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Family and Estate Records

A landed estate is the collective land and property owned by a single landowner or family. These owners are often titled or gentry families whose land, property and titles have been handed down through the generations, often over many centuries. Estates evolved over time, with purchases and sales of land being made on a regular basis. The records held in estate collections are very varied and may relate to either the property or the people who owned it. 

This brief guide to family and estate collections includes a map showing the distribution of estate collections across the county and a list of collection references. The contents of each collection can be seen by searching our online catalogue.  

A more detailed list which includes a note of the type of documents each collection includes and its geographical coverage is available for download here

Documents likely to be found in these collections include:  

Land and Property Records 

  • Deeds – many estate collections include large numbers of deeds which show both how the property making up the estate was acquired, and often its earlier history. They can also be extremely useful for researching house history.

  • Estate administration records – these relate to aspects of the day to day running of an estate, such as agricultural production and tenancies. They include straightforward records of information, such as stock books, and correspondence with stewards and bailiffs. This article gives an insight into the value of estate correspondence for research.   

  • House and garden records - these range from plans and correspondence relating to the building or remodelling of houses to planting lists and garden accounts. More information is available in our guide to researching garden history.
  • Maps – the larger estates in particular often created maps of their property, and estate collections are the best source for maps which predate enclosure and tithe maps.  

  • Manorial documents – estates often included the ownership of one or more manors, and manor court rolls and other manorial documents are often included in estate collections. See our separate guide to manorial records for more information. 

Family Papers 

  • Personal correspondence – this can be very extensive and provides an insight into the daily life of a family. 

  • Wills and items relating to probate, including executors’ and trustees’ papers.  

  • Legal papers can relate to family settlements or to lawsuits in which the family was involved. 

  • Household administration records including household and personal accounts. 

  • Other items often relate to the particular interests or experience of family members and are extremely diverse, ranging from political and business correspondence to journals and recipe books.