Emmison's Elizabethan Life

                                 ELIZABETHAN ESSEX

    The following notes are culled from Dr F G Emmison's introduction to one

    of his volumes in the 5-volume set "Elizabethan Life" subtitled :


                           Morals and the Church courts

                                Home, Work and Land

                       Wills of Essex Gentry & Merchants etc

                     Wills &c [can't find this title pro tem]

    I am extracting names from these books into a series of text files
  1. Home, Work and Land
  2. The wills of Gentry
  3. The wills of Merchants
  4. The wills of Yeomen
  5. Disorder
  6. Morals and the Church Court
  It is very clear from Dr Emmison's introduction that he

    has only quoted names sparsely and the books have only a tiny part of the

    names available within the Essex records.  Nevertheless by putting these

    name indexes into the BBS system I feel the names are being given a great

    increase in accessibility.  My practice in compiling indexes is to give as

    much information as possible so that the indexes are more than simple

    references to a source.

    Dr Emmison's introduction to "Disorder" runs to eight pages and I have

    extracted parts that seem to give the best background to his work, his

    intentions, and to the availability of data.  My own comments are in

    square brackets.

    I have written to Dr Emmison and have had a very encouraging response.


                              I N T R O D U C T I O N

    My commission from the ECC is to include as much information as possible

    within three volumes of about 300 pages [they became 5], selecting from

    Sessions, Assize, Queen's Bench, Archidiaconal, Manorial, Municipal,

    Probate and Parochial archives for 1558-1603.  Only a tiny fraction of the

    material has previouslky appeared in print.

    The preservation almost intact of the great series of Quarter Sessions

    rolls of Essex from as early as 1556 is little short of miraculous.  The

    small number possessed by other counties date from the 1580s or 1590s or

    are incomplete with only a few exceptions. The Essex rolls 1556-1603

    number about 10000 documents.  Many contain a large number of individual

    entries.  The cost of printing would be quite prohibitive.  The writs,

    jury lists and recognizances to keep the peace are of little value. Many

    indictments for theft are of minor interest. [Though for genealogists they

    would be an invaluable source of names].

    A solution [to the problems of publishing these books] was found.  It was

    arranged that I should retire as County Archivist three years before the

    normal age and be commissioned to undertake the preparation of the books.

    Volumes of the court records of the two archdeaconries and the other two

    ecclesiastical courts in Essex contain approximately 25000 entries, though

    there are repetitions where persons failed to appear.  Some thousands of

    extracts have been card-indexed by myself as a preliminary task.  There

    are now in ERO court rolls for 200 manors for Elizabeth.  They may contain

    up to 100,000 entries.  All the 10000 Elizabethan wills housed in the ERO

    have also been read and indexed.  Parish records have been deposited for

    nearly all parishes.

    [In producing this series of books] what are the chief omissions ?  Jury

    lists and writs, which are virtually confined to personal names, are

    completely ignored.  No mention is made of the hundreds of recognizances

    and indictments for larceny where the personal names are those of humble

    people or the articles are of common use.  Many personal names are

    omitted, to save space, where their being quoted would add little or

    nothing to the context; but they are included where identification, for

    instance in a long narrative, facilitates narration. Documents referring

    to esquires, gentlemen or persons with important or unusual occupations

    are among those selected for citation.  The early presentments by the

    hundreds contain hundreds of names of those who had failed to appear or

    failed to scour their ditches or so forth.  The great majority of

    documents relating to persons or parishes are of interest mainly to family

    historians and genealogists and to parish historians.

    For them the ERO has compiled not only full indices to the calendars of

    the criminal court records but also what is probably the biggest index of

    personal names for any county.  Those interested in individual families or

    particular towns and villages will still need to visit the Office or to

    employ a professional record searcher.  The County has spent large sums of

    money in providing these indices - as well as detailed indices of subjects

    to all classes - which save the searcher an immense amount of time and


    As it is, I have done considerably more work than anticipated, and, partly

    in consequence, the volume [Disorder] has exceeded my authorised length.


    Dr Emmison wrote these books, and the introduction that I have quoted

    from, long before the explosion of interest in family history and long

    before the staggering growth of research by individuals, researching the

    wealth of documents now available on fiche and microfilm, many of us armed

    with home computers.  His work was done in the days of the card index (as

    he says), and many of the great indexes produced by offices such as ERO

    remain accessible only to personal visitors.  Thus at this stage there is

    still value in the work done by indexers over the world in producing

    computerised indexes from books such as Dr Emmison's.  It seems likely

    that the resources of the ERO in particular would lend themselves to being

    microfilmed or fiched for more general access, though it is extremely

    unlikely that any of them are "narrative indexes" such as I have

    produced.  They would be a reference to a source but would not themselves

    contain personal information.


    Mike Foster

    Wellington, New Zealand

    Accessible via GenBoard


    In the volume "Morals and the Church Courts" (published 1973), Dr Emmison

    refers to a thesis published by Dr J P Anglin entitled "The Court of the

    Archdeacon of Essex, 1571-1609: An Institutional and Social Study".  It

    was published by the University of California 1965 and a copy is held by

    the ERO.  I suspect that Dr Anglin's book may well be another useful

    source for Essex names of the period.

    "He (Dr Anglin) is at present extending the scope by a more comprehensive

    study on the administration of the Essex spiritual courts and the clergy,

    which will also include the material for the Archdeaconry of Colchester

    and much complementary evidence from the records of the episcopal

    Consistory Court and the secular courts."

    Dr Emmison also says "The foundation work, often quoted in our present and

    previous volumes, is T.W. Davids "Annals of Evangelical Nonconformity in

    Essex" 1863.

    Another quoted book looks interesting - R.G. Usher, "The Presbyterian

    Movement in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth as Illustrated by the Minute Book

    of the Dedham Classis, 1582-1589", published 1905.

    I would hope that these three works might give us a good many more names

    from Elizabethan Essex.

    In a useful footnote, Dr Emmison says "Photostats of all Elizabethan Essex

    wills in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (now in the Public Record

    Office, about 1000) were recently purchased by the Friends of Historic

    Essex and will be deposited in the E.R.O. when the present writer has

    finished using them."

    He also notes "Clerical wills were mostly proved in the Consistory Court.

    These wills are deposited in the Greater London Record Office."