Articles on the History of Essex, Researching your Ancestors, and British History

Can Tithe Maps help me research my family tree?


Kelvedon Hatch, Essex. Part of the Tithe Map.

A look at a useful mid-19th century map.

Tithe Maps were drawn up in England and Wales following the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act, 1836. The Act changed the ancient method of paying tithes in kind to a rent-charge levied on landowners according to the value of their land.

Tithe maps and their accompanying tithe apportionment schedule can help you research your family tree in several ways. They can show where your ancestors lived, the land they owned and what the land was used for. For local historians it can show the land ownership of a whole village or parish and how the land was used. They are often one of the earliest detailed maps of a parish available to the researcher.

Before 1836 the paying of tithes was a controversial subject and some parishes had already undergone the process of commutation. But complete reform then took place and after 1836 thousands of tithe maps drawn up and most of these are available in County Record Offices.

The survey undertook to identify each parcel of land, its acreage, and its use. A physical survey was not always undertaken if detailed manorial maps or estate maps were available to use in its compilation. A detailed map for each parish was then drawn up. The accuracy of the map had to be confirmed by the majority of the landowners of the parish.

Accompanying the map was an apportionment schedule which listed each parcel of land, its owner, occupier, acreage, and its use. This schedule is of most use to researching your family tree as it will list the names of individuals owning and occupying a parcel of land.

Guidelines were issued as to how the survey was to be carried out and the presentation of the information, but these were not always followed and differences do occur.

Copies of the tithe maps can be found in The National Archives or your County Record Office. Before the end of 2015 there was central database for the names of landowners appearing in these various tithe maps held in the National Archives and Country Record Offices. However, The Genealogist, as part of their Diamond Package, has released a database of tithe maps and schedules for England and Wales covering 40 counties. Over 14 million names appear in the database. The counties are: Anglesey, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Brecknockshire, Buckinghamshire, Caernarfonshire, Cambridgeshire, Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, County Durham, Cumberland, Denbighshire , Derbyshire, Devon, Dorset, Essex, Flintshire, Glamorgan, Glamorganshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Merionethshire, Middlesex, Monmouthshire, Montgomeryshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Pembrokeshire, Radnorshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Westmorland, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, York City and Ainsty and Yorkshire.

Some County Record Offices have also made them available online. The Essex Record Office currently has 36 to view online through their SEAX catalogue. But subscription is required to view them, or free if you visit in person.

Meanwhile, Cheshire County Council have produced an amazing database of maps from different periods where you can view two maps of differing periods alongside each other, or a map with an aerial photograph of the same location. Volunteers have now transcribed the names from the schedule. This link takes you to the Cheshire County Council tithe maps.

Also see our srticle for other useful maps to help you research your ancestors.

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Ebay is a good source of old images of Essex towns and villages. If you're looking for pictures to add to your family tree album, then try one of the auctions, or there are several 'Buy It Now' shops offering postcards which have been touched up and improved - so if you're unsure about bidding, try these. Link already formatted for Essex Postcards. Browse through or type the name of the location in the Ebay search box.