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About Charles I Chancery Index  1625-49

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This dataset is an index to all 82,000 cases tried in the Court of Chancery during the reign of Charles I, ie between 1625 and 1649. Chancery records are of particular value to family historians, because they often reveal personal, business and family relationships in more detail than almost any other source.

The index itself identifies only the surnames of the plaintiff and the defendant, and gives the reference for the source documents held at The National Archives.

About the Dataset
This dataset is an index to all 82,000 cases tried in the Court of Chancery during the reign of Charles I, ie between 1625 and 1649. Chancery records are of particular value to family historians, because they often reveal personal, business and family relationships in more detail than almost any other source.

The index itself identifies only the surnames of the plaintiff and the defendant, and gives the reference for the source documents held at The National Archives (TNA).


Searching the Charles I Chancery Index
You can search by surname of the plaintiff or of the dependant, or either. The results will give the brief case details plus TNA reference.

Examples of records:
Beauchamp v. Williams B41/26,61/49
Someone called Beauchamp brought a case against a person called Williams.
There are 2 documents concerning this case, with TNA references Class C2, B41/26 and B61/49

Haynsworth by guard v. Haynsworth H77/40,115/32,115/64
This case was brought by a guardian acting for (presumably) a minor called Haynsworth against (probably) another member of the Haynsworth family.
There are 3 relevant documents at TNA.
Here are some examples of Chancery suits showing what the C2/Chas1 series has to offer:
Extensive data on William Pennoyer of London who by his will proved in 1670 left a bequest to Cambridge College in New England (Harvard). Details of his ancestry & business dealings. Andrewes v Pennoyer A13/69, Glover v Pennoyer G18/11, Pennoyer v. Gough P24/24.

Account of descent of Thomas Mathewes of Virginia, planter, son of Edward Mathewes of Bethnal Green, Stepney, Middlesex, grazier. M24/26 etc.

Apprenticeship of Richard Morris as a sailor who went with other servants on the Marmaduke to be sold in Virginia for tobacco: he was kept by George Pewsey in America for eight years. S16/5: Sollus v. Pewsey, 1642.

Descent from John Vassall who was born in Normandy, France, rose to fame as an Elizabethan navigator and sired a family of great influence in New England, Virginia and the West Indies. Many suits in which Samuel Vassall of the Virginia Company was plaintiff or defendant.

More information on the Charles I Chancery Index
This unique resource, created by Peter Coldham, makes available for the first time an index to all 82,000 Chancery Cases launched during the reign of Charles I (1625-49). Peter has commented that there is "more personal history accumulated in Chancery documents than in any other single English archive relating to Britain's family and business links with [Britain's] colonial empire". These documents "can often reveal the personal, business, and family relationships more clearly, and with greater detail, impartiality, and accuracy, than a fistful of wills and yards of parish register entries." Chancery records are a particularly important source of information for descendants of early migrants to North America.

Proceedings in Chancery were instituted mainly, though not exclusively, by those with money and property. The aggrieved party (the Plaintiff) would have his lawyer draw up a Bill of Complaint setting out in stiff, formal language, and always at great length, the substance of his complaint. This document always begins with the plaintiff's name, title or occupation, and place of residence, names the offending parties (the Defendants), and seeks the Court's authority to require the Defendants to provide written Answers to a series of specific questions. So the next document which would appear would be the Answer(s), and the wheels of law would begin to grind. The Plaintiff might submit objections to the Answers, called a Replication, which would be followed by further Answers. The Defendants might enter a Demurrer to the Bill of Complaint, saying that the case was defective in law and required no Answer.

Bills of Complaint and Answers are often not filed together under the same reference, which explains, at least partly, why many of the cases have multiple references.


The National Archives Reference
If you wish to view the source documents at The National Archives, Kew, they are held in Class C2, Subclass Chas1. The TNA references in the index give Piece/Folio (eg. H77/40), since the Class and Subclass is always the same (C2/Chas1). The full TNA reference would be, for example, C2/Chas1/H77/40.


See also:  Help searching Charles I Chancery Index
  About Peter Coldham
  Source Record Archives - England
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