Originally, tithes were payments in kind (such as crops, wool or milk) comprising an agreed proportion of the yearly profits from farming, and made by parishioners for the support of their parish church and its clergy. Over time, people started to pay using money.

You may find various documents relating to tithes including:

  • accounts of tithe payments
  • maps of tithable lands
  • agreements between the recipient and his parishioners
  • records of legal disputes when people didn’t pay.

Tithes research guide

Read our guide to guide to tithe records for more information about tithes and how to use them.

Using tithes records

Family history: most obviously, you can use tithe records to find out where your ancestor lived. If they show they lived on a large estate, this might suggest unofficial collections that can be used to investigate the family. Because most tithe surveys date from the late 1830s or early 1840s, it should be possible to find out more information about the family from the 1841, and possibly 1851, censuses.

House history: use maps and other documents for finding a particular property and finding out who lived there.

Local history: tithe maps provide a wealth of information about the features of the land and give a snapshot of towns and villages just before a period of rapid change. You can use them for information on local industries, mapping landed estates and investigating the structure of land ownership amongst other things.

Land use: information on crops and livestock can also be obtained from the tithe files.

Field names: tithe apportionments are a useful source of field names and have even been used to trace boundaries named in Anglo-Saxon charters. If there are no early estate maps, or manorial or estate surveys, they may be the most important source of field names in a parish.

Roads and rights of way: useful for studying transport within a parish.