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London Lay Subsidy Rolls 1593-1600: Introduction

Lay Subsidy Rolls are a by-product of taxation in England and Wales. For a full explanation, see M. Jurkowski, C.L. Smith, and D. Crook, Lay Taxes in England and Wales 1188-1688 (Kew: PRO Publications, 1998). For the immediate purposes of this website, the important point is that lists were compiled, by wards within London and by hundreds or other administrative units without, of individuals of sufficient wealth to be taxed. Generally this meant individuals worth 3 pounds or more - let's say lower middle class and above. (Nobility - barons, earls, etc. - and clerics were dealt with separately and won't be found in these present lists.)

As of January 2004, my transcriptions of 1593-1600 alone contained over 20,000 names. Since on the one hand a particular individual may appear in three (or more) rolls, while on the other hand rolls reveal a surprising turnover of names, the total number of individuals represented may be estimated at half that number, or 10,000.

Unlike parish registers - a principal source for genealogists and a principal source for the IGI - Subsidy Rolls do not include the names of the non-alien poor. In this sense they are less "democratic." On the other hand, parish registers are limited in most cases to baptisms, marriages, and burials, and therefore tend to overlook individuals who resided in a ward or a parish but were neither born, married, produced children, nor died there. Since subsidies tended to be collected annually, they are an excellent source for tracing the movements of individuals during their lives, and for estimating their relative wealth in a given year.

Subidy Rolls for London (only) have recently been published for 1541 and 1582; lists of more wealthy Londoners have been published for 1589 and 1638. [See Bibliography, under Lang; Harleian Society; and Dale.] Though the Subsidy Rolls of the 1590s are well known to historians and biographers, they have never been published in full, or even in significant part. This website attempts to publish them for the first time - with effusive thanks to the Public Record Office, now part of The National Archives (Kew).

Why has such an obvious source not been published before? Problems abound. Some of the surviving rolls are much decayed or faded, to the point that it is literally impossible to recover all of the information which they originally contained. Transcribing them is at times more an art than a science. (Users wishing for a full set of warnings should consult my list of CAUTIONS.)

For reasons unknown to me, the survival rate for rolls for London and its immediate environs is particularly high for the period 1593-1600. Some rolls do survive for the years 1600-1610, but many of these are not so legible, and the representation of wards (and parishes) is far more erratic; still more survive from the 1620s, but again legibility is a problem. I do intend to move forward as well as backward in time with the intention of posting as many transcriptions and indexes as I can manage.

I would appreciate suggestions as I develop this site: ahnelson@berkeley.edu

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