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Bond = sum of money (or insurance policy) offered to a third party (most often a government agency - a Court) to ensure expected actions will be taken. For instance, a person acting as an executor for a deceased person would put up a bond with the Probate Court. At the end of a given period of time, the executor would offer proof that all provisions of the will had been carried out, and the bond would then be returned. Many current wills contain the words "no bond required" to remove the obligation. Records of these bonds are held at the Cornwall Record Office, and have been indexed.

Bonds were also required in cases at local courts, to ensure people would not exhibit anti-social behaviour for certain lengths of time (most usually, that they would not disturb the peace for a year's time). Most could not afford to post the bond, and went to prison instead.

Bond of Indemnity (Bastardy Bonds) = A Bastardy Bond was a bond or agreement for the maintenance by the father of his illegitimate child in order that the mother and child didn't become a charge on the parish (ie she didn't claim parish relief). They don't exist for every illegitimate child for a variety of reasons; the mother didn't seek maintenance, the father had done a runner or had died before marrying the mother, or the man succeeded in defending himself in the suit. Some of these bonds indicate a second man; most often, this person was a guarantor, in case of a father not carrying through on his commitment.

An act of 1576 enabled Justices to imprison the parents of an illegitimate child. A further Act of 1610 allowed the mother to be sent to prison unless she could give securities for her future good behaviour. Usually the child would receive the same settlement rights as the mother, but if the father was known to be of another parish the child and mother would be settled in the father's parish if the parents married.

An act of 1733 obliged the mother to declare that she was pregnant with an illegitimate child and to reveal the fathers name. Parish officials would then attempt to obtain a maintenance sum from him by way of a Bond of Indemnity (often referred to as a Bastardy Bond) this could be either a lump sum or moneys paid over a period. The Overseers of the Poor in any given parish were responsible for bringing proceedings against fathers for maintenance of illegitimate children; however, by the mid nineteenth century the Overseers were responsible for administering the Poor Rate, and therefore their role in Bastardy cases diminished. Thereafter Boards of Guardians dealt with Bastardy by admitting mothers and children to workhouses (initiated in 1837); the onus was on the mother to bring proceedings against the father.

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 enabled the mother of an illegitimate child to apply at Petty Sessions for maintenance from the father. These applications were sent in the form of annual returns to the Clerk of the Peace. The records of Petty Sessions can therefore sometimes be of value.
(contributed by Deborah O'Brien, Devon OPC Co-ordinator)

Records of fathers may not be found at all. Not all mothers of illegitimate children applied for maintenance from the father, nor did the Overseers of the Poor/Poor Law Guardians on their behalf (after 1837). Many mothers were either self supporting or their families took care of them.

The Overseers/Guardians usually only stepped in if the mother was liable to be a charge on the parish. If the father could be found and he wasn't of the same parish as the mother, and they could persuade the father to marry the mother, then she would 'take' her parish from her husband. Thus the mother's parish wouldn't be responsible for her.

Sometimes, the incumbent would add the name of the reputed/alleged father to the baptismal entry.

Any extant bastardy bonds and/or bastardy examinations would be held at the Cornwall record office.

Briton = A person living in Britain; a West Briton is a person living in the far West of Britain, mainly Devon and Cornwall.

Burthen = method of categorizing ships; derived from "burden". ie, new ship of 500 tons burthen.

CHEAP JACK = a barker at the local fairs, who "stand on their corner, extolling the virtures of their wares with unremitting exuberance."

Deodand = a sum of money charged to the instrument, whether animal or inanimate object, which caused the death of a human; mainly used at Coroner's Inquests. (In practical use, the owner of the animal or object paid the sum.) From the Latin Deo dandum - to be given to God; the money was used for charitable purposes.

Fortnight = two weeks previously, derived from "fourteen nights".

Glebe = a portion of land allowed the rector of the church, in which to grow food or rent out, which was owned by the Church. The land was intended to supplement the salary of the vicar.

Instant or inst. = date occurring in the present month (ie, 5th inst. is the 5th of the present month).

Juror = From 1692 to 1730 the qualification to act as a juror was to own freehold or copyhold land with an annual value of £10 or more. After 1730 tenants of land worth £20 or more on long leases were also eligible. Eligibility was restricted to men between the ages of 21 and 70. There were other exemptions: convicted criminals, peers, judges, some apothecaries, clergy, lawyers, Quakers, dissenting ministers, registered seamen, visitors of workhouses, army officers, Catholic Priests, coroners, gaolers, keepers of houses of corrections, and certain other holders of public office could also not be called upon to serve. Parish constables provided information and the names were compliled in Freeholders Books and they sometimes ignored the exemptions - Quakers, apothecaries, Attorneys, and Dissenting Ministers do appear in them.

The 18th century Devon Freeholders Books have been transcribed and are online and they occasionally include the occupation of eligible jurors but they don't provide details of their property. Presumably, if the Cornwall Freeholders Books survive they will be held by the Cornwall Record Office.

The 1825 Juries Act specified a qualifying age of 21 to 60 and property qualification of freehold with an annual value of £10 a year or tenancy for at least 21 years with an annual income of at least £20 or occupation of a house with at least 15 windows. The 1825 property qualification remained unchanged until 1972 when those on the electoral roll became eligible and the age limit was reduced to 18. Women became eligible in 1919 but the ownership of property qualification excluded most until 1972.

This is the eligibility as specified in the 1825 Act:

Lime-ash floors = lime-ash is a composite material, made up of the waste from lime kilns sifted and combined with gypsum (calcium sulphate), which was used for flooring. Strong, durable, relatively light and with good warmth and sound insulation properties, lime ash was used in the upper floors of buildings from the 15th through to the last part of the 19th century. The material was laid on a supporting bed which was attached to timber joists. Confined mainly to the limestone belt of middle England, these floors can be very important to the historic character of a building. (Contributed by June Harris)

Non-Conformist = a general term referring to all religions that were not the Church of England, which was the official, state-sanctioned church. Non-conformists were subjected to severe laws and restrictions, such as having to marry in the Church of England for it to be considered legal, as well as having to pay taxes to support the Church of England, despite their not attending that church. (See Rate payer.) One common practice was for the Sheriff, at the instigation of Churchwardens, to seize goods of non-comformists and sell them at auction to pay the rates. At times these sales yielded very, very low prices for expensivc goods, or results exceeded the amount owed but the excess money never reached the original owne. being retained to cover "expenses". Non-conformists kept records by circuits, which cover more than one parish.

Parish = There are two different definitions of "parish". One is an area determined by ecclesiastical law, based on church locations. The other is a governmental/administrative area, which may be/have been congruent with the ecclesiastical parishes originally, but often differ in the modern world. The link goes back to when the church's principal officials, the 2 Churchwardens, were responsible for many civil functions, eg poor relief. Churchwardens were elected at the annual Vestry meetings, when any person living in the parish could attend and vote.

Parishes are important because records are kept by these parameters, particularly before 1837. Official civil registration of BMDs did not start until July 1, 1837; prior to that genealogists are limited in great part to parish (church) registers.

There were/are 219 parishes in Cornwall, some of which have been moved to Devon's administration over the years. Many boundaries have also moved, and new parishes were created as the population changed. For instance, in 1848 Charlestown parish was carved out of St. Austell parish; in 1850, Treverbyn parish was formed similarily, which left mainly the town of St. Austell within the parish. (see the OPC website for specific details of various parishes.)

Poor house
= a system to give aid to persons in particular parishes, which became standard (and legal) in 1837. Several parishes joined together to establish one poor house. Parishes might also offer aid in other ways, but the poor house became primary, as it was much less expensive and much easier to administer. They fell into disfavour in the early 20th century, after inmates suffered under some well-known shortcomings and abuses. Also known as "Workhouses".

Proximo or prox. = the next month from the current one.

Rate-payers = persons with enough money (in 1845, any amount over £5 per year) to vote, own property, etc. Parishes set rates, as did the County, and so did the local churches, although the rate-payers could appeal - or even refuse to pay (which then meant a court case.) Also see "Non-Conformists", regarding penalties for not paying the rate.

Registration district = a governmental area, which includes several parishes into one administrative group. For instance, the St. Austell Registration district encompasses nine parishes, which extend from the Channel to the Atlantic.

Removal = (Removal Order) legal action by one parish to move a person and their immediate family to a different parish, where they had established residence previously. Usually used when dealing with a pauper, because the parish did not want the family to be their legal responsibility. In some cases, the residency of the grandparents established where the family belonged! (See Residency and Settlement.)

Residency = status attained by having a professional job for a specific period of time in a particular parish, or attained by having a parent with such a job. For instance, a person who had a contract and worked for 10 years as a journeyman shoemaker would establish residency in the parish where they worked; so might a person leasing farmland for a number of years. However, renting land might not count! Residency determined where one would receive parish aid, if needed, where one would vote, if one were to qualify as a voter, etc. (See Settlemen, Removal and Bonds)

Seans = fishing nets; seines in current use.

Se'nnight = one week ago (or one week previous) - derived from "seven nights".

Settlement = Determination of which parish would legally have the responsibility to support a pauper, illegitimate child, etc., through the poor rates.

Right of settlement in a parish varied greatly. It was principally determined by dint of birth, as well as by rent/rate (ownership of land) qualifications, or by apprenticeship or a year of service within a parish. However, birth was the primary settlement criterion.

A working class person who wished to move to another parish was obliged to produce a settlement certificate/order from his/her original parish, agreeing to accept responsibility for "poor relief", should the need arise. In such a case, the poor chap (literally!) would be hauled before the parish council for a "settlement examination" and required to present his settlement certificate, after which the order for removal to the parish of origin (or settlement) was instructed, if residency
criteria were not fulfilled. Many court cases reported in the West Briton involve the loss of such a certificate, and subsequent efforts to prove qualification.

A person born in a parish to parents with settlement in another could have his residency claim challenged by the birth parish, but (s)he often qualified by other means (apprenticeship or service).

- see Bastardy Bonds, Removal, and Residency.

Ult, or "ultimo" = date occurring in the past month (ie, 21st ult. would be the 21st of the past month)

Will = legal document disposing of deceased person's possessions; until 1858, most were dealt with by the Church. CRO has over 80,000 Wills and Bonds in their holdings for rich and poor, most of which are from the 1600's. After 1858, wills are held by the Bodmin Probate Office.

Legal Definition website available at http://www.lectlaw.com/def - The 'Lectric Law Library - which has information from a book of legal terms 150 years ago

Last updated 29 March, 2008                                                      Back to Main Index page