Burks Landed Gentry

+8 votes
I have a few questions about using these Burke's references.  First, I came across a LDS member who had done a family history that meshes with mine, but all of his people were listed as born maybe 20 years before the ones I had found.  Now I am digging for answers and happened upon this manual online and located my ancestors.  However, there are very few actual dates given.  There are statements like "in the reign of Henry II".  Ocassionally, I am seeing a death date.  But it is mostly names  and successions.  How do I determine where in the "reign" of the particular king my ancestor lived....at the beginning, end?  Is there a general rule of thumb for this?  Are there better resources?

As I am looking at this Burke's, I see references to a King an something like "43 Henry III".  I did a google search and it seems this was a way of denoting time and dates by referencing the year of the reign. How do I translate this into years/dates as we know them?  I am looking at this information and feel I may know less not more.  Can anyone either give me a brief tutelage or direct me to a resource that explains how this all works?


in Genealogy Help by Cathy Harmon G2G3 (3.7k points)
edited by Cathy Harmon
Which edition are you using?  I am often using the Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland 1912 and there are normative dates when present.

Of course, often they are not as it is simply to establish firm connection - which it does a lot better on the male line as from what I can see, the wives (or more often the cited marriage) are incorrect on occasion when they come from an otherwise undocumented family.  

From what I can determine, these were often left to the final record and a marriage record retrieved that might not be correct to the man, when the name was common.

Additionally, it is important to note that all children may not be mentioned and it may pick and chose sometimes on which lines to extend beyond the initial or couple of generations.
I am using the 1887-89 Vol 2 to look at my c 1400 ancestors. This particular family is in Cheshire, England.  In particular I am looking at the Wilbraham family which appears to have first been in the area around the time of Henry II.  First documented individual is Sir Richard de Wilburgham, who was a sheriff of Cheshire in "43 Henry III".  I am learning all sorts of new things.  His first son isn't even named because he died d.s.p.  Had to look that up.  It does get better as I go down the lineage, but the initial entries are very vague.

Actually all the Burke's peerage publications including the Landed Gentry volumes are really poor sources for pre-1500 profiles and even for pre-1700 I would try to confirm details with other sources.

I often refer to the Britannica online article for Burke's Peerage as a reasonable assessment of the problems (I have seen some more scathing assessments).

If you are after better pre-1500 sources for English families than this website has many listed and there is also a Pre-1500 Resources page.

Burke's Landed Gentry was basically a user-contrib.  The gentry sent in their pedigrees and Burke printed them.

This made the books relatively cheap to produce, and profitable.  The idea caught on in America, where many local printers produced a "County Families" book.  They only had to write flattery letters to everybody with a big house, and the people they wrote to would write the book for them, and then buy the book mostly to see themselves in it.

Obviously it would have taken many years of hard labour to produce a book like Burke's by actual research.  But Burke did have some books on his shelf, and would often add in the date when somebody was knighted or had livery of his lands.

So every pedigree is different.  Some are factual and accurate and some are just family propaganda.  Some families prized a flowery old parchment scroll from Elizabethan times, and perhaps didn't remember that it was partly fake in the first place.

5 Answers

+10 votes
Best answer

I did a google search for “Regnal dates” and got a number of hits for websites that do this calculation. One of them is http://people.albion.edu/imacinnes/calendar/Regnal_Years.html

You enter the date, day, mon, and the year of the reign of the particular English monarch (15 Henry VIII), the program calculates the year.

The website will also give the dates for the major feast days in the liturgical calendar. And, it will convert dates between old style and new style, and vice versa.

by George Fulton G2G6 Pilot (417k points)
selected by Cathy Harmon
Thank you!  I did a search for "reginal years" and got a bunch of tables.  Thank you for this.


I now see why so many of the profiles back in time only have a year and estimated dates.  This tool will make it easier for those where a regnal date is stated.
Sometimes you see ecclesiastical dates, this website takes care of those nicely as well.

I’m glad I could help.
This comes up a lot in the Bible. Especially in the Books of Kings and some others. Stuff like, "In the 7th year of King Nebucadezer he conquered Jerusalem, which was the 3rd year of king Jehoachim." Or "3rd year of King Darius of Babylon, Nahum went back to rebuild Jerusalem." In the 7th Year of Darius, Nahum returned to Babylon."

