Track down tithe records

Track down tithe records

More than 11 million tithe records have been released online this year – a major source of information for family historians

How to, How to

How to

How to

The practice of collecting tithes (literally a ‘tenth part’) was first mentioned in England in the 8th century. Every parishioner in a tithable parish was obliged to contribute a tenth of his produce to the rector, who stored them in a tithe barn, although sometimes monasteries received them instead.

tithe barn in Bradford on Avon
A surviving 14th century tithe barn in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

The practice continued in England and Wales for centuries, although from 1391 a portion of tithes was held to support the poor people of the parish. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538, some tithes passed into secular or Crown ownership.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, many Nonconformists objected to supporting the Church of England in this way. Meanwhile, a growing practice of commuting tithes to cash payments was observed.

Some records of this survive in the form of private Acts of Parliament, and county record offices often hold some parish tithe books.

Commuting tithes was formalised by the Tithe Commutation Act 1836, which evaluated land values to calculate what was due as a ‘rentcharge’. Akin to the Domesday Book of the 11th century, this meant that records were taken of land ownership and occupancy, land use and sizes, and the rents to be paid. This affected everyone – from aristocracy to peasantry – meaning that all levels of the social hierarchy found their way into tithe records. These are now a major resource for family historians that just pre-dates the era of useful censuses and civil registration.

Now for the first time more than 11 million tithe records can be searched and viewed thanks to leading data website They reveal a wealth of information about people, places and landmarks in the Victorian era.

The site is releasing the records in a series of stages. The first, already online, reveals all tenants and landowners from more than 11,000 parishes (10,871 in England and 959 in Wales). This means you can discover whether your ancestors were landowners and how their land was put to use or, if tenants or occupiers, which plots of land they were living or working on.

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The second phase of the project, following in Spring 2014, will link images of microfilmed tithe maps with the plot references. The third phase, for 2015, will digitise the huge original maps in colour for each county at high resolution. This will be a unique opportunity to see where your ancestors lived or worked in precise geographic detail.

The Tithe Apportionment records in the collection have been reproduced from The National Archives series IR 29 and IR 30. The original records were drawn up between 1836 and 1852, but subsequent alterations to apportionments were recorded and the overall collection spans the 1836-1936 period.

IN FOCUS: tithe apportionments has digitised tithe apportionments: they can reveal fascinating details of land ownership or occupation.

Start your quest at – here we are looking for anyone with the surname Rudgard in the parish of St Swithin, Lincoln

Note that you can filter a search by ‘landowner’ or ‘occupier’

The icons bring up a transcription (left icon) or a scan of the original apportionment record (right icon) – see below for what each of these then looks like

Edward William Rudgard record

In this particular case, the transcription reveals that Edward William Rudgard was both landowner and occupier of plot number 44 (among others)

There is the reference for the original documents at The National Archives (linked to TNA’s website)

Rudgard’s plot

The high resolution apportionment record scan gives further details: Rudgard’s plot includes a kiln, coal yard and paddock

The plot is 1 acre, 2 roods and 6 perches in size – certainly worth tens of thousands today! The final column here reveals the ‘rentcharge’ payable was 8 shillings a year

St Swithin Tithe Map

TheGenealogist has digitised the apportionment maps. They are at a highly accurate scale – this one from 1851 is at ‘2 chains to an inch’, approximately 1:1500 (a chain is about 20 metres)

Mr Rudgard’s coal yard

This shows exactly where Mr Rudgard’s coal yard was – using the plot number

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