A new collection of Quarter Sessions rolls and books from five counties has been published online.
The following information comes from TheGenealogist:
TheGenealogist is adding to its Court & Criminal records by publishing online a new collection of Quarter Session rolls and books from Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Surrey and Middlesex covering dates from as far back as the 16th century and up to the Victorian period in some cases.
The Quarter Session records were produced by local courts traditionally held at four set times each year. Being made up of two or more justices of the peace (JPs) and presided over by a chairman, they sat with a jury at Epiphany (in January), Easter (March/April), Midsummer (June/July) and then at Michaelmas (September/October).
- Find the names of people before the courts that include those indicted, witnesses, as well as the names of the Justices of the Peace and the Clerks;
- Some of the earliest records in this release reach as far back as 1549 for Middlesex and 1591 in Worcester;
- Indictments can range across a wide number of offences. These include Larceny, Housebreaking, Assault and Riot, Running Unlicensed Alehouses, Receiving Rogues and Not Going to Church on Sunday.
We may be amazed at some of the cases that came before the magistrates. One example we found was in 1613, before the Worcestershire Justices, where Margaret Lewys stole ‘an old towell’ at Feckenham. Other proceedings include one involving Daniel Steane who was fined 20 shillings (£1) at a private session at Wolston, Warwickshire in 1631. His indictment was for ‘selling less than a full quart of his best ale for a penny’ – showing us that consumers, back then, were equally as concerned with short measures of alcohol as they are today.
Searching these new records for your ancestors, you may also find them appearing in the many Orders handed down by the JPs. These can include the names of people at the bottom rung of society who were in need of financial help from their communities. An example of such, from the Easter 1625 session in Warwickshire, is the case of Anne Harte of Hampton in Arden. Her husband having been ‘pressed for a soldier out of this county and have left her destitute of maintenance and one child’, the Justices of the Quarter Sessions made an order to the effect that Hampton in Arden pay her fourpence weekly and find her work; plus, if she were to get sick, the parish officials were to pay her more ‘until this court take order to the contrary’.
Orders for the upkeep of illegitimate children can also be found in these records. In Michaelmas 1632, Katherine Singleton was to have ‘10 shillings out of the treasury towards the keeping of a bastard child’ that had been left with her by a man who had promised to pay her to look after the child and had not returned.
From riotous Luddites to the gentry sitting on the bench, all echelons of society can be found in these fully searchable Quarter Session records.