This is Old Testament stuff, but if you know the year the King started to Reign, you can actually figure it out yourself. It does take more time to do, but it is good to do.
Then the other thing you have to watch is that, particularly in the O.T., they often numbered years as the 'first year of', rather than the 'first anniversary of' as we do. I.e. we would say 'one year old', not 'first year of'. Or 12 months old, is 1, but children used to be 1 from birth.
The link given does not work
Plenty of other regnal year calculators out there.  Try Google. :)
That's the one, the original.  Apparently the writer Ian MacInnes has his own website now, instead of using the Albion University site, but he's still a prof there.
Michael Cayley wrote a "Tip of the Month" about Regnal years for the July issue of the Magna Carta Project Newsletter: https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/860289/july-newsletter-magna-carta-project
+5 votes
I have learned through a great deal of experience in Wikitree it's best to leave the pre-1500 profiles to the research experts and focus on learning to hone your research skills for post-1500 profiles.
by Leigh Anne Dear G2G6 Mach 6 (69.9k points)
I am building the tree on Ancestry and then documenting the findings before putting the information on WikiTree.  I have exhausted most of my lines to the 1500 time frame, so I either work on this or develop the others beyond 2nd cousins x15 or so.  I would not post things on WikiTree that were not confident nor things I had not run by those more experienced than myself.  Retirement is grand.  I spend hours everyday working on this stuff.  I wind up doing a lot of reading, so I learn a lot about the time frame in which they lived and the history.  I am pretty much a history buff anyhow, so it all works out.
Keep on learning!
I figure we were all new to this at some point.  I have found another book. Visitation of Cheshire 1580.  Is this the equivalent of a Who's Who for the era?  I have found quite a few names I recognize but other than name and title or Esq, etc. there doesn't seem to be much point to the book.
Visitations were Tudor credit-rating.  The gentry lived on credit, because of the obvious problem with carrying cash.  But there were a lot of upwardly-mobile people and a lot of con-men and posers, so it could be hard to know who was good for their money.

The idea they had was the sumptuary laws, which said only the gentry could do or wear or even eat certain things.  Anybody living above their station could then be called out by the locals, who weren't fooled.

So then the heralds had to tour the country selling official gentry status to the nouveau-riche, under cover of protecting the nation from the posers.

A tour of a county started with commanding the Sheriff to send in a list of names of all the gentry and posers in the county.  They were the target market.  The herald, who lived on fees, would summon all the people listed to an interview in order to try to charge them for something.  If they didn't have official gentry status, they might pay a fee to be awarded it.  If they did, they might still pay to have their pedigree registered.
Ahhh, so that's the deal with the abbreviated pedigree charts. I initially thought I had lucked onto actual charts for all of the local gentry.  That would have been too easy.  LOL
The charts are the pedigrees recorded.  If you're looking for dates and places of birth etc, they're mostly unknown.  They're all over the internet because people make stuff up to fill in boxes, but you can't source them.
Yes many are estimated.  

What mattered with this literature was more when you emerged than when you were born.  I have seen some dating, which I assume which is the best guess order and then simply dividing the time into intervals of say two years adjusted upward or downward.

I think in the end, the issue is - do you want to just forget about the past entirely for everyone or start with what you have and just continue to make it better.

It seems that some of these references are just being pulled with gedcoms, so the first step may be to start with a gentry record and then begin as you find documentation to add and amend as you can improve.

In this respect, we assess the source as it is with the hope not guaranteed that it gets better.

Wills are a tremendous starting point it seems because if you dont have dates you have continuity.

And one of the fortunate things that we have is a list of family hand me down middle names of wives maiden that occur after a marriage occurs and aid connection.

Be easy on the generations to follow - use a succession naming approach to your children and leave everyone related to you a few bucks lol
+6 votes
In our family line, particularly the proven Y, we have started with Burke's for Ireland.

The core history is post Cromwell - so not pre 1500 and barely pre-1700.  The records in Ireland are very uneven particularly for Protestants due to the burning of records.  So unless there were legal enquiries made back across to England before this occurred, you may have nothing but a town to work with.

Even this history, you may want to supplement considerably and yes as I said they are weak on marital records sometimes added by the editor close to publication rather than the family.  

So given that set of variables: we have found the following extremely helpful in establishing relationships and continuity and relative dates (here as is the general case, straight vital statistics are useless unless your can actually story board it, because they also contain error, or the wrong people are connected.

1) Wills - we have an extensive number of wills by which we can actually recreate the entire social milieu and pick up the children not mentioned in Burke's or married names of daughters, birth orders of son and daughter groups.

In one will we have over 50 recipients of 38,000 pounds, and how they related. We have connected 45 of them and the other 5 may be a clue to the lone Y with a different surname - our only connection with that name.

We now have about 8 key wills connecting about 120 people with intersection points and will continue to add as we find them

2) Professions: Most of our people were employed by the military, the clergy, members of parliament, the banks, lawyer, magistrates or in our case, a very unique three generation history of the modernization of the apothecary trade.  These people were always ON THE MOVE- and leave trails in the literature key to their profession and required authentication of personal details as part of their daily work.

3) Newspapers - there are ample references to the people within these trades or personal notes of their travels and births and deaths.

4) Lawsuits.  While the results of these may or may not have been beneficial, they leave a trail where all identities were submitted to the legal process

5) Silly notes - in one case, even a sheepish notation of a slightly neurotic man borrowing money from his brother

6) a bit of notoriety -good or bad - saints, sinners and saint/sinner lol.

7) I have also done walking tours of various places, to see what is near and far, the history of the churches where people were said to have been connected to, their work places etc

With all the above, we have been able to correct Burke's where there are errors or omissions and in fact end up with a perfectly validated record.  

Birth dates are not perfect though as there was more concern about the emergence of individuals

But unfortunately, if people go back to Burke's alone, they will undo all this research and bring it back to where we started.


These practices that we have applied are not unlike those required for pre 1500 and those which we have worked through connections to the Baltic Nobility which has been quintessential in the work that is being done here on it.

Simply to connect my fourth great grandfather, whose story is improbable but leaves a massive breadcrumb trail all over the place (completely unique family name), in addition to all those records, we have gone to the official Adels (their Burke's only much better), the notes submitted for edit that were and weren't accepted, the records below that and in the end, every shred of documents in the archives on the house - my fifth great grandparents even have their Senten house including messy divorce on the internet.  These all supplement

These may be tiny "tinpot" countries but because they were always under attack, their contingency plans for records were unparalleled

So both those exercises with the Adels and Burkes takes genealogy a step further and makes it valuable as it interacts, makes, supplements and even revises history - and it is when all can be put into context that you can rest and move on
by Lloyd de Vere Hunt G2G6 Mach 2 (28.0k points)
edited by Lloyd de Vere Hunt
I found this post very interesting.  Especially the reference to the "Adels" book for Ireland.  When I was building one line of my tree, which is Irish, I learned fairly quickly that the name "Burke" in Ireland is akin to the name "Smith" in the USA. That one was making me crazy, so I gave up on that line for the time being.  I have also noted the problems with the GEDCOMS that were uploaded years ago.  I am frequently reluctant to totally redo a profile that I am not responsible for.  I have contacted the profile managers and some have just given me the profile as I had better information.  But, as I was told by someone else here, it is all in progress, so we all add additional information as we find it.  I am so grateful for this forum and the kindness everyone is showing in teaching me about these older profiles and the history of the way things were done way back when.  Thank you all for your kind remarks and willingness to help.
+3 votes
I have found, if you do a Google search for the name, and select the tab 'Books', it will often result in a good range of gentry books, but sometimes other interesting sources. You'll also notice quickly though, that many of these books copied from each other.

Google scanned a lot of books into their search, before people started complaining about breach of copyright.
by Ben Molesworth G2G6 Pilot (131k points)
I have accidentally come across some of the scanned books.  I didn't realize there was a process for doing this.  Thank you.

Unfortunately, some names have accreted alternate connotations, and this is all a search will bring up.
I've had quite good success with it,  if you look at Molesworth-120 as an example. It has given quite a list of sources. Of course they all generally say about the same thing.
+1 vote

Cathy, here's a regnal calculator:  http://aulis.org/Calendar/Regnal_Years.html

by Darlene Athey-Hill G2G6 Pilot (438k points)

This one is much more useful:

Chris Philip's 

A medieval English calendar

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