On Some Pre-1841 Sources of Leeds People

Local History Librarian, Antony Ramm, takes a brief look at some useful sources for genealogy in Leeds prior to the publication of the 1841 census. 

Extract from the manuscript edition of John Lucas Memoranda Book, held at Leeds Central Library

It is surely no exaggeration to say that the vast majority of people doing family history are well-aware of the Census and everything that can be discovered about their ancestors in those pages; from the first ‘full’ Census in 1841, through to the most recently available of 1911. A question we are frequently asked as genealogy practitioners, however, concerns possible sources for research prior to that 1841 list. In short: where can the family historian find information about their ancestors before the mid-19th-century?

One obvious answer is parish registers – but, as essential as they are, what I’m thinking more about here are lists of names, gathered together, and thus more easily searchable for particular individuals, surnames or (in some cases) streets than very early Church records can be. Leeds is fortunate to have several such options – here is a brief guide to some of the most interesting (all of which can be accessed in our Local and Family History department at the Central Library):

Extent of the Manor of Leeds, 1341

Not a list as such, but as the most complete medieval survey of Leeds, the 1341 Extent provides numerous examples of individual and family names and provides “in detail the whole structure of the manor at that date, the names of the tenants, the rents they paid, the services they performed or commuted…”

A transcript of the 1341 Extent can be found in Volume XLV (1956) of The Publications of the Thoresby Society – Documents Relating to the Manor and Borough of Leeds, 1066-1400, ed., John Le Patourel.

The Survey of James I, 1612

Carried out by Thomas Potts, Deputy Surveyor General, on behalf of Queen Anne of Denmark – who had been granted the Leeds manor by her husband, James I, and intended to cover “all and singular lands, tenements, heriditaments, rents, issues and members of the same manor.” Described by a modern scholar as being “detailed” and “meticulous”, the survey includes valuable sections such as that outlining owners of “the stalls and shops in Leeds market-place”, as well as comprehensive lists of tenants and free burgages.

The survey does, however, exclude “the alienated village nucleus around the parish church [which] had an independent manorial existence within the manor of Leeds-Kirkgate-cum-Holbeck, parcel of the lands of Holy Trinity Priory in York.”

A full transcript of the 1612 Survey can be found in Volume 57 of The Publications of the Thoresby Society (1983) – The Manor and Borough of Leeds, 1425-1662: An Edition of Documents, ed., Joan W. Kirby.

The Survey of Charles I, 1628

Carried out by Nicholas Raynton and Arnold Child on behalf of the City of London Corporation, who had been granted the manor of Leeds by Charles I as repayment for debts owed. Less detailed than the 1612 Survey, in part because Raynton and Child had to contend with an evasive and occasionally disruptive attitude from the inhabitants of the manor.

Furthermore, the survey is limited because it “includes only those individuals in whom the surveyor was interested, either because they held their lands immediately or because they paid the king’s rent”; as a result it “seldom tells us who actually occupied the lands and dwelling houses of the manor.”

A full transcript of the 1628 Survey can also be found in Volume 57 of The Publications of the Thoresby Society, as above. A very good analysis is ‘Leeds in 1628; A ‘Ridinge Observation’ from the City of London,’ in Maurice Beresford, Time and Place: Collected Essays (1985).

Return of the Hearth-Tax for the Wapentake of Skyrack, 1672

Lengthy lists of names covering Leeds and the wider area.

Transcripts of the Leeds Returns, edited by John Stansfeld, can be found in Miscellanea, Volumes 1 & 4 of The Publications of the Thoresby Society (1891 and 1895).

Lucas Memoranda Book, c.1712-1750

The manuscript edition of this book, held at Leeds Central Library, contains in its final pages a list of subscriptions for the erection of a new Church in Leeds [the Holy Trinity Church on Boar Lane]. This list – which is not included in the 2006 partial transcript of Lucas’ Memoranda Book – is an invaluable source of names and occupations in Leeds during the early 18th-century.

The image above shows a selection from the Lucas list; the full list can be seen by contacting the Local and Family History department.

A List of the Freeholders of Leeds, 1741

19th-century transcription by William Wheater of a poll book from the 1741 parliamentary election for the County of York. The preference of each qualifying voter, or freeholder, is given: either the Tory, George Fox, or the Whig, Cholmley Turner. While by no means a complete list of inhabitants, this does fill a gap between the Lucas manuscript and the late-century emergence of trade directories – as well as vividly bringing to life the political debates among the Leeds elite of the time.

To view this item, please contact the Local and Family History department.

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