assize of Morte D’Ancestor
A court that ensured that lords admitted tenants’ heirs to their lands.
Final document detailing the commissioners’ or arbitrators’ decisions, produced in a process such as enclosure.
A thin strip of grass in a common arable field, used for access and grazing.
Senior member of manor court, second to the steward. He often collected fines and amercements and did other jobs assigned by the court.
Bargain and sale
A deed, usually 16th century, transferring property and rendered valid by enrolment
Barring an entail
Preventing an entail from taking effect, formerly done by a common recovery but now by a simple deed
Barton farm
The home farm of the lord on his demesne land
Bullock or steer
Beast gate
The right to pasture one animal on the manorial common
Bedford Level
An area in East Anglia where a land registry was established in 1663.
Term used to leave personal property (personalty) by testament.
A draft Act of Parliament.
Agreement to pay a financial penalty if specified conditions are not met
Bond Tenants
Another name for copyholders or other customary tenants.
Borough English
Ultimogeniture; custom in certain ancient boroughs and manors in England where the youngest son inherited the copyhold or burgage tenement.
Another name for oxgang, virgate or yardland
Building Society
A society of contributors to a fund for loan to members when buying a house
Burgage or Burgess Tenure
Type of tenure in a borough similar to freehold and often involving the payment of a uniform burgage rent for each plot.
Imperial measure of capacity equal to 8 gallons.
Cadastral survey
One showing the extent, ownership and value of land for taxation purposes e.g. Tithe Survey
Catalogue of documents with summaries of their contents
2nd February
Wet pasture reclaimed from fen
A register of lands and privileges granted by charter; most are for ecclesiastical bodies.
Northern English term amount of land that could be ploughed by one team of 8 oxen in a year. Area depended on soil quality but approximately 120 acres. See Hide.
Castle Ward
Guard duty at the lord’s castle or primary residence
22 yards; the surveyors chain comprised 100 links. See Change and furlong.
10 chains or 220 yards or 1 furlong.
Charity Deeds
Trust deeds for charitable purposes
A document recording a grant
Any document recording a grant of land or privileges
Charter Rolls
Records of royal grants of land or rights to boroughs, churches and families, by enrolment of copies of the originals from 1199-1537, after which they were succeeded by letters patent.
Chattels personal
Movable personal goods
Chattels real
Personal landholdings excluding freeholds
Chief rent
A fixed rent due from a freehold property.
A document written in duplicate or multiplicate on the same sheet, sometimes with the word chirograph (or Latin form cyrographum) written across the indenture lines.
Alternative name for Knight’s Fee
One of the quarter days when rent was due; 25th December
Small enclosed field near the village or farmsteads and not included in the open and common field system
Close Rolls
Records housed at TNA and originally folded (closed) and impressed with the Great Seal. They contain grants of the crown including enclosure awards, deeds poll, quit claims, enrollment of deeds, conveyances etc.1204/5 – 1903.
Closed parish
A parish with only a few, large landlords who controlled it due to early enclosure. They discouraged immigrant labourers from settling there; see open parish.
Common recovery
Also called a recovery. A collusive lawsuit used to destroy or alter an entail and recorded as anexemplification.
Duplicate record of a Final Concord
Conditional Surrender
The mortgage of a copyhold property
Conditional surrender
Mortgage of copyhold land
The amount paid for land or property
Contingent remainder
A remainder limited in such a way as to depend on some event or condition that may never occur
Document effecting transference of property
Copy of Court Roll
The copy of the extract of the court roll recording the admission of a tenant to copyhold property
A type of tenure of land or property held by virtue of the evidence provided by a copy of the court roll.; and held in return for service, later commuted to cash payment.
One who holds his land by right of a copy of the manorial title. Customary Tenant
Corn Rent
Tithe rent charges i.e. payments in lieu of tithes; they varied with the price of corn (wheat).
Corporeal hereditaments,
Tangible inheritable property such as land and buildings
An annual tenure of land let directly to a labourer making the highest bid for it.
The second half of an indenture which precisely matches the first part
County Archives
Synonymous with County Record Office
Court Baron
A manorial court dealing with transference of copyhold land, enforcing local customs and agricultural practice and settling minor disputes and debts involving less than 40 shillings.
Court of Augmentations
Court set up in 1536 to oversee the properties that had come to the crown from the dissolved religious houses.
Court Leet
Essentially a subsidiary hundred court. It dealt with criminal offences such as murder, treason, rape, arson, counterfeiting and burglary, which it then referred on to the county assizes, as well as common law offences for which it levied punishments, and it also appointed some local officials. It included the view of frankpledge
Court Roll or Book
Minutes of a manor court, originally on a long roll of parchment, later in book form.
Courtesy (of England)
A man’s life interest in his wife’s fee simple or fee tail after her death
Cow gate/gait
Right of pasture for one cow.
County Record Office otherwise County Archives
A farmstead with some enclosed land
Land immediately next to a building
Customary court
Manor court
Customary Freehold
Tenure where land was held by custom and not by will of the lord – a position between copyhold and freehold.
Customary tenant
Customs of the manor
The rules, obligations and rights of the particular manor
Customal or custumal
A list drawn up from time to time of the customs guiding administration and rents of a manorial or monastic estate.
Latin for chirograph q.v.
Dead heriot
Fee paid to lord on death of a tenant where the latter had no beasts
Deed of feoffment
Written document accompanying a transfer of freehold land by livery of seisin.
Deed of grant
A simple conveyance transferring land.
Deed Poll
A deed by one person, or by several having exactly the same interest, as apart from in which there are interested parties of the first, second, or more parts. Examples include a trust deed or a change of surname. The word poll here means to cut smooth compared with the indented cuts on two (or more) - part indentures.
Defendant who prevents another from inheriting an estate. The vendor in a final concord
The purchaser in a common'recovery
The lord of the manor’s land held in his own hands, and worked by the villain tenants in return for their own holdings. Also known as the home or barton farm.
To convey a property by lease or on the death of the owner
To convey an estate either by will or lease, whether by fee simple, fee tail or for a term of life or years.
Term used to leave landed property by will.
Diem clausit extremum
An order authorizing an enquiry into the lands held by a tenant-in-chief at his death.
To free from entail
Dispossession of land; forcible eviction.
Dissolution of monasteries
Henry VIII’s take-over of religious houses and lands in the 1530s.
Domesday Book
William the Conqueror’s 1086 report of his land holdings in most of England
The back of a document
That part of a freehold estate, usually one third, that a widow could claim for life or until she remarried (see freebench).
A privilege without profit, e.g. a right of way which the owner of a property has over an adjoining one
a) Physical dividing up of former open fields or wastes by hedges, ditches, fences or walls.
b) Legal process authorizing division of open fields and wastes.
Enclosure Award
Formal document, typically a large book, giving the terms of the enclosure or regrouping of land holdings.
Enclosure road
Straight roads, not of Roman origin, created during the enclosure period 1750-1850
Enclosure schedule
Document giving such details as the land-owners’ names, extent of holdings, nature of tenure (freehold, copyhold etc.) cross-referenced to the enclosure map.
The extension of a piece of private property to include part of the common or waste, or someone else’s property.
Writing on the back (dorse) of a deed, usually briefly describing its contents, and from 19th century noting the date and two principal parties.
Enfeoff or Infeoff
a) Put a tenant legally in possession of a property
b) Surrender a property
Conversion from copyhold to freehold, allowed from 1841.
a) Put together two or more holdings into one.
b) Write out a legal deed in formal script.
Registering an agreement or transaction into the records of a court
Estate settled with regard to the rules of descent; to a man and the heirs of his body as opposed to his heirs, as in fee simple.
System of law which originated in Court of Chancery. It supplements common law by providing a remedy where none exists at law.
Equity of redemption
Right of a mortgagor to redeem the property he has mortgaged, even if the due time for payment has passed. This right could be passed to someone else.
Reversion to the superior lord
Escheator Royal
official appointed for a county to supervise escheats of land held by the king.
Estate Act
Private Act of Parliament used to disentail property and other such changes.
Estate map
Large-scale plan of the property of a single land-owner, whether of one farm or the vast lands of the wealthy.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Land and Property Records including Manorial Documents and Maps 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

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.