How to look for records of... Landed estates
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
How many are online?
This is a brief guide to researching records of landed estates. The National Archives is not the best place to start your research as landed estate records are kept in a variety of archives.
Start by searching Discovery by family name and then click on the record creators tab – this will tell you which archives hold the information you are seeking. This guide will help you to find other helpful sources of information.
What do I need to know before I start?
Try to find out:
- the name of the landed estate or seat
- names of families that have owned the landed estate
- which county the landed estate is in
Until the 19th century, much of the land and property of Britain was vested in the hands of a few hundred or so elite landed families. These British landowners could potentially hold property stretching from Cornwall to the Highlands of Scotland, and would pass that property from generation to generation. As a result, family and estate collections are almost unparalleled in terms of their range and continuity.
The archives created and gathered together by landowners usually contain records relating to many aspects of local life. Often, these records are held in local archives, but some families still keep their papers in an estate office or at home.
Very often landowners were connected with early industrial enterprises because of the natural resources found on their estates, such as coal and other valuable minerals underground.
Not all estates were confined to the countryside. The records of estates with property in towns show the development of building and housing.
Estate archives can include deeds, leases, rentals, surveys, accounts, maps, architectural drawings, correspondence, household records, wages books other working papers that can help to build up a picture of the people living and working on the estate.
Sutherland Collection papers
Browse the Sutherland Collection papers covering areas in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent. This collection shows the kind of records that can be found for landed estates.
Records available only at The National Archives in Kew
To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).
Estate papers (formerly in private hands)
Search Discovery, our catalogue, in the records of the Public Record Office (PRO), Chancery (C), Special Collections (SC), Land Revenue Records Office (LRRO), Duchy of Lancaster (DL), State Papers (SP) and Crown Estates (CRES) for estate papers, some of which were formerly in private hands, by name of the estate, seat or family you are interested in.
Records in other archives and organisations
Family and estate index
Search our catalogue by family name and click on the record creators tab within your search results. This will tell you which archives hold the records of a particular landed estate.
Nottinghamshire landed estate records (12th–20th century)
Browse the Nottingham University Collections website. The collections represent some of the most important Nottinghamshire landowning families.
East Riding of Yorkshire landed estate records
Browse the University of Hull Archives website for information about the family and estate collections in its care. The collections provide valuable material on the history of Yorkshire with some of the manorial records dating back to 1317.
Download the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland’s Landed Estates Research Guide for information on landed estates in Northern Ireland.
The National Records of Scotland has information on landed estates in Scotland.
Search The National Archives’ shop to see whether any of the publications below may be available to buy. Alternatively, look in The National Archives’ Library to see what is available to consult at Kew.
Principal family and estate collections: Family names: Volume I A-K and Volume II L-W (Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, 1996 and 1999)
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