Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2006-11 > 1163656248

From: "Brad Verity" <>
Subject: Yorkshire Visitations
Date: 15 Nov 2006 21:50:48 -0800

For an excellent background on heraldic visitations in general, and
those of Yorkshire and the other northern counties in particular, read
the comprehensive introduction by Frederick W. Denby to Volume 122 of
the Surtees Society. It has been invaluable to me in navigating the
convoluted pedigrees of Yorkshire families. In a nutshell, visitations
by heralds to the northern counties began as early as the 1480s and
ended with those of Sir William Dugdale in the mid-1660s. The herald/s
would meet with the head of each family, take notes on the arms borne
by the family head, as well as the pedigree, return to London and enter
the information at the College of Arms. Costs were involved: families
had to pay fees to the heralds, wine and dine them, etc., and many of
the meetings of the heralds with the family heads took place during
diplomatic missions and/or military campaigns on the Northern borders.

Unless the family head enjoyed genealogy, these heraldic visitations
were a chore to him, a bureaucratic necessity to maintain his status,
and probably viewed similarly to today's census-taking. There is no
way of determining the standards of evidence employed (were the
pedigrees from simple word of mouth, or written deeds and muniments),
which no doubt varied from herald to herald. Most pedigrees simply
followed the head of the family down through several generations,
providing only the names of the wife and heir. Daughters and younger
sons are given in most pedigrees only in the generation of the family
head providing the information to the herald, and that immediately
preceding him. Even in those two generations, mistakes were made, an
example being Thomas Tonge, Norroy King of Arms, reversing the order of
the two Mauleverer wives of then-current family head Richard Aldborough
of Aldborough, in 1530.

But as a snapshot of the family at the time of the Visitation, the
pedigrees are very useful, and often can help in setting chronology

Most of the Yorkshire (which often included other northern counties)
Visitations are available online, and below is a listing of them, in
the order they were taken.

1480-91 -- by unknown heralds

Published in 'Visitations of the North Part III' (Surtees Soc. 144,
1930), edited by C. Hunter Blair. The pedigrees are transcribed from
Ms. Ashmole 831, which is a manuscript copy made by herald Robert
Glover (1544-1588) of an old manuscript, now lost, which may have been
an official record of an heraldic visitation of the northern counties
made in the latter part of the 15th century. Most of the pedigrees
date to the mid-1480s, just after Bosworth (1485), with a few dating to
the early 1490s. Additions made by Glover are clearly indicated by
editor Blair. Can be downloaded online through a link provided by
Chris Phillips's great website:

1530 --- by Thomas Tonge, Norroy King of Arms 1522-1534

Published in 'Heraldic Visitation of the Northern Counties in 1530 by
Thomas Tonge, Norroy King of Arms' (Surtees Soc. 41, 1863), edited by
W. Hylton Dyer Longstaffe. Though not entirely error-free, the
pedigrees in this Visitation can be considered a good snapshot of the
status of the families in 1530, at least for the current - and
immediate preceding- generation. Can be accessed through Google Books:

1530-1552 --- no known Visitations

It is thought that at least one Visitation was made by William Fellows,
Norroy King of Arms from 1536-1546, and possibly another one by his
successor Gilbert Dethick, Norroy King from 1546-1550, but if so, they
have not survived.

1552 --- by William Harvey, Norroy King of Arms 1550-1557

1558 --- by Laurence Dalton, Norroy King of Arms 1557-1562

1560-61 --- assorted pedigrees taken by Dalton

The above three are published in 'Visitations of the North Part I'
(Surtees Society 122, 1912), edited by Frederick W. Denby. Do take the
time, as mentioned before, to read Denby's excellent 38-page
Introduction (warning: pp. xlviii & xlix are missing from the pdf file
version). This volume can be downloaded through a link provided at
Chris Phillips's website:

