What was the Court of Chancery

The court of Chancery developed from the medieval practice of petitioning the King to resolve disputes.

At times before statute law, that is the law as determined by Acts of Parliament, was fully functional, one recourse to justice to was to petition the King.  If one man felt he had suffered an injustice from another or when two men could not come to agreement, then petitioning the King to provide an equitable solution was a sensible way to resolve the problem

The National Archives holds a vast number of Chancery records and provides two excellent guides on records before 1558 and records from 1558.until the court was dissolved in 1875.

Many of the disputes dealt with by the Court of Chancery related to such matters as land and property ownership, marriage settlements, inheritance and wills, trusts, debts, apprenticeships, etc.  The records of the disputes are of course a valuable resource for the family historian, especially as disputes were often between several members of the same family.

Searching Chancery records is not always easy since records were filed not by suit but by the type of record.

It is worth bearing in mind though, that these proceedings will mainly relate to the landed classes, rather than more humble folk.

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