Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2002-12 > 1040240255

From: "Chris Phillips" <>
Subject: Re: Question on validity
Date: Wed, 18 Dec 2002 19:37:35 -0000
References: <> <>

Doug McDonald wrote:
> Roy Stockdill (Editor, Journal of One-Name Studies) writes, in
> soc.genealogy.britain [sic]:
> >The simple and unvarnished truth is that very, very few of us can get
> >our ancestry back much beyond the English Civil War - because that is
> >the great black hole for many, if not most, UK pedigrees - and while
> >some will manage to show a line to Tudor times, anything beyond that
> >is for a small minority indeed, wishful thinking and supposed ancient
> >pedigrees compiled by fraudulent medieval monks notwithstanding!
> Mr. Stockdill is very adamant about this, repeating it frequently.

Unfortunately, he goes further than this. Recently he told the readers of
soc.genealogy.britain that:
5) Before 1538 when Thomas Cromwell introduced parish registers,
hardly anybody at all had anything recorded, except the very wealthy
2% or so who owned virtually all the land in the entire kingdom. They
are the ones who may appear in manorial courts, land deeds, feet of
fines, etc. But they were a VERY small minority. The vast majority of
ordinary people, peasants, even many yeomen who held modest land
holdings, simply did not figure in any records.

To find the "Editor of the Journal of One-Name Studies" under the
misconception that only the "very wealthy" appear in manorial records is
rather shocking. After all, manorial records are a reasonably well known
source of information about modern families as well as medieval ones, and it
is common knowledge that they contain frequent references to people from
every walk of life.

Of course, "ordinary people" are named in large numbers in many other
classes of medieval records, both in and out of print.

But in fact Roy Stockdill really is a member of the British genealogical
"establishment". For example, he is a member of the executive committee of
the Society of Genealogists of London.

Possibly this says more about the British genealogical establishment than
anything else, but there certainly seems to be a reflex of hostility towards
medieval genealogy in certain quarters. Any mention of the subject on
soc.genealogy.britain produces knee-jerk reactions along the lines of "this
is ridiculous", "you people must be snobs for tracing aristocratic
ancestors", "you are deluded", "you have been hoodwinked by get-rich-quick
merchants" and so on. (Sadly there is more than a little anti-American
prejudice in this, which if directed at black or jewish people would be
unhesitatingly identified as racism or anti-semitism.)

Quite possibly the best thing is simply to ignore such reactions, founded on
ignorance as they are. On the other hand, perhaps it's worth bearing these
attitudes in mind. I think it's undeniable that medieval records of
"ordinary people" are neglected in comparison with those of the
"manor-holding" classes and higher. In the medium term, I'd like to add some
more material to my website illustrating the humbler side of medieval
genealogy. It's easy to think of many types of records that commonly name
ordinary people. If anyone knows of published work tracing the genealogies
of manorial tenants and the like - for, say, 3 or more generations, I'd be
interested to know of them.

Chris Phillips

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