|Charles I Chancery Index 1625-1649
Charles I Chancery Index 1625-49
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.
Peter Coldham, who created this unique resource, 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.
Searching the Charles I Chancery Index
You can search by surname of the plaintiff or of the dependant, or either.
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).
For information about TNA references and to see examples of the index see About Charles I Chancery Index.