Early parish records show how the Sheldons spread
A SEARCH THROUGH the earliest-available parish records from 16th century Britain gives us a good indication of the geographical distribution of the Sheldon surname at the time.
Parish records began with the issuing of a mandate by Henry VIII’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell in 1538. He ordered that every parson, vicar or curate was to enter in a book every wedding, christening and burial in his parish.
It was decreed that the parish should provide “a sure coffer with two locks”, with the parson having custody of one key, the church wardens the others. Entries were to be made each week after Sunday services in the presence of one of the wardens. The mandate was enforced under penalty of fines for failing to keep proper records.
To start with, entries were made on paper, sometimes just loose sheets. Bishops were instructed to see that the names had been duly entered in the registers of baptism.
The law was beefed up 30 years later during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when each parish was required to maintain a chest for the safe keeping of the registers, together with other important civil parish records.
In 1597 it was decreed that all records should be written on parchment instead of paper, which is why we now have such comprehensive records dating back to that period.
Those early baptism, marriage and burial records, between 1538 and 1599, show Sheldons living in Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Leicestershire, County Durham and London.
Five of the locations, namely Rowley Regis and Sedgley, both in Staffordshire, Halesowen and Dudley in Worcestershire and Birmingham in Wariwckshire, are now part of the industrial conurbation of the West Midlands, and close together.
Sheldons were found in the Staffordshire villages of Alstonefield, Stanton, Ellastone and Codsall plus the county town of Stafford.
In Warwickshire, they could be found in the villages of Budbrooke, Kingsbury, Lighthorne and Oxhill villages, plus the county town of Warwick.
Worcestershire Sheldons were to be found in the villages of Beoley, Stoke Prior, Tredlington, Alvechurch, Cropthorne and Broadway.
The only Derbyshire town to show a Sheldon record is Ashbourne.
Other Sheldons could be found in:
- Thornbury, Gloucestershire
- Bicester, Oxfordshire
- Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire
- Diddlesbury, Shropshire
- Lumley, County Durham
There are also records for Sheldons in both Aldgate and Bishopsgate in London.