1563-64 --- by William Flower, Norroy King of Arms 1562-1592

1567 --- by Flower

Purportedly published in 'The Visitation of Yorkshire in the Years
1563 and 1564, made by William Flower, esquire, Norroy king of Arms'
(Harleian Soc. 16, 1881) edited by Charles Best Norcliffe. WARNING:
The title is completely misleading. What this work is a transcription
of a manuscript (called the Northcliffe manuscript) that combines most
(but not all) of the pedigrees from the 1480-91, 1530, 1558, 1560-61,
1563-64, 1567, and 1584-85 Visitations into one volume, arranged by
family names. The manuscript started off, apparently in the hands of
heralds Flower and Glover, perhaps as their working copy, and passed
through several hands, including Ralph Brooke, a "Mr. Archer", and
Peter le Neve (Norroy King of Arms from 1704-1729), until ending up in
the hands of the Northcliffe family. As such, it cannot be considered
a snapshot in the years 1563-64 of any of the families presented in it.
That aside, Northcliffe was a dutiful and detailed editor, and his
footnotes are full of useful information. So, for the authentic
Visitation made by Flower in 1563-64, use the Surtees Society Volume
133, and view this Harleian Volume 16 as an 1881 compilation, similar
to those produced by Joseph Foster and J.W. Clay in the same period
(see below). This work can be accessed through Google Books or
downloaded as a pdf file at a link provided on Chris Phillips's

The actual 1563-64 and 1567 pedigrees taken by Flower in those
Visitations are published in 'Visitations of the North Part II'
(Surtees Soc. 133, 1921), edited by Frederick W. Denby. It is also
available to download from a link provided at Chris Phillips's

1575 --- by Flower, assisted by Robert Glover, Somerset Herald

Only a scant 46 Yorkshire pedigrees resulted from this Visitation, but
46 are still much better than none at all. They are published in
'Visitations of the North Part IV' (Surtees Soc. 146, 1932), edited
by C.H. Hunter Blair, and once again available to download as a pdf
from the link provided at Chris Phillips's website:

1584-85 --- by Robert Glover, Somerset Herald 1571-1588

By this point, Flower was so aged that his son-in-law Glover was sent
up to the North to conduct the Visitation. Published in 'The
Visitation of Yorkshire made in the years 1584/5 by Robert Glover,
Somerset herald: to which is added the subsequent visitation made in
1612, by Richard St. George [London: private printing, 1875], edited by
Joseph Foster. This is the one Yorkshire Visitations volume that is
not available online, and I have yet to set eyes on it. If you can
find it in a Library somewhere, grab it, and have copies of the pages
you need made immediately - it is a hard to find item! And vital,
too, for providing snapshots of these Yorkshire families in the last
quarter of the 16th century, as so few were visited in 1575, and the
next visitation did not take place until 1612.

1612 --- by Richard St. George, Norroy King of Arms 1603-1623

This is published along with the 1584-85 Glover Visitation above. Not
having seen Foster's book, I don't know if the two Visitations were
printed separately within it, as the Surtees Society series did (a much
better way for using Visitation pedigrees as snapshots), or the
information from both Visitations was combined together into each
family's pedigree.

1665-66 --- by William Dugdale, Norroy King of Arms 1660-1677

The last Visitation of Yorkshire ever done was also the first one ever
published, in 'The Visitation of the county of Yorke begun in A.D.
1665 and finished in A.D. 1666 by William Dugdale, Norroy King of
Arms' (Surtees Soc. 36, 1859), edited by Robert Davies. It is
available to view (page by page) online at the following website:;idno=AHE1867.0001.001

'Dugdale's Visitation of Yorkshire with additions', edited by
J.W. Clay [Exeter: Pollard, 1899], is not really the Visitation
pedigrees as taken by Dugdale in 1665-66, as it is a compilation by
Clay using those pedigrees as a starting point. However, just as with
Northcliffe's Harleian Volume 16, Clay is an excellent editor,
providing much useful additional information on the various families

'Pedigrees of the county families of Yorkshire' by Joseph Foster, 3
vols. [London, 1864], I have not yet had the opportunity to peruse, but
is probably another invaluable Victorian-era compilation on Yorkshire

'Yorkshire Pedigrees' by John William Walker, 3 vols. (Harleian
Soc. 94-96, 1942-1944), I have had some limited chance to use. As it
is in the same format as the actual Visitation pedigrees published by
the Hareian Society, it can easily be mistaken as another in the
series. Instead, it is an impressive compilation from the pre-computer
mid-20th century, but does contain some errors within its pedigrees
(Sothill, for example). I liken it to the pedigrees within the
'Burke's Peerage' 20th-century editions - good starting off
points, but not conclusive until verified by primary evidence.

This has turned into quite a long post, but hopefully those new to
Yorkshire medieval/Tudor-era genealogy, or simply confused by it as I
often am, will find it useful.

Cheers, ------Brad